Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happenings: New York Korean Film Festival

If you like melodrama, stylized violence or unhappy and/or bittersweet endings that get the tears flowing, you're probably a fan of Korean films--you just might not know it yet. Thanks to the Korea Society, which is headquartered in NYC, there's the New York Korean Film Festival, an annual event that hosta about a dozen feature length dramas and comedies, some short films and panel discussions with Korean film types--a veritable foundation in Korean film for any curious "Seouls." (Sorry, that pun needed out.)

I, for one, am already of the initiated, having much love for movies like Park Chan Wook's vengeance trilogy, most notably "Old Boy" or Kim Ki Duk's zenlike Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring Again or the comical small town cop drama, Memories of Murder; of course, there are also numerous Korean drama series, which are probably Korean melodrama and storytelling at its best.

Which is why I'd been meaning to go to the festival for years now. This year, I finally made it. So far, I've seen Open City (Friday at 9:40 pm) and A Love (yesterday at 6:30) at Cinema Village. (They're also screening films at BAM Cinematek)

In both cases, the theater was surprisingly less than packed. I mean, c'mon people, this is once a year! Couldn't the sundry sponsors and film types and Korea Society people drum up a little more enthusiasm for these screenings? These shows should be sold out! Also, on Friday, there was a delay caused by a projector failure (at least that's what they said) - and the film started late, but not before an out-of-breath, verging on tears Korea Society representative made an apology to the audience. Yesterday, they seemed better organized. Yellow-t-shirt clad festival volunteers were out in force, passing out surveys, programs and raffling away CD's of an LA-based Korean pop band before the screening.

Open City, a film noirish/femme fatale ganster drama, was better than A Love, a love story (what else), which had the old white guy sitting at the end of our row mumbling "I've had enough"and exiting the theater even before the highly predictable, laughably melodramatic ending (and this from someone with a VERY high tolerance for melodrama). I really liked Open City, actually, though my friends, both men and less in touch with their sappy sides, I think, were less enthusiastic.

I, for one, think the Korean Film Festival needs better publicity and a web site budget - how 'bout some trailers, guys? Or a way to buy tix directly from the site? There's so much potential here!

Still I'm glad I went, and if I'm not too lazy, will go again later this week. It's not the Tribeca Film Festival, where every movie you watch is hand-selected to blow your mind, but watching some obscure Korean movie on a weeknight is part of the fun of living in NYC. You accumulate experiences, the more specifically random the better. If you're just doing the same old crap they're doing in suburban middle America, watching the same five movies, shopping at the same mall stores, what's the point of staying in Gotham?

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