With the Busan cinematheque closed until November, and the dearth of quality movies in both mainstream theaters and at the Gukdo Art Cinema, it’s been a rough start to what’s typically referred to as the Oscar Season. But the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) is just around the corner, and like always, it will inject a temporary dose of world-class cinema to an otherwise provincial town.
This year promises to be a major milestone in the history of the festival. The official unveiling of the Busan Cinema Center, an ultra-modern cultural complex in the heart of Centum City, will undoubtedly create quite a hoo-ha, prompting local officials to make speeches and pat each other on the back, but to me, this means just one thing. Unlike previous years, BIFF will finally be held in one concentrated area of the city, a welcome change for cinephiles like myself who no longer have to ride the subway back and forth from Nampodong to Haeundae in between screenings, running up and down escalators to make it to the next movie in-time. Whereas most other film festivals had this figured out from day one, in Busan, the sixteenth time’s the charm.
Advance tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies can be bought online starting Monday September 26 at 17:00, while tickets for general screenings go on sale Wednesday September 28 at 9:00. Only how remains a mystery: the guidelines on the website boil down to “visit and register Daum website.” My advice is to ask a Korean friend for help if you intend to buy tickets in advance, which I recommend for anyone who wants a guaranteed seat at a screening.
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, USA)
Saturday October 8 at 11:30, Haneulyeon Theater, Code: 032
Wednesday October 12 at 16:00, Haneulyeon Theater, Code: 114
Have you ever been stuck somewhere with the stinging urge to go to the bathroom, but no toilet in sight? That’s kind of what waiting for “The Tree of Life” to come out has felt like for me. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I left the US for Korea shortly before its American release date and have spent every day since in a state of prolonged, torturous anticipation. But I have to say my reaction to seeing it on the BIFF lineup was somewhat muted knowing that it’s already slated for a release in major movie theaters at the end of October. Still, I’ll take what I can get, and if that means twenty days of less waiting, hell, I’m happy.
The Kid with a Bike (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France/Italy)
Sunday October 9 at 9:00, Haneulyeon Theater, Code: 049
Monday October 10 at 19:30, Haneulyeon Theater, Code: 085
The Dardenne brothers have yet to make a bad or even mediocre film. This consistency has won them the coveted Palme d’Or twice, making them part of a handful of directors to have done so. So obviously I always look forward to seeing their latest movie no matter what it’s about, who’s in it, or how it’s received by other critics.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, United Kingdom)
Saturday October 8 at 9:00, Haneulyeon Theater, Code: 031
Sunday Oct 9 at 13:00, CGV Centum City 4, Code: 208
When Lynne Ramsay makes a movie and it’s playing in a theater near you, you get your ass there. It’s been nine years since her last film came out, and it seems as though she’s trying something a little different this time around. Set outside of her native Scotland, and with Hollywood stars Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly in the main roles alongside rising actor Ezra Miller, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” clearly marks a new direction in Ramsay’s relatively short, but impressive career. I just hope that, during her long absence, she hasn’t lost it.
Faust (Aleksandr Sokurov, Russia)
Monday October 10 at 20:00, Lotte Centum City 6, Code: 468
Monday October 10 at 20:00, Lotte Centum City 7, Code: 470
Tuesday October 11 at 14:00, Megabox Haeundae M, Code: 707
Wednesday October 12 at 13:30, Lotte Centum City 6, Code: 504
Wednesday October 12 at 13:30, Lotte Centum City 7, Code: 506
Aleksandr Sokurov’s eerie filmmaking style is often compared to that of Andrei Tarkovsky, the Russian master whose films are usually only appreciated by ardent cinema lovers. While Sokurov is a touch more accessible, his movies are at times cryptic, slow, and seemingly plot-less, but in spite of it all, strangely atmospheric and enthralling. “Faust,” a retelling of the classic German legend, is the last installment in his four-part series on power and corruption, themes he previously approached in films about Lenin, Hitler, and Emperor Hirohito.
Melancholia (Lars von Trier, Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany)
Friday Oct 7 at 9:30, Haneulyeon Theater, Code: 011
Monday October 10 at 11:00, Lotte Centum City 6, Code: 450
Monday October 10 at 11:00, Lotte Centum City 7, Code: 449
Tuesday October 11 at 20:00, Megabox Haeundae 6, Code: 725
Tuesday October 11 at 20:00, Megabox Haeundae 7, Code: 723
Lars von Trier was banned from the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year after saying “I’m a Nazi” and “I understand Hitler” during a long, incoherent answer to a question about aesthetics. He later apologized for his remarks but recently admitted: “It’s not true. I’m not sorry.” The Danish filmmaker has a history of saying outrageous things and is known as a provocateur, not only in interviews but also in his films. Love him or hate him, it’s hard to watch his movies and not walk away with a strong, gut reaction.
The Day He Arrives (Hong Sang-Soo, Korea)
Friday October 7 at 16:00, Megabox Haeundae 3, Code: 568
Sunday October 9 at 21:00, Megabox Haeundae 1, Code: 658
Wednesday October 12 at 10:00, Megabox Haeundae 1, Code: 731
I feel like Korean cinema in general has been on the slump for the better part of the last five years, failing to produce the kind of masterpieces that were so prevalent in the first six years of the new millenium. Hong Sang-Soo is no exception. While he remains my favorite working Korean director, I’m going to start losing some serious esteem for him unless he really wows me with this one.
Amen (Kim Ki-Duk, Korea)
Friday October 7 at 19:00, Megabox Haeundae 3, Code: 583
Sunday October 9 at 10:00, Megabox Haeundae 3, Code: 630
Wednesday October 12 at 16:00, Megabox Haeundae 1, Code: 751
It definitely came as a surprise to see this one on the lineup since Kim Ki-Duk just premiered his documentary “Arirang” at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Though it won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard sidebar competition, I’ve heard it’s no more than a painfully dull and self-indulgent rant where the filmmaker turns the camera on himself and essentially wails about the creative block he’s experienced over the past few years. He hasn’t made a movie movie since 2008’s “Dream,” and neither that nor its predecessor was any good. But who knows, this could mark a return to form for the notorious director of “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring,” “3-Iron,” and “Bad Guy.”
The next three movies aren’t really high on my list, and frankly I don’t know if I’ll get around to seeing them, but I thought I would mention them anyway since they caught my eye for one reason or another.
Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai (Takashi Miike, Japan)
Friday October 7 at 9:30, Cinema 1, Code: 010
Sunday October 9 at 19:30, Lotte Centum City 4, Code: 447
Wednesday October 12 at 12:30, Lotte Centum City 5, Code: 503
Almayer’s Folly (Chantal Akerman, Belgium/France)
Saturday October 8 at 19:30, CGV Centum City 4, Code: 191
Sunday October 9 at 11:00, Lotte Centum City 3, Code: 420
Tuesday October 11 at 11:00, Megabox Haeundae M, Code: 701
Goodbye First Love (Mia Hansen-Love, France/Germany)
Friday October 7 at 17:00, Megabox Haeundae M, Code: 571
Wednesday October 12 at 11:00, Megabox Haeundae 8, Code: 734
Wednesday October 12 at 11:00, Megabox Haeundae 9, Code: 739
Thursday October 13 at 10:00, CGV Centum City 4, Code: 324