Wednesday, November 11, 2015

10th London Korean Film Festival

'Miss Granny' is a comedy in which an opinionated elderly woman living with her son overhears
him and his wife talking of putting her in a home.   She decides to have a photo taken for her burial
but this changes her into a young woman in her twenties while keeping the knowledge and experience she has.   She goes to the seniors' day centre where she had been working and sings.
this is overheard by a TV producer on whose talent show she appears to become a success.   She does eventually revert to her proper self.   Well-performed with a number of very amusing incidents, I can understand why this was a big hit in Korea.
'Masquerade' is a historical drama.   The king who wants to bring in a land tax against the wishes of
his advisers and nobles is afraid he will be assassinated.   He has his personal advisers find a look-alike to take his place when he wants to leave the place for sex with one of his mistresses.   A double is found who needs a lot of tutoring in the way to behave with the added complication that the king
falls ill - he is being drugged by his mistress - so the double becomes a full-time substitute.   The
early scenes where the double is learning what he should and should not do lead to several very funny
moments (one girl in the cinema audience was laughing almost non-stop).  It turns out that the king
has to excrete in front of servants who are there to wipe him and to collect his stools for analysis
which seems to include not only examining and weighing but also ...tasting.   The double's reaction
to this is hilarious.    His first meal is tempting enough for him to eat it all without knowing that the kitchen staff are allowed only to cook for him and rely on the left-overs to feed themselves; so the next night he eats only one dish to their delight.   The official taster is a young girl (actually the lead from 'Miss Granny') with whom he develops an unspoken and unconsummated affection.   When the captain of his personal guard suspects he is not the real king he confronts him while with the queen but he is able to convince the captain that he is the real king.   The film does turn serious when the taster is bullied into poisoning his food though she deliberately eats it herself and dies.   With the senior ministers against him, they learn that he is an imposter and march on the palace to kill him.   The adviser who has been tutoring him is, however, able to get the real king, now recovered, back in time which leads to the arrest of the conspirators.   However, the king wants his double killed but the guard captain does not do this but tells him to flee.   With other troops also sent to kill him, the captain stops them and kills them but is himself killed.   The scene is, together with the death of the
food taster a strong contrast to the rest of the film.   The final scene is one where the imposter is on a ship setting out with his tutor watching.   Even with the change of tone towards the end which is unusual as most of this sort of film end 'happily ever after' so to speak, the film is well-paced, lavishly costumed and well-acted.
'A Swordsman in the Twilight'   was one of the historic films, being over 50 years old and, according
to the programme, a classic.   Telling the story of a traveller who kills one guard of a pair who harass
him before taking shelter in a nearby village where he takes a senior government official hostage, the
story is in interrupted flashback.   The swordsman has objected to the treatment of the queen following the king's replacement so is considered a traitor and becomes an outcast.   His elder brother
will not help him but a friend takes in his wife and child.   After some fights in which he kills most of
those sent to capture him, he surrenders because his family have been seized.   Offered his freedom if
he will shoot five arrows into a portrait of the queen (there is some shamanic reason for this), he does
so but is then shown that he has killed his wife and child who were behind the portrait.   Yet again he
escapes despite the numbers against him.   The climax comes when he has finished telling the hostage
all this to find himself surrounded, this time by troops with guns (though I thought the story was set
in the pre-Christian era though this might be a subtitle error).  He is wounded but the government
official stops what is happening and orders the final sword fight between the swordsman and the
leader of those chasing him.   He wins and is seen leaving the village alone.   Although there was an
apology for the print, there seemed to be no depth of focus used - characters were either in focus at
the front of the action or increasingly blurred behind.   Catalogued as a 10 minute film, it actually
ran around 75 minutes or so which was a blessing in disguise as the action sequences looked very
amateurish and the acting overall rather poor.

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