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Local Film `Taegukgi' Receives Positive Reviews From US Critics

2004/09/05 | 209 views | Permalink | Source

By Shim Sun-ah
Yonhap News Agency

The South Korean blockbuster "Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War", which opened in the United States Friday, has received strong reviews from several major U.S. newspapers.

The film about two brothers caught up in the 1950-53 Korean War simultaneously opened on a total of 35 screens in the cities of Washington, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Honolulu, with English subtitles.

The New York Times introduces the film's director Kang Je-gyu as the Steven Spielberg of East Asia and likened the film to Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan".

The two directors are similar not just because their movies routinely become blockbusters but in that they make compelling genre stories around questions of national identity, the newspaper said.

It added that two of Kang's earlier features, "Unhaengnamu Chimdae (The Ginko Bed)" and "Shiri", broke box-office records in South Korea.

"With 'Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War,' Kang seems to be deliberately forcing the comparison... The film begins with an elderly man's visiting a burial site, a sequence that practically quotes Spielberg's film", it said.

But it said "Taegukgi" is a far more ambivalent and ambiguous film that Spielberg's. Both North and South Korea are portrayed as brutal, abusive regimes that use their citizens as cannon fodder.

The Washington Post also featured "Taegukgi" on two pages of its weekend movie section on Friday.

Calling it a "huge, sprawling, expensive film full of shocking battle violence, but at the same time not without its subtleties", the Post said its director Kang is as good as Spielberg in "Private Ryan".

"You may find some of the story developments melodramatic but the film itself is quite powerful", the newspaper said.

"Taegukgi" set a box-office record by attracting more than 11.6 million moviegoers in South Korea, a country with a population of 48 million. It has already generated 6 billion won ($5 million) from exports to 14 countries. In Japan, the film has made 1 billion yen ($91,100) since opening on 320 screens in late June.

Although the number of screens allocated to "Taegukgi" in the United States is minimal compared to the average of 2,500-3,000 for Hollywood blockbusters, it is still the widest release for a South Korean film making a U.S. debut, according to its producer Kang Je-gyu & Myung Films.

Another South Korean film showing in the United States, "Pom Yorum Kaul Kyoul ...Kurigo Pom (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...And Spring)", ranked 66th in the U.S. box office last week, but it opened on only four screens and later expanded to 60, the official said.

"Taegukgi's" U.S. distributor Columbia Pictures plans to increase the number of screens for Taegukgi in the future if it performs well.

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