Relentless Invention: New Korean Cinema, 1996–2003
The South Korean film industry has been in the midst of a remarkable, decades-long creative explosion, with Bong Joon Ho, Hong Sang-soo, and Park Chan-wook jolting new life into art-house and genre cinema alike. With the end of the nation’s military rule and the relaxing of government censorship, Korean film experienced the kind of renaissance that hadn’t been seen since its golden age in the 1950s. This new generation of filmmakers took more than political and social issues as their inspiration: they re-energized national cinema in the late 1990s and early 2000s with homegrown blockbusters that imbued the pleasures of pop cinema with a subversive, gleefully inventive approach to genre and a sharp sociopolitical edge. From heart-rending romances to supernatural shockers, ultra-stylish thrillers to offbeat comedies, this survey celebrates a vital movement that’s as audaciously innovative as it is unabashedly entertaining.
Early films by recent Palme d’Or–winner Bong Joon Ho (Parasite, now playing at FLC) will be showcased in the series, including his debut feature Barking Dogs Never Bite and a 4K restoration of Memories of Murder, a gonzo police procedural based on the recently solved true story of South Korea’s first serial killer, as well as work from master Park Chan-wook, including the Rashomon-esque murder mystery Joint Security Area and the first two entries in Park’s Vengeance Trilogy, the blood-splattered Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and a new 4K restoration of Oldboy. Additional 4K restorations featured in the series include the North American premiere of the restoration of Ryoo Seung-wan’s debut Die Bad; Lee Myung-se’s hallucinatory thriller Nowhere to Hide, visually influenced by film noir, silent cinema, slapstick comedy, and Hong Kong action cinema; Kwak Jae-yong’s irresistible romantic comedy My Sassy Girl; Song Neung-han’s subversive, wildly inventive crime drama satire No. 3; and Save the Green Planet!, a genre-bending, whiplash-inducing mash-up of sci-fi, horror, and psychological drama from director Jang Joon-hwan.
Listen to a preview of the series on the Film at Lincoln Center Podcast.
Other highlights include The Day a Pig Fell into the Well, the debut feature from frequent NYFF filmmaker Hong Sang-soo; Jeong Jae-eun’s Take Care of My Cat, a coming-of-age portrait of five young millennial women that explores issues of friendship, alienation, and economic anxiety; Kang Je-gyu’s strangely poignant The Gingko Bed, a surreal tale of obsessive love that became one of the first homegrown blockbuster hits produced by the modern Korean film industry; Kim Jee-woon’s jet-black comic thriller The Quiet Family; Hur Jin-ho’s modern Korean classic Christmas in August, an effective tear-jerker about the romance between a traffic cop and a terminally ill photographer; Resurrection of the Little Match Girl, which finds director Jang Sung-woo blurring the lines between cinema, virtual reality, and choose-your-own-adventure thrill ride; Park Jong-won’s rarely seen gem Rainbow Trout, a compelling genre take on backwoods horror; and E J-yong’s Untold Scandal, which transposes the French classic Les Liaisons dangereuses to late 18th-century Korea in a deliciously entertaining study of cruelty and pleasure.
Organized by Goran Topalovic, Dennis Lim, and Tyler Wilson. Co-presented by Subway Cinema in collaboration with the Korean Cultural Center New York.
Barunson Film, Bom Film Productions, Cinema Service, CJ Entertainment, Eric Choi, Kim Jung-ho, Korean Film Archive, Kyungmi Kim, Lee Myung-se, Myung Film, Park Jong-won, ShinCine, Sidus FnH, Seo Woo-sik, Yoo In-taek, Yun Jeung-jo, Yunsun Chae
Art Museum by the Zoo
Attack the Gas Station
Barking Dogs Never Bite
Christmas in August
The Day a Pig Fell into the Well
New 4K restorationA young man’s descent into a life of crime unfolds in four, stylistically distinct chapters—from raw documentary realism to action-drama to horror-thriller—in this gritty indie cult hit, a furious, innovative study of male rage taken to its toxic extreme.
The Foul King
The Gingko Bed
Joint Security Area
Memories of Murder
New 4K Restoration · Introduction by Bong Joon Ho on January 8Based on the true story of South Korea’s first serial killer, Bong Joon Ho’s masterful, gonzo comic take on the police procedural eschews crime thriller conventions in favor of a haunting, richly human exploration of failure and existential futility.
My Sassy Girl
New 4K RestorationA box office sensation across East Asia, this irresistible romantic comedy mixes goofball humor and heart-tugging melodrama as it traces the wild-ride relationship that develops between a mild-mannered guy and a brash, troublemaking girl.
New 4K RestorationHan Suk-kyu stars as a career gangster who sets out to climb the ranks of organized crime in this wildly inventive blend of dark comedy, outrageously over-the-top violence, and millennial doomsday anxiety.
Nowhere to Hide
New 4K RestorationA pulp policier done up in shoot-the-works avant-garde style, this hallucinatory thriller incorporates elements of film noir, silent cinema, slapstick comedy, and Hong Kong action cinema as it follows a pair of dogged detectives on a grueling 72-day manhunt.
The Quiet Family
Resurrection of the Little Match Girl
Save the Green Planet!
New 4K RestorationA hyperactive jolt of anarchic adrenaline, this mind-bending mash-up of sci-fi, horror, and psychological drama plunges headlong into the mind of a possibly deranged young man who believes he must save the world from an alien invasion—with alternately shocking and heartrending results.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Take Care of My Cat
Introduction by director E J-yong on November 30Transposing the French classic Les Liaisons dangereuses to late 18th-century Korea, this luxuriant saga of boudoir intrigue is a deliciously entertaining study of cruelty, pleasure, and erotic gamesmanship.
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