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UPDATED: 10/10/2012

Well, here’s another benefit of having recently become a BFI member: their monthly guide came tumbling through the mail box this dreary-wet morning with details on an upcoming Im Kwon-Taek season.

We had some vague knowledge about this already as it has been listed on the programme for the KCCUK’s Year of 12 Directors since the beginning of the year, but now follow the details: eight film screenings plus a special “Im Kwon-Taek in Conversation” event at the BFI plus seven films at the ICA.

The master himself: Im Kwon-Taek.

The BFI writes (quoting from the catalogue, the information is not yet available online):

Like John Ford and Raoul Walsh in Hollywood, or Liu Jialiang in Hong Kong, Im Kwon-Taek is a major director who found his own distinctive ‘voice’ by learning on the job. Born in 1934 into a family he describes as ‘aggressively leftist’, he stumbled into the film industry almost by accident. He was looking for work in the depressed aftermath of the Korean War when Chung Chang-Wha (later the director of King Boxer for Shaw Brothers) gave him a job as a production assistant in exchange for board and lodging. He started directing war movies and historical dramas himself in 1962. Korean critics make artistic claims for some of his early genre movies (quite a few are sadly believed lost), but there’s a consensus that he began to assert real authorial control over his work around 1980.

South Korea had one of the most highly regulated (and censored) film industries in the non-communist world until it moved from military to civilian government in 1993, but Im found ways to tackle many of the country’s pressing social and political issues in the 1980s films that proved him the greatest Korean filmmaker of his generation. He looked at the fall-out from the civil war, at the new class divide, at the contradictions in modern Buddhism, at the ‘traditional’ subordination of women – all in handsome-looking films with rounded characters, humour and unsentimental pathos. More recently he has often focused on Korea’s vanishing cultural traditions, equally often renewing his elegant style with such touches as the celebrated six-minute take in Seopyeonje.

We’ll hear more about his themes and his aesthetics when we host Im Kwon-Taek on the NFT1 stage, alongside his sometime assistant (now professor at K-Arts) Kim Hong-Joon. But the films speak eloquently for themselves; note that seven more will play at the ICA before and after these screenings, giving London its best-ever chance to see the range of Im’s achievements. Beauty is a given, emotional and moral challenges are integral, and surprises are guaranteed. To twist the title of his own films, Im runs far and flies high. It’s a great pleasure to welcome an authentic master.

Im Kwon-Taek at the BFI

Events and screenings at the BFI (with links to trailers where available – click on title):

  • Im Kwon-Taek in Conversation: October 25, 2012.
  • 짝코 (Jjak-ko/Pursuit of Death aka Mismatched Nose, South Korea, 1980): Oct 22 and Oct 27, 2012.
  • 만다라 (Mandara/Mandala, South Korea, 1981): Oct 25 and 27, 2012. Joined ticket with Im Kwon-Taek in Conversation available for the Oct 25 showing.
  • 길소뜸 (Gilsoddeum, South Korea, 1985): Oct 22 and 28, 2012.
  • 씨받이 (Ssibaji/Surrogate Woman, South Korea, 1986): Oct 23 and 28, 2012.
  • 아제 아제 바라 아제 (Aje Aje Bara Aje/Come, Come, Come Upward, South Korea, 1989): Oct 23 and Nov 3, 2012.
  • 서편제 (Seopyeonje, South Korea, 1993): Oct 24 and Nov 4, 2012.
  • 태백산맥 (Taebaek Sanmaek/The Taebaek Mountains, South Korea, 1994): Oct 26 and 28, 2012.
  • 취화선 (Chihwaseon/Drunk on Women and Poetry aka Painted Fire, South Korea, 2002): Oct 24 and 30, 2012.

Note: I will add links to the film-specific pages on the BFI website once the information is up.

Seopyeonje.

Im Kwon-Taek at the ICA

Not up on the ICA website yet, but London Korean Links seems to be in the know
UPDATE: Details on the ICA website.

  • 안개 마을 (Angae Maeul/Village in the Mist, South Korea, 1983): Oct 19
  • 티켓 (Tiket/Ticket, South Korea, 1987): Oct 20
  • 장군의 아들 (Janggunui adeul/The General’s Son, South Korea, 1990): Oct 20
  • 축제 (Chukje/Festival, South Korea, 1996): Oct 26
  • 춘향뎐 (Chunhyang/Chunhyang, South Korea, 2000) & Director’s Q&A: Oct 27
  • 달빛 길어올리기 (Dalbich Gileoolligi/Hanji aka Scooping the Moonlight, South Korea, 2011): Oct 31
  • 하류인생 (Haryu insaeng/A Low Life, South Korea, 2004): Nov 2

More about the Director

As little known as Korean cinema may be internationally, Im Kwon-Taek is well profiled even abroad and there is plenty about him to found on the web. For starters:

Start pondering which of these films to watch – with that kind of selection, it’s not going to be an easy choice!

Bonus Bit (added 1/10/12)