For our Spring edition of Korean Film Nights, we present short films from two innovative YouTube channels. In the era of Coronavirus we have witnessed the film industry shifting online, and these offerings showcase the rising stars who have continued to draw audiences of thousands to view their imaginative, dramatic and artistic works.
Our first selection is from YouTube channel Salon De 0.5 F (Underground Salon). We will shortly be hosting an online event with talented directors Kim Soy and Kim Kkobbi, stay tuned for details on what promises to be an insightful talk. When viewing our short film selections on YouTube use the CC button for English subtitles.
And So Again Today: Four short films from the Underground Salon
And So Again Today is the collective title for a compilation of four Korean short films, all directed by actors, and all posted on the YouTube channel Salon De 0.5 F (Underground Salon) in 2020. In a sense those are the only formal connections between the films but, perhaps in reflection of the filmmakers’ ages, they are also linked thematically by a preoccupation with the surrender to (or retreat from) adulthood.
My wife has gained weight, Ryu Deok-hwan
In Ryu Deok-hwan’s My wife has gained weight, after a husband (Kim Tae-hun) carefully observes his wife (Jang Young-nam) after she expresses anxiety over how much weight she is putting on, he diagnoses her ‘problem’ as being mostly the effects of maternal devotion and finds a way to share the burden of both her dutiful eating and her new exercise regime. It is a tender portrait of a couple attentive to their family’s needs, and together accepting, even embracing, the changes that come with parenthood and middle age.
Kim Soy’s My Eggs begins with its filmmaking protagonist Sujin (played by the director herself) being reminded how close her screenplays are to her life, and then follows her reluctant journey, at the insistence of her mother (Ahn Min-yeong), to get her ova frozen, even though she does not want children of her own. It is a playful tale of an eccentric woman made aware that her biological clock is ticking, and struggling to live her own life despite the expectations of others. Sujin’s confidante is her own egg (voiced by Lee Min-ji), which talks to her from within her ovary – but Sujin’s real children are indie films just like My Eggs, even as it is strongly implied that this script too is autobiographical.
There ought to be little in common between Ryoo Seung-wan’s ultraviolent action film The City of Violence (2006) and Heo Joon-seok’s gentle short Season of the Next Steps, but in fact both begin with a premise lifted straight out of Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill (1983): old friends reunite in adulthood after one of them has died. In Heo’s film, disgruntled office worker Kuk-hee (Kim Kuk-hee) returns from the city to her former country town for a funeral. There she learns that, unlike herself, her old bandmates Sa-bong (Yoon Sa-bong) and Jae-yoon (Yoon Je-yoon) have clung to their rebellious countercultural ways, and that perhaps she too could do with rediscovering the spirit of her lost childhood.
My personal favourite of the four is Kim Kkobbi’s Do you like camping? (aka Aimez-vous camping), in which a motorcyclist (played by Kim), camping by the windy sea, spurns a hipsterish male fellow camper’s attentions while herself fixating on a female camper (Yozoh) who is more her speed. As everyone vies to have – and to be seen having – an authentic camping experience, posturing pretensions are exposed to the elements. Wryly observed, and never quite going where expected, this is an off- season, off-kilter delight, subverting everything including its own gestures towards romance.
Anton Bitel is a part-time Classicist and freelance film critic, contributing regularly to (among others) Sight & Sound, Little White Lies and VODzilla.co. He is a programmer for the London Korean Film Festival.