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.

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.

Acknowledgments: 
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