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Meet Korean, Japanese master directors

2010/06/13 | Permalink | Source

The Korean Film Archive will offer 10 works by Lee Doo-yong, a pioneer of Korean action films, for free on its video-on-demand website through June 30./ Courtesy of KOFA

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff reporter

The Seoul arts scene is becoming increasingly eclectic with an international scope: various concert halls are presenting Chopin, Schumann and Mahler-themed performances to celebrate major anniversaries of the composers and the Seoul Museum of Art is showcasing the largest retrospective of Rodin.

Not to be left out, those looking for something timeless in cinema with a hint of nostalgia should head to the Korean Film Archive (KOFA), Seoul this summer to celebrate Akira Kurosawa's centennial or revisit Im Kwon-taek's masterpieces, or watch Lee Doo-yong's films online.

Lee Doo-yong

Lee Doo-yong is known as the first Korean director to have been invited to the prestigious Cannes and Venice film festivals in the 1970s and '80s, way before Korean cinema came into vogue.

KOFA is offering fans a chance to watch his works for free online until the end of June, on its video-on-demand website Open the link .

The veteran director is recognized as a pioneer of local martial arts films, and the action in his films presented a unique style distinct from that of Hong Kong action movies. But he is also called "the alchemist of genre" for experimenting with different film genres.

Ten films by Lee will be offered on the Web service including the quintessential Korean action film "Manchurian Tiger" (1974); "The Early Years" (1977), which ingeniously combines folklore and detective genres; the mystery horror films "The Haunted Villa" (1980) and "Three Women Under the Umbrella" (1980); and "Spinning the Tales of Cruelty Towards Women" (1983), which was shown in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes.

Moreover, those who feel that watching movies on a computer monitor is heresy can look forward to viewing them on the big screen at the upcoming Puchon (Bucheon) International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan). The largest fantasy film event in Asia, the 14th edition of the festival will run from July 15 to 25 and feature a retrospective of six of Lee's works: "Returned Single-Legged Man" parts 1 and 2 (1974), "Left Foot of Wrath" (1974), "Manchurian Tiger", "Secret Agents 2" (1976) and "Imbecile" (1985). Visit Open the link for more information.

Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998) is widely regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, and KOFA will hold a retrospective of his works next month in time for the 100th anniversary of his birth.

The Japanese cineaste has directed, produced, written and edited over 30 films during his career and received the 1989 Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Steven Spielberg called him "the pictorial Shakespeare of our time" and Bernando Bertolucci cited him as the inspiration for him to become a filmmaker, while Zhang Yimou said, "Other filmmakers have more money, more advanced techniques, more special effects. Yet no one has surpassed him".

In 1950 Kurosawa won the grand prix at the Venice film festival for "Rashomon" and went on to win top prizes in Berlin, Cannes and the Academy Awards for his films that uniquely combine rough action and deep humanism.

KOFA will screen 21 of his works from July 1 to 25, including his debut piece "Sanshiro Sugata" (1943) to "Dodesukaden" (1970). Fans can look forward to watching films that will be featured in Korea for the first time: "The Most Beautiful" (1944), "The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail" (1945), "No Regrets for Our Youth" (1946), "One Wonderful Sunday" (1947), "I Live in Fear (Record of A Living Being)" (1955) and "The Lower Depths".

It will be the largest retrospective of the director's works ever held in Korea, said Mo Eung-young, the programmer of the event. Actor Tatsuya Nakadai and production manager Teruyo Nogami will participate as special guests and hold Q & A sessions with fans.

The centennial retrospective will also be held at the Film Forum, Daesin-dong, from July 24 to Aug. 4 and at the Cinematheque Busan, Haeundae, from Aug. 10 to 29.

Im Kwon-taek

Since 2007 KOFA has been highlighting the oeuvre of a master director each year and this year it will focus on the past works of Im Kwon-taek.

While waiting for the release of the veteran director's 101st film, "Hanji", fans can in the meantime take part in the retrospective to be held from August through October.

Im is undoubtedly Korea's most representative director _ renowned film critic Chung Sung-ill once said that "understanding Im's works means not just comprehending his movies, but the historical background of Korean cinema; which leads me further to understand my father and my grandfather".

Born in 1934, he lived through Japanese colonization (1910-45), the Korean War (1950-53) and other tumultuous moments of modern Korean history. "Im is the only one who has truly embraced all the events of the 20th century and is (still) conveying a message to us now", said Chung.

The director is known for featuring traditional thematic elements in his film, such as "pansori" (Korean opera) in "Chunhyang" (2000). Im became the first Korean director to win the Best Director award at Cannes for "Chihwaseon" (2002), which is about an artist from the late Joseon Kingdom (1391-1910). His next film, currently awaiting release and his first film to be digitally shot, is about hanji or traditional Korean paper.

Im received the Knight of the Order of the Legion of Honor from the French government in 2007 as well as the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dubai International Film Festival that same year.

KOFA will screen some 70 of his 100 works, including a digitally restored version of his 1962 debut piece "Farewell Tumen River".

The screenings will be held at KOFA's Cinematheque KOFA in Sangam-dong, near Susaek Station on subway line 6. For more information visit Open the link .

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