My love of all things Korean–and particularly film–is fairly renowned if you’ve read any of my columns and reviews over the years, and every year, the Korean Cultural Service offers a series of Korean Movie Nights at the Tribeca Cinema in New York to show off some of the country’s finest exports and biggest blockbusters, many which never receive distribution here.
This year, they kick off Series 1 with the East Coast Premiere of The Front Line, the country’s Academy Award submission, as well as two other films by one of Korean’s finest new filmmakers, Jang Hun. (We saw Rough Cut at the New York Asian Film Festival a number of years ago and were blown away by it.)
The information on the first series of Korean Movie Nights is below and if you’re in New York City, you should try to get down to Tribeca to check some of them out. Did we mention they’re free?
Korean Movie Nights at Tribeca Cinemas
Every other Tuesday @ 7:00PM
Series 1: Jang Hun Plus One!
Jang Hun started out as an assistant director to Kim Ki-Duk, but with his first film, Rough Cut, he established himself as Korea’s answer to Steven Soderbergh: a director making big budget movies with an independent sensibility. Rough Cut, Secret Reunion, and The Front Line have all become massive box office hits without making an compromises or talking down to their audiences. To round out the trio of movies in this mini-retrospective, we’re including White Night, another crime film that transforms itself into something dark, glittering and truly amazing.
Tuesday, January 10 @ 7PM
One of the biggest hits of 2011, The Frontline is the simple story of a hill: Aerok Hill, a small rise on the Eastern Front of the Korean War that changed hands 30 times over 18 months of fighting. A military investigator is dispatched to see if allegations that the South Korean soldiers tasked with taking the hill are collaborating with their North Korean enemies to deliver letters to their families. It turns out that they are, and that’s the least of it. A movie about men (and some women) trying to hold onto their humanity in the midst of war, The Frontline is Korea’s official submission to this year’s Academy Awards.
Tuesday, January 24 @ 7PM
Kim Ki-Duk wrote this high concept knuckle-buster about a spoiled actor, famous for playing gangsters, who hires a real-life gangster to appear in his new flick. It sounds like nothing but a pile of cliches, but Jang Hun ignores the traditional approach and instead focuses on the volcanic, boiling testosterone that drives the conflict between a man used to getting his way because he’s famous, and a man used to getting his way because he’s violent. The seduction of filmmaking, the appeal of acting and the temptation of a street brawl all exert their siren song on the two studs in suits at the heart of this film: superstar So Ji-Sub, surprisingly, playing the gangster and Kang Ji-Hwan as the actor.
Tuesday, February 15 @ 7PM
Two of Korea’s best actors face off in this blockbuster action flick that manages to be sly, subversive and really funny while delivering white knuckle thrills. Song Kang-Ho (The Host) is a South Korean secret agent who fumbles a sting operation on a North Korean spy. Pop star Gang Dong-Won (Haunters) is the North Korean assassin who has been embedded in the South. After the botched operation, both men are cut loose by their respective agencies and Song becomes a private eye, while Gang sinks into deep cover, trying to survive long enough to go home. Years later, they cross paths and what audiences are treated to is a buddy movie to end all buddy movies.
Tuesday, February 28 @ 7PM
White Night is a sprawling, evil epic about an unsolved crime that happened 14 years previously that has spilled its poison out over the subsequent years. Based on a best-selling Japanese novel, and featuring a riveting performance by Ko Soo, star of The Frontline, director Park Shin-Woo turns this movie into a slick, beautifully realized film about true evil, as a detective refuses to let go of this single case, instead insisting on following its threads for years no matter where they lead. And where they lead is dark and truly shocking. This hit film has been called the best Korean film of 2009 by several critics and once you’ve seen it, it’s hard to forget.