This Week in South Korean Film - 11/25/2020
Streaming, Scandal, and Studying
Before I get started with this week’s movies, I had a request for more information about Black Rubber Shoes, specifically asking about an English-friendly version of the television show. Unfortunately, Black Rubber Shoes, like most domestic South Korean animation, is not readily available with English subtitles. Most South Korean television animation isn’t exported. This is less because it’s bad and more because the most popular shows frequently explicitly reference South Korean culture in a way that’s difficult for international audiences to understand. That, and the international animation market is very difficult to break into. If you’re still curious there is a fansubbed video of the final segment of the first season. The original airdate, for the sake of reference, was March 16th 2001.
Anyway! For actual movies this week, I have better news than that. On November 27th, Netflix will release The Call worldwide. What this means is that unlike most of the movies I’ll discuss here, you should be able to watch The Call with English subtitles wherever you are in the world for its premiere. The Call is a mystery thriller involving a time-traveling phone. It’s the third South Korean film of note to appear on Netflix worldwide. The first was the dystopian Time To Hunt, and the second was the zombie flick #ALIVE which also starred Park Shin-hye in a leading role. Though Time to Hunt was the more heavily marketed release #ALIVE proved to be the much bigger hit, briefly topping the international Netflix charts for film back in September following its July theatrical release. This likely paved the way for The Call to go streaming only. While The Call only had modest domestic box office expectations as a March genre flick, it seems poised to land with the same audience that tuned in for “#ALIVE.”
Now, as for movies that are still primarily being released theatrically, this weekend will likely see a new box office winner with the spy comedy Good Neighbor. The release of this movie has been delayed for quite some time due to the appearance of disgraced actor Oh Dal-soo in a leading role. The actor was accused of sexual assault back in February of 2018, and confessed to his misdeeds shortly thereafter. Public sentiment against Oh Dal-soo is still hostile enough that a comeback is unlikely, which is likely why Little Big Pictures feels like they can just release Good Neighbor and finally get it out of the way. Originally Good Neighbor was produced by Warner Brothers Korea. The recent sale of distribution rights to Little Big Pictures was what made this theatrical release possible.
Our third movie this week isn’t likely to make a big splash. The Education is only being distributed in a few independent theaters. Like most independent films in South Korea it will likely recoup production costs from OTT services. But I did want to call attention to the movie on account of the fact that I liked it very much. The Education was my favorite film at the Busan International Film Festival in 2019. It centers around an underpaid public service caregiver and the teenage son of her ward. While many independent films as of late have been blunt about the difficult economic situation for young South Koreans, The Education is much more of an offbeat character study than has become routine for the genre. It’s weird but not in a funny way, with the lead actors excellently embodying the personalities of people with retarded social skills who do not, for various reasons, really need them.
I’ll be publishing my review of The Call on November 27th on HanCinema. Depending on when you read this, it might already be viewable on the HanCinema page for The Call. My current schedule for new reviews is Friday night, at least in regards to the Western Hemisphere. As always, if there’s a specific title you’d like me to discuss, I’m always open to suggestions.