Hollywood is economically the largest movie industry in the world. Arguably, it is also the most advanced movie industry. There’s no dearth of talent or technology in Hollywood. Currently, it is such a well-oiled machine that keeps churning movies after movies, shows after shows, mostly about white people, without caring much about telling stories of other countries or cultures. The question is where should you look if you are bored of watching movies about western world problems. Well, either you could turn to the most-watched film industry in the world, Bollywood, or you can also turn to Korean cinema. The latter has seen a lot of progress in the last few years. The Korean film industry is now one of the biggest in the world and is now respected for its innovative storytelling.
6. Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds (2017)
A fantasy action film, ‘Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds’ centres around the life of a firefighter called Kim Ja-hong (Cha Tae-hyun). Immediately after his death, Kim comes across three grim reapers who take him to the courts in the afterlife where judgment will be given on his future after going through all the sins he has committed in life. We come to know that Kim will have to go through seven different trials, and in total it will take 49 days before a judgment is passed on his afterlife. We follow the story of Kim and the three grim reapers with him as they try to protect him in each step of the judgment. Some brilliant action sequences and glorious art direction are the hallmarks of this epic film.
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5. The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008)
The western is a genre which is typical to the United States. The way of life depicted in such films is taken from a part of American history and is pretty authentic to the place geographically. However, this has not stopped filmmakers from all around the world to make westerns in their own languages. From the spaghetti westerns of Italy to the curry westerns of Bollywood, the influence of the genre has spread far and wide. The film in question, ‘The Good, The Bad, The Weird’ clearly takes its name from one of the greatest westerns of all time, ‘The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly’. Set in Manchuria in the 1930s, the film centres around three characters, each of whom is in search of a map which leads to a hidden treasure. ‘The Good’ is a bounty hunter called Do-won who does not want the map to fall into the hands of a bandit called Chang-yee (‘The Bad’). However, Chang-yee does manage to get his hands on the map, only for it to be stolen by a thief called Yoon Tae-goo (‘The Weird’).
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4. The Housemaid (2010)
‘The Housemaid’ premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival where it competed for the Palme d’Or. The film centres around a woman called Eun-yi whoo initially works at a restaurant and is then given the opportunity to work as a nanny for a rich family. While the wife in this family, Hae-ra, is pregnant, Eun-yi has to look after her elder daughter Nami. Eun-yi’s life goes on smoothly under her new employers until Hae-ra’s husband Hoon begins flirting with her. He plays music for, offers her wine, and finally is able to seduce her. The two of them begin a sexual relationship, but their secret does not remain hidden for long. As soon as it is discovered, Eun-yi’s life becomes a living hell and she finds herself going through some really terrible situations. The film acts as a satire of the lives of society’s upper class. They think of others as nothing but their playthings and use them for their own benefits. The cinematography of the film also deserves a special mention.
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3. The Chaser (2008)
One of the finest Korean action-thriller films you will come across, ‘The Chaser’ is the story of a pimp called Joong-ho who was formerly a police detective. Joong-ho has a few girls working under him, and one of them suddenly goes missing. This causes him some financial crisis, and he asks his old contacts in the police if they will be able to find out anything about her whereabouts. We then get to know about the man responsible for the kidnapping of the prostitute whom we were made to believe was missing. Joong-ho only knows the district where he comes from and is able to track the man down after a lot of effort. However, the problem worsens when despite being arrested and confessing to the crime, this perpetrator cannot be convicted of the murders due to a lack of evidence. Joong-ho a period of 12 hours to find out any evidence against the criminal, before the police release him. The intense writing and direction of ‘The Chaser’ will not allow you to look away for a second while the movie is playing. Each aspect of the film, from the performances to the art design are meticulously done to give the story the authenticity that it requires.
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2. A Taxi Driver (2017)
The taxi has served as an important character in some iconic films. From Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver‘ to Jafar Panahi’s ‘Taxi’, this life of someone going around the city and meeting several kinds of people is a great place to start off any story. This 2017 South Korean drama-action film also takes a similar approach. Interestingly enough, this film is actually based on the real-life experience of German journalist Jürgen Hinzpeter. The central character of the film is taxi driver Kim Man-seob who takes on a foreign journalist called Peter who wants to go to Gwangju to know about the mass protests going on in the area. Despite all roads being blocked, the two of them find a way out. Their journey to the city and what they see there, including protestors and the military, become the main focus of the film. The film wonderfully captures the tensions happening in a city through the eyes of an outsider who is baffled by whatever he sees around himself.
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1. Happy End (1999)
In patriarchal Korea a few decades back, it was not that common for women to go out of their homes and look for work to support the family. This film is centred around a woman called Choi Bora who did have a successful professional life but then left her job after getting married. When her husband is unable to find a job for himself, Choi Bora is sort of forced to get back to her job once again. There, she comes across her former lover with whom she starts an intensely passionate sexual affair. Even though her husband knows that his wife is cheating on him, he cannot say anything because she is the only breadwinner of the family. Though Choi Bora enjoys her extramarital affair at first, things quickly take a nasty turn. The film is melancholic in nature and shows us the cruel side of urban existence where money and power play the winning roles, even in as small a structure as a family.
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