This Week in South Korean Film - 2/10/2021

Coupling, Cultbusting, and Childrearing

The big new release this week is New Year Blues. Or at least that’s what I was expecting. The romantic omnibus was, as the title implies, intended to be a big tentpole release for the New Year. Increased COVID-19 restrictions delayed that release so that New Year Blues is now coming out for Lunar New Year instead. But so far it’s been completely incapable of so much as overcoming Soul in ticket reservations, despite the animated film having been released over three weeks ago.

Why a romantic omnibus film? Well, why not? Much like Marriage Blue before it, New Year Blues is an adaptation of the basic structure of Love Actually, with the goal being to get a large number of reasonably well known stars together for some relatively light romantic storytelling. While I can’t comment on the quality of New Year Blues one way or another, having not seen it, I did review Marriage Blue quite some time ago. My tone there is a bit harsh. The movie doesn’t frustrate me as much in memory as it did at the time. I suppose it probably helps that I really hated Love Actually, and having to compare the two mentally as I compose this newsletter makes it a lot easier to see the bright spots in Marriage Blue.

I did watch Dragon Inn Part 2 : The Night of the Gods though. Since the marketing company was so kind as to send me a screener I also have a review for it. And it was…about what I was expecting considering the first movie. There’s less of an emphasis on action and more on being a kind of detective procedural. The cinematography is surprisingly good though, with excellent use of lighting to make figures within the cult seem sinister and creepy even though they are not, in terms of the fight scenes anyway, as challenging opponents as the various villains in the first movie.

The main other film release of note is I which is…not at all going to be an easy movie to find in the future, since a title like that is virtually unsearchable. The actual Korean word is “child” with “I” being a questionable phonetic transliteration. The society-oriented drama stars Kim Hyang-gi as a young woman who helps out an older, outspoken, career-oriented single mother for the sake of her college coursework. Given Kim Hyang-gi’s status as an undisputed star, best known for the Along With the Gods movies, it’s a bit of a surprise to see her in such a low-profile project. I would guess she signed on for the social justice aspect of the project, which has been a bit of a trend throughout her career.

I am referring to Thread of Lies, which deals in suicide, Snowy Road, which discusses comfort women, and Innocent Witness, which discusses autism. It’s as a good a ground as any to stake out a reputation. Especially since she’s still so young. At just twenty, Kim Hyang-gi is only just now transitioning from a child star to an adult actress.