I was hunting around the internet last night when I came across internet rumors about an “Oldboy” remake. For those of you not in the know, “Oldboy” is a Korean film based on a Japanese Manga made in 2003. The film has drawn rave reviews and grown an international following which has led to a rising interest in Asian films. Unfortunately (as with all great foreign films), Hollywood wants to do a remake. This started off with rumors that Will Smith was attached to the lead, then Spielberg rumors and now Spike Lee is connected to the project. For the most part, fans have reacted in the same manner, don’t. There are a few great remakes out there (the Departed leaps to mind) but there are also several horrible mishaps (“The Lake House”).
In any case, it got me thinking about Korean films and so I had to make this list. So without further ado:
This movie is good, I’ll never ever watch it again but it is good. I’ve never read the manga, and if it’s anything like the movie I never will. The basic story follows a revenge plot with a man who has been wronged seeking revenge on the man who wronged him. Simple enough to begin with but things go awry pretty quickly. After the first few minutes of the film, you know for a fact that Hollywood can’t remake this film (content for one, story for another) and by the time the movie is over your jaw will be on the floor.
I’ll never stop singing the praises of this movie, but be warned this is Pandora’s Box. The ending will have many wishing they hadn’t watched it through, while others will just never watch it again.
If you want more films with similar themes (taboos), check out ‘Thirst’. A film about a vampire priest by the same directory.
IL MARE (시월애)
Remade in the US as “The Lake House” the story follows a couple separated by two years in time who communicate through a magic(?) mailbox at [you guessed it] a lake house. Really, that’s it. It’s your basic love story with one huge twist, but that’s what Korean film makers do right. The story really explores the relationship that the two characters share while at the same time pronouncing the loneliness that each of them feel due to their separation in time. It was one of the first Korean films I saw, and honestly one of the best.
The main actress (Jeon Ji-Hyun; 전지현) was an established star by the time this film was released. If you want more proof, check out the next film on the list.
MY SASSY GIRL (엽기적인 그녀)
This film redefined how I saw romance. This movie was brilliant, heart warming, heart wrenching and all around amazing. The story follows your average lazy guy as he encounters a strange woman on the subway. After being tied to her through unusual circumstances, their relationship takes him to places he’s never meant to go. If you aren’t screaming, laughing or crying throughout this movie then you are a rock sir… and I congratulate you.
The American remake wasn’t worth the space on my hard drive. Although I loved Elisha Cuthbert in the “Girl Next Door”, I hated her guts in this movie. If you’ve watched the remake, I feel bad for you but watching the original should be enough to shake you out of the ‘horrible film’ funk. Honestly, the Korean version was great and amazing and redefined the genres for any foreigners who were lucky enough to watch.
Honestly though, amazing.
GUNS and TALKS (킬러들의 수다)
I still have no idea what the hell the title means. I mean, I’ve seen this film several times with subtitles and without but the title still gets me. This film follows a ‘family’ of four brothers who live in a house together and operate as assassins for hire. Each brother has their set of skills and traits which make them unique to each job and task but none of them are cold-blooded killers. It never really goes into why these brothers are killers or how they all met (two of them are actually brothers) but it’s a fun film regardless.
A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (장화, 홍련)
I hate horror films but this movie takes the cake. One part suspense, one part drama and one part horror this film really does focus on story and character to drive chills home. As the title implies, the story revolves around two sisters who have returned from a hospital. The older sister is protective of her younger sister and suspects her step-mother of ill-intentions. The movie really takes off at a snail’s pace and slowly drives the characters home with events and conversations that unfold the backstory but it isn’t until the end that you really get what’s going on in this household.