2013 Year of 4 Actors – Choi Min-sik and Ha Jung-woo

Hello everyone and a Happy 2014! Firstly we would like to apologise for how quiet we have been, 2014 had a bit of a slow start on the blogsphere front as 2013 had been a jam-packed year of so many exciting events in the UK, we’ve all needed a bit of recovery time!

One of the key events of 2013 was the Year of the 4 Actors by the Korean Cultural Centre UK. This was definitely one of our favourite events of 2013 and really reflected how massive Korean film had become in the UK. We have already written about the two Actresses that kick-started the first half of the programme, Moon So-ri and Jeon Do-yeon but September and December was when we saw two MASSIVE Korean Actors pay us a visit.

September 2013 : Choi Min-sik (aka Old Boy)

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Choi Min-sik was the man who introduced a lot of us to Korean film and remains of high status in all our film fan eyes, so to see this man in the flesh was an awe-inspiring moment. He is like a chameleon actor, taking on all different kind of roles flawlessly from a psycho, the evil, a loser husband to a man in love, so it was a rather surreal moment when we got to see Choi Min-sik as himself. He was the coolest man you could meet, very happy to talk about and tell you anything. He refereed to his films by their English names but didn’t speak much English except for one phrase in the middle of the group interview “May I smoke here?” a defining Choi Min-sik moment that made all our fan girl/boy hearts grin.

Choi Min-sik’s visit obviously generated a lot of media attention and the KCCUK team were very generous with their time and hosted one of the biggest Actor interviews ever. To read more in depth about Choi Min-sik from his acting career to his aid in the Korean film industry as well as his thoughts on the American remake that shall not be named, check out Mr Hangul Celluloid’s transcript of the whole group interview. In the interview, we learnt that the infamous octopus scene in Old Boy was actually his suggestion to director Park Chan-wook and our favourite quote from the bad ass that is Choi Min-sik:

In another film called ‘Crying Fist’, the last scene is where the two main characters box and I wanted to differentiate the film from other boxing films such as ‘Rocky’ so I and actor Ryoo Seung-beom actually box for real and it’s not created offstage at all. The boxing in ‘Crying Fist’ isn’t about posture or appearances but the boxing scene is in fact an attempt to portray the difficult process of journeying through life. So, I thought “there’s no more shooting to be done and we’re not going to die” so I suggested that we actually box for real while filming. In the film I lost but in real life I, of course, actually won [Choi Min-sik laughs]. ~ Hangul Celluloid

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Nameless Gangster: Rules of Time 2012

The finale screening for the Choi Min-sik season was Nameless Gangster which saw Choi Min-sik at his gangster best! Beginning in Busan in the 80s, we see the lead up to the South Korean government’s battle against organised crime in the 90s through the eyes of an accident gangster, a man who had the gift of the gab and massive balls of steel. The story is told through flashbacks which interlinks with the present day interrogation of Choi Min-sik and how he came from modest customs officer to the biggest crime lord in South Korea. The aesthetics of this film was amazing, from the sets to the fabulously retro fashions of the era, this film brought back nostalgic feelings of the great gangster classics such as the Godfather and Goodfellas. Although a tiny bit on the long side, the story of the film is very well put together and the characters kept you engrossed. This was also a brilliant film to introduce audiences to the next actor who was due to pay us a visit, the man who made us swoon with his full body dragon tattoos and who can make even those 80s tinted glasses, porn star quiff and mustache look sexy, Ha Jung-woo.

Choi Min-sik is now embarking on a new project with Director Luc Besson on Lucy with actress Scarlett Johansson, and this will be his English language film debut. We can’t wait!

December 2013: Ha Jung-woo

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We have seen Ha Jung-woo in a number of roles from lover, the as mentioned retro gangster to killer and North Korean spy and in 2013 we see also his first directorial debut, an ambition he had been aiming to fulfil for many years. Ha Jung-woo seems like a very excitable character who really puts a lot of attention to detail into his characters due to his high curiosity, but we are happy to hear that with heavy roles such as The Chaser, he possesses the ability to easily switch off his work once he gets home. We were very excited to see Ha Jung-woo and he definitely did not disappoint as he was such a talkative and charming character. Ha comes from a family of fellow actors but when he first started acting he spent many hours drinking with his director buddy and woe-ing about life, he was even told to just quit acting. But we’re glad he fought through to become one of the biggest actors in South Korea with a impressive CV. Ha has been able to fully flex and show off his acting capabilities with the variety of roles he has been offered in his career span and we expect to see much more from the multi-talented actor in the years to come.

P1100764As always Mr Hangul Celluloid has a transcript of the group interview on his website so you too can experience the charming Ha Jung-woo. Ha Jung-woo is not only an Actor/Director but he is also a painter, having been likened to James Franco, Ha refers to Tim Burton, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Robert Downy Junior as his inspirations so we can’t wait to see what Ha Jung-woo will present us in the future! Ha Jung-woo in Iron man? Yes please!

The Terror Live 2013

To nicely end the Year of 4 Actors, we were treated to Ha Jung-woo’s 2013 film The Terror Live. This film was set entirely in the room of a radio station and with such a restricting setting, we were able to see Ha Jung-woo display some of his acting best. Ha Jung-woo plays a radio presenter hoping for a big return into being an anchorman. After a strange telephone call from a terrorist, he sees his perfect chance to get back on television but has he got more than he bargained for? This film was exciting and intense and although the plot was not exactly unique, the way it was covered was refreshingly different; from the eyes of a news presenter stuck in the middle between the public’s safety and the terrorist. Ha Jung-woo was hilarious as the relentless radio presenter in it for the glory but also had us gripped as we watched him being betrayed and being in complete fear. We highly recommend this film which also has one of the most epic and bad ass endings ever!

Ha Jung-woo is currently working on his next film project which is an adaption of Chinese novel Chronicle of a Blood Merchant where he’ll be both acting and directing the project! There’s no stopping the multi-talented Ha Jung-woo!

We’ve had a lot of fun and thank the Korean Cultural Centre for their ever fabulous and generous film events! We can’t wait to see what they have in store for us this year!

Korean DVD releases

Korean Film DVD UK

2013 was probably one of the biggest years for Korean Film in the UK. We had Hollywood releases from Korean directors such as Stoker, (we’re still waiting for you Snowpiercer!) to Korean film such as The Flu being shown at UK cinemas, we’re seeing a significant growth and a big interest in Korean Film. So what’s to come for 2014? After the success of the 2013 London Korean Film Festival, we’ll see distributors Third Window films add a number of Korean titles to their repertoire this year. Comedy How To Use a Guy with Secret Tips is out later this month with LKFF Closing film Boomerang Family due for release next month and more to come so watch this space! DVDs are available via Amazon.

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