Even if I've been an avid watcher of dramas for a long time, the land of "films" was quite unknown to me most of the time. I started watching Asian cinematography only a couple of years back, and not nearly as much as American/European stuff. But something changed in the meantime, and I got this thirst for different works that had unique backgrounds and cultures. I can say that nowadays, I am completely invested in Asian movies, and I love how subtle, raw and professional most of them are done.
Next, I will present 15 Titles that are dear to me from different genres and countries. I would love to hear your opinions on them, and also maybe make you give some a try if you haven't yet. I decided to divide this article into 3 parts, for the sake of the overall flow and to make it as easy to read as I can manage. So, without further ado, let us dive into the FIRST 5 FILMS!
P.S. The list is made in NO particular order! There may be minor spoilers!
Year:2003 Director:Kim Ki Duk Genre:Life,Mature,Psychological Country:South Korea
Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter...and Spring was one of my first "serious" films. When I first watched it, I did it because I found it cool, artistic and different - not really solid and meaningful motives. I didn't understand it at first or better said I tried too hard to give explanations and motives to the story and its characters. It's both simple and complicated without being pretentious or trying too hard.
The cinematography it's truly breathtaking, and it depicts simple life so easily: the passage of time which sometimes is slow, how natures changes but never truly dies and last but not least how us humans feel. The acting is very raw, almost like capturing real people in their habitat, it gives you the chills and sometimes makes you feel nostalgic without knowing why. The story revolves around the life of a man, how his decisions shape him, and how he deals with different emotions.
I truly think that this is one film that would not leave anyone disappointed or feeling like it was a waste of time.
Year:2008 Director:Kim Ji Woon Genre:Western,Adventure,Action Country:South Korea
On a daily basis, westerns are really not my type. I've only watched Django Unchained, and that's because Tarantino is behind it. That being said, you can see some of the similarities between The Good, The Bad, The Weird and his American cousins: horses, dirt, hats and pistols. What drives it apart are the characters, which I adore, they basically make the entire project.
First of all, we have The Good (Jung Woo Sung) who embodies the smoothness and calm demeanor every main character should have in an action movie. He is a bounty hunter who is after The Bad (Lee Byung Hun), a notorious criminal, who kills for the sake of it - he is quite charismatic though, have to give him that. Last but not least, and the heart of the show, The Weird (Song Kang Ho) who is a small-time thief, a bit eccentric, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The story will revolve around these three characters, with a lot of action, brutish scenes and some amazing shots.
The film doesn't take itself very seriously, and maybe that's why it's so enjoyable! You will have tons of fun, "what's happening next" kind of moments, and marvelling at the talent of the cast - because let's be honest, those are some big names!
Year:2018 Director:Koreeda Hirokazu Genre:Family,Drama,Life Country:Japan
A Palme d'Or winner, Shoplifters, is a really known film across the world. After seeing this movie, it became one of my most treasured ones. Koreeda is an amazing director for sure, but first of all, he is a great storyteller and character builder. I don't know how to describe it, but this film has a great deal of soul put into it. At the same time, it's so raw that it hurts because it can get as close as real life as you can imagine.
The story is about family, and what it means. You will find yourself rooting for the main characters most of the time, then pause in your cheer and think things through because, most often, then, you will have to face a moral conflict: what you feel vs what you were thinking and think is fair and right. This family is made of lost beings who found each other and decided they belong together. After all, bonds can be made not only born into, right?
The cinematography is superb! The detail that was put into decorating the spaces and the characters is spot on and makes you immerse even deeper in their world. Even if it's a difficult story, sad and frustrating at times, it doesn't let itself be overly dramatic just for the sake of it - fortunately, the film keeps a level of authenticity that it's hard to find.
I will leave you with a quote from my favorite character in the movie Nobuyo (Ando Sakura): "Giving birth automatically makes you a mother?".
Year:2012 Director:Byun Sung Hyun Genre:Romance,Comedy,Mature Country:South Korea
I will start by saying that I LOVE a good rom-com. I don't care about cliches, reused plots or using more or less the same recipe, as long as you do an amazing job that is! My P.S. Partner did an incredible job at keeping me invested and making me have a damn good time while watching it.
The story takes inspiration from Hollywood for sure (Friends with Benefits; No Strings Attached) but it's not necessarily a copy and paste. It integrates cultural references and stereotypes that have Korean flavor. At the same time, is by no means dull neither does it shy away from staying true to the plot - hence the "sexual content" and "nudity" tags (be sure to pay attention to those!). Two strangers, frustrated by different reasons with their love life, start to have a random relationship that happens by chance: a wrong typed phone number. From here on, they can't seem to have enough of each other, even if they might think that what they are doing isn't exactly true to society's moral standards.
As you could have guessed already, the plot is driven by Ji Sung and Kim Ah Joong - their chemistry is as sizzling as a teapot on fire! The whole movie is fast-paced, raunchy and overall funny. At the same time, the dialogues are well thought and fit perfectly with the overall mood of the project. If you find yourself bored, and in need of a little spiciness look no further! This might just be your next weekend movie!
Year:2017 Director:Ryu Seung Wan Genre:War,Action,Drama Country:South Korea
Ending the first part of my list with a well made "blockbuster" seems fitting. I saw that not as many people as I would have thought had seen it, so I wanted to encourage anyone who isn't sure about it to give it a try. In the last few years, I became more and more interested in war movies, especially those inspired by true events. The Battleship Island is one of those. The story it's placed in a particular timeframe, more exactly when Korea was under Japanese colonization. It was a tough time for the Korean people when most of their basic rights were ignored. Battleship Island was a real place, where Koreans were brought for hard labor. The film shows the horrific work environment where they worked, the political aspects of that time, and the courage the people showed when they had to fight for their lives and rights.
You will come across, heart-gripping scenes, you will cry with them, and wonder again and again "How could this have happened?". The film chooses to revolve itself around different characters' arcs.
- Hwang Jung Min and Kim Soo An have a father-daughter relationship. For the entire movie, you will see the struggles he faces while trying to keep his daughter safe by any means necessary. Kim Soo An is also splendid in her role, never letting more experienced actors than her steal any of her scenes.
- So Ji Sub and Lee Jung Hyun both play powerful characters that start on the wrong foot. You will see a great deal of character development from those two, and at the same time, in my opinion, maybe the most emotional arc as well.
- Song Joong Ki and Lee Kyung Young cover the political part of the movie. I have to point out that they have amazing chemistry and intriguing development across the film.
All in all, I think this movie would please, the newcomers in the genre but also the veterans because it has a little bit of everything!
This was all for now. Please, share with me what you thought about these films if you have seen them. And if not, if you are curious about any of them now!
Also, stay tuned for Part II.
Edited by: Cookie (1st editor), YW (2nd editor)