K-MOVIE Cult classics to global phenomenons: explore the best of...

Cult classics to global phenomenons: explore the best of Korean cinema at SBS On Demand

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There are few countries in the world with a higher concentration of filmmakers and film loving audiences than Korea. In fact, back in 2019 before the global entertainment industry ground to a halt, South Korea’s average cinema audience per capita was among the highest in the world, far surpassing the US, the UK and Australia.
And it’s not hard to see why – whether it’s intimate drama or bigger budget spectacles, there has always been an unapologetically bold quality to the films of Korea that sets them apart from the traditional Hollywood fare – characters more complex, twists more unpredictable and subject matter more challenging. In a world where original stories have all but vanished from our multiplexes, the Korean auteurs continue to thrive in a community that supports new ideas and out of the box storytelling.
And just as we’ve seen a recent boom in in the popularity of both K-pop and K-drama, so too have we seen international audiences embrace Korean film like never before in the wake of big screen successes such as Parasite and the streaming phenomenon that is Squid Game, confirming what true cinephiles have always known – no one does cinema quite like Korea.
Here are some highlights of the at SBS On Demand.

Parasite

The first film in a language other than English to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and currently sitting at an 8.5 rating on IMDB, it’s safe to say Parasite was a genuine mainstream phenomenon that took the world by storm and catapulted it’s director Bong Joon-ho from respected auteur to legendary filmmaker status. Four years on, the film is as fresh as ever, with its biting social satire and comments on class hitting just as hard now as they did back in a pre-COVID 2019.

Parasite is streaming now at SBS On Demand:

Decision To Leave

When it comes to heavyweights of Korean cinema, they don’t get much bigger than Park Chan-wook. The man who gave us the certified cult classic Oldboy and the visually ravishing Stoker, once again delivers a sumptuous, darkly romantic film about a detective who falls for a woman suspected of her own husband’s death. Featuring breathtaking cinematography and a pair of powerful lead performances, it’s no wonder it secured the Best Director prize at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.

Decision to Leave is streaming now at SBS On Demand:

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I Saw The Devil

Starring Choi Min-sik of Oldboy fame, and featuring an ingenious plot revolving around a secret agent seeking revenge on a serial killer, I Saw The Devil certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. But for those who like their thrillers with a mean streak and their characters as hard boiled as they come, this is an all-time classic of the crime genre.

I Saw The Devil is streaming now at SBS On Demand:

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Train To Busan

Every ‘best of’ list needs a post-apocalyptic zombie action horror entry, and this word of mouth hit from 2013 is a modern cult classic that can boast Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright among its many adoring fans. The premise is simple – a train journey from Seoul to Busan is cut short when a deadly virus breaks out and its passengers must fight their way through a horde of zombies to reach their final destination.
Every bit as tense as genre classics such as Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later, what sets Train To Busan apart from other zombie fare is the clarity of the storytelling and the fluidity of the camera work, which has even been compared to the work of one Steven Spielberg.

Train to Busan is streaming now at SBS On Demand:

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Director Yeon Sang-ho’s second zombie action title, Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula, is also streaming now at SBS On Demand:

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Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula

The Host

The fact this is the second entry on our list from Bong Joon-Ho speaks to his influence on modern Korean cinema and his ability to effortlessly switch between genres. This 2006 breakout hit, which also features long-time collaborator and Parasite star Song Kang-ho, sees Director Bong tackling a full blown monster movie the only way he knows how – by commenting on the media, politics and mistreatment of our natural environment. On a pure entertainment level however, it’s also just a really good monster movie!

The Host is streaming now at SBS On Demand:

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Right Now, Wrong Then

No list of Korean cinema is complete without the work of Hong Sang-soo, one of the most prolific filmmakers working in Korea and perhaps the world. In the past ten years alone, he has directed 18 feature films, most of which deal with Sang-soo’s central preoccupation – exploring fractured romantic relationships using a variety of ingenious narrative devices.
This 2015 entry into the director’s filmography is in fact two films in one, with the story cantering around a filmmaker who meets and spends the day with a young woman, which is then played out again in the second half of the film, with their relationship framed in an entirely new and surprising way – completely leaving it up to the viewer as to which version they prefer.

Right Now, Wrong Then is streaming now at SBS On Demand:

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Poetry

This achingly beautiful film from novelist turned filmmaker Lee Chang-dong is the kind of life affirming stuff you’ll want to save up for a Sunday afternoon when you’re in need of a bit of an emotional pick me up. It follows the story of Mija, an older woman who is dealt more than her fair share of cruel blows in her later years following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, only to find a new lease on life after enrolling in a poetry class.
The film tackles big themes – family struggles, the burden of old age and the legacy we leave for our children – but crucially this isn’t just another ‘Old person with Alzheimer’s’ film; it’s a deep meditation on the simple joys of life and why it’s never too late to find new purpose in the world.

Poetry is streaming now at SBS On Demand:

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Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring

Venturing further still down the existential rabbit hole leads us to this deeply spiritual film that has a fascinating premise – one man’s life flashes before our eyes as if each decade or so is a new season in a year, from boy to teen to man. Along the way he learns hard fought lessons about love, humility and how the choices we make in our formative years can long reverberate into our future.
If that all sounds a bit too highfalutin for your tastes, then you may be surprised to discover just how much humour and charm is sprinkled throughout the film, adding up to a completely unique cinematic experience that much like the central character’s life, passes by in the blink of an eye.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring is streaming now at SBS On Demand:

Thumbnail of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring

Explore more, from romantic comedy to historical drama, in the at SBS On Demand.

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