Film at Lincoln Center and Subway Cinema, in association with the Korean Cultural Center New York, announce Relentless Invention: New Korean Cinema, 1996–2003, a showcase of the essential films and filmmakers of this transformative movement, November 22–December 4.

The South Korean film industry has been in the midst of a remarkable, decades-long creative explosion, with Bong Joon Ho, Hong Sang-soo, and Park Chan-wook jolting new life into art-house and genre cinema alike. With the end of the nation’s military rule and the relaxing of government censorship, Korean film experienced the kind of renaissance that hadn’t been seen since its golden age in the 1950s. This new generation of filmmakers took more than political and social issues as their inspiration: they re-energized national cinema in the late 1990s and early 2000s with homegrown blockbusters that imbued the pleasures of pop cinema with a subversive, gleefully inventive approach to genre and a sharp sociopolitical edge. From heart-rending romances to supernatural shockers, ultra-stylish thrillers to offbeat comedies, this survey celebrates a vital movement that’s as audaciously innovative as it is unabashedly entertaining. 

FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS

All screenings take place at the Walter Reade Theater (165 W 65th St) unless otherwise noted.

Art Museum by the Zoo / Misulgwan yup dongmulwon 
Lee Jeong-hyang, South Korea, 1998, 35mm, 108m
Korean with English subtitles
On leave from the army, Cheol-soo (Lee Sung-jae) returns to the apartment he used to share with his girlfriend only to discover that she’s moved out, is engaged to another guy, and the flat is now occupied by Choon-hee (superstar Shim Eun-ha in one of her most beloved roles), an awkward young wedding photographer who happens to be similarly unlucky in love. With nowhere else for him to go, the pair become odd couple roommates, pouring their romantic frustrations into a screenplay they cowrite. As fiction and reality intertwine, this charmingly inventive meta-movie romantic comedy delivers its genre pleasures with a knowing wink.
Tuesday, November 26, 2:00pm
Friday, November 29, 6:45pm

Attack the Gas Station / Juyuso seubgyuksageun
Kim Sang-jin, South Korea, 1999, 35mm, 113m
Korean with English subtitles
A blast of careening, nihilistic craziness, this gonzo anarcho-comedy unfolds over the course of one wild night as a band of four disaffected young men, driven by boredom and alienation from Korean society, hold a gas station hostage and unleash increasingly mass-scale chaos on the streets. Featuring a cast of familiar faces who would go on to superstardom—including Lee Sung-jae, Yoo Ji-tae, and Yu Oh-seong—Attack the Gas Station pulses with an adrenalized visual style to match its anything-goes blend of action mayhem, knock-down violence, dark humor, and blistering social commentary.
Saturday, November 23, 8:30pm
Thursday, November 28, 4:45pm

Barking Dogs Never Bite / Flandersui gae
Bong Joon Ho, South Korea, 2000, 35mm, 110m
Korean with English subtitles
Bong Joon Ho’s brilliantly cracked first feature displays the audacious blending of genres and tones that would soon put him at the forefront of Korean cinema. Perturbed by the incessant yapping of a neighbor’s dog, a frazzled, out-of-work academic (Lee Sung-jae) resorts to drastic measures to quiet the canine—setting into motion a hilariously warped chain of events that turns a humble office worker (the brilliant Bae Doona, channeling Giulietta Masina) into a crusading, puppy-saving avenger. As always with Bong, black comedy, touches of horror, and incisive social commentary are balanced with the precision of a Swiss timepiece.
Sunday, November 24, 8:15pm
Friday, November 29, 4:30pm

Barking Dogs Never Bite

Christmas in August / Palwolui Keuriseumaseu
Hur Jin-ho, South Korea, 1998, 35mm, 97m
Korean with English subtitles
It’s a sweltering summer, but Jung-won (Han Suk-kyu), a terminally ill, thirty-something photographer, is already in the winter of his life when he begins a tentative romance with a young traffic cop (Shim Eun-ha, who swept the Korean awards for her performance) who doesn’t know about his condition. Is their relationship doomed before it even begins? A poignant reflection on the ephemeral nature of life and love—and of photography’s ability to preserve the fleeting present—this modern Korean classic is an unabashed, heart-racingly effective tear-jerker that derives its power from a supreme delicacy and restraint.
Friday, November 22, 7:00pm
Thursday, November 28, 9:15pm

The Day a Pig Fell into the Well / Daijiga umule pajinnal 
Hong Sang-soo, South Korea, 1996, 115m
Korean with English subtitles
The acclaimed feature debut of Hong Sang-soo begins as a study of an affair between a temperamental writer (Kim Eui-sung) and a married woman (Lee Eun-kyung) and gradually zooms outward to reveal its tragic ripple effects on the lives of a germaphobic businessman (Park Jin-sung) and a young movie theater ticket taker (Jo Eun-sook). Though more somber in tone than many of Hong’s subsequent seriocomedies, this multi-strand drama displays his master’s touch in its unsparing look at the complexities of love (particularly when combined with alcohol) and the heart-tearing void it leaves in its absence.
Friday, November 22, 4:30pm
Wednesday, November 27, 8:30pm

4K restoration!
Die Bad / Jukgeona hokeun nabbeugeona
Ryoo Seung-wan, South Korea, 2000, 95m
Korean with English subtitles
The feature debut of Ryoo Seung-wan, this gritty, gut-punching indie cult hit unfolds in four chapters as it traces a young man’s descent into a life of crime. When we first meet Sung-bin (the director’s brother Ryoo Seung-bum) he is a student embroiled in a gang fight that ends with him inadvertently killing a man—the beginning of a years-long odyssey that will take him from prison to the depths of the criminal underworld. Filming each segment in its own distinct style—from raw documentary realism to action-drama to horror-thriller—Ryoo delivers a furious, innovative study of male rage taken to its toxic extreme. 
Tuesday, November 26, 4:30pm
Saturday, November 30, 5:00pm

The Foul King / Banchikwang 
Kim Jee-woon, South Korea, 2000, 35mm, 112m
Korean with English subtitles
The great Song Kang-ho delivers a deft tragicomic performance in this lovably goofy sports comedy and character study. He stars as Dae-ho, a timid, put-upon bank clerk who finds unexpected respite from his soul-sucking professional life as a masked professional wrestler whose gimmick is employing absurd ways to cheat in the ring. As Dae-ho gradually finds success at his new pursuit, he is emboldened to take risks in every aspect of his life—with decidedly mixed results. Offering a sly commentary on the toxic effects of South Korea’s high-pressure work culture, The Foul King is a classic root-for-the-underdog tale with an offbeat twist. A 2001 ND/NF selection.
Sunday, November 24, 3:15pm
Saturday, November 30, 9:00pm

The Foul King

The Gingko Bed / Eunhaengnamoo chimdae
Kang Je-gyu, South Korea, 1996, 35mm, 88m
Korean with English subtitles
One of the first homegrown blockbuster hits produced by the modern Korean film industry, the feature debut of director Kang Je-gyu (Shiri) is a delirious vision of inter-romance between spirit and mortal in which an art instructor (Han Suk-kyu) finds himself at the center of a haunted love triangle involving an ancient princess and a murderous general after he comes into possession of a bed made from a cursed gingko tree. The crudely expressionistic CGI effects only add to the otherworldly aura of this surreal and strangely poignant tale of obsessive love from beyond the grave.
Friday, November 22, 2:30pm
Tuesday, November 26, 9:00pm

Joint Security Area / Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA
Park Chan-wook, South Korea, 2000, 110m
Korean with English subtitles
A box-office record-breaker in South Korea, Park Chan-wook’s third feature is both a Rashomon-like murder mystery and a tender male melodrama rooted in the trauma of 20th-century Korean history. After a shooting in the DMZ leaves two North Korean military officers dead, a South Korean sergeant (Lee Byung-hun) stands accused. With both sides offering radically different accounts, it’s up to a Swiss-Korean envoy (Lee Young-ae) to unravel the twisty truth. Working in an evocatively stripped-down visual style, Park creates a poignant, hauntingly humanist drama that may surprise viewers only familiar with his nihilistic revenge thrillers.
Sunday, November 24, 1:00pm
Thursday, November 28, 7:00pm

4K restoration!
Memories of Murder / Salinui chueok
Bong Joon Ho, South Korea, 2003, 132m
Korean with English subtitles
Bong Joon Ho’s masterful, gonzo comic take on the police procedural won him worldwide acclaim and helped make the New Korean Cinema movement a full-fledged international force. Set against the political turbulence of the 1980s, Memories of Murder traces the friction that develops between a pair of detectives—one a small-town investigator in over his head, the other a young hotshot from Seoul—as they try to catch a serial killer who is murdering women on rainy nights. But as each lead turns up a dead end, their investigation seems to wind only towards nihilistic despair. Based on the true story of South Korea’s first serial killer, this singular policiereschews crime thriller conventions in favor of a haunting, richly human exploration of failure and existential futility.
Sunday, November 24, 5:30pm
Thursday, November 28, 2:00pm
Tuesday, December 3, 1:15pm*
*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Francesca Beale Theater, 144 W 65 Street

Memories of Murder

4K restoration! 
My Sassy Girl / Yeopgijeogin geunyeo
Kwak Jae-yong, South Korea, 2001, 123m
Korean with English subtitles
A box office sensation across East Asia that garnered comparisons to Titanic in terms of its mega popularity, this irresistible romantic comedy begins when dweeby, mild-mannered Gyeon-woo (Cha Tae-hyun) comes to the aid of a drunk young woman (Jun Ji-hyun) on a subway platform. Little does he know how much trouble he’s in for… A wild ride romance that’s by turns lovably goofy, heart-tuggingly sentimental, and stand-up-and-cheer rousing, My Sassy Girl is an unabashed crowd-pleaser that mixes genres with the audacious abandon that makes Korean cinema so much fun.
Sunday, December 1, 3:30pm
Wednesday, December 4, 1:30pm 

4K restoration! 
No. 3
Song Neung-han, South Korea, 1997, 108m
Korean with English subtitles
Tae-ju (Han Suk-kyu) is a career gangster who, frustrated by his position as the number three man in his outfit, sets out to climb the ranks of organized crime straight to the top. But first he’ll have to contend with a pesky prosecutor, a poet who’s sleeping with his wife, and a rival who’s got a particularly brutal way with an ashtray… Blending dark comedy, outrageously over-the-top violence, and millennial doomsday anxiety, this wildly inventive crime drama satire takes subversive aim at issues of power, nationalism, economic anxiety, and corruption within Korean society. Look out for appearances from future stars Choi Min-sik and Song Kang-ho in early supporting roles.
Sunday, December 1, 8:30pm
Wednesday, December 4, 6:30pm 

4K restoration!
Nowhere to Hide / Injeong sajeong bol geot eobtda 
Lee Myung-se, South Korea, 1999, 112m
Korean with English subtitles
A pulp policier done up in shoot-the-works avant-garde style, this hallucinatory thriller follows a pair of dogged detectives (Park Joong-hoon & Jang Dong-gun) on a grueling 72-day manhunt for an elusive killer—a relentless cycle of stakeouts, chases, and hyper-inventive, slo-mo fight sequences. Rolling the visual influences of film noir, silent cinema, slapstick comedy, and Hong Kong action cinema into one eye-popping, feverishly stylized package, Nowhere to Hide is both an optical tour-de-force and a potent study of grim determination. Bonus points for a soundtrack that makes particularly memorable use of early, psychedelic-era Bee Gees. A 2000 ND/NF selection.
Monday, November 25, 8:00pm
Saturday, November 30, 7:00pm

Nowhere to Hide

4K restoration!
Oldboy / Oldeuboi 
Park Chan-wook, South Korea, 2003, 120m
Korean with English subtitles
An international sensation since its rapturous reception at Cannes, where it won the Grand Prix, Park Chan-wook’s ultra-stylish revenge thriller electrified audiences with its bravura set pieces and shocking themes. Imprisoned by a mysterious, sadistic captor for 15 years, Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) survives only because of his will to get even with the villain who has made his life a living hell. But when he’s suddenly released without explanation, he finds himself plunged further into a Kafkaesque conspiracy that goes far deeper than he can even begin to understand. By turns operatically violent and morbidly funny, the second installment in Park’s Vengeance Trilogy has assumed the stature of a modern-day Greek tragedy.
Tuesday, November 26, 6:30pm
Wednesday, December 4, 9:00pm

The Quiet Family / Choyonghan kajok
Kim Jee-woon, South Korea, 1998, 35mm, 101m
Korean with English subtitles
As the bodies pile up, so do the laughs in this Evil Dead–style blend of macabre shocks and absurdist humor. Having left Seoul to open an inn in the mountains, the Kang family finds business disappointingly slow as they wait anxiously for customers. But when their first guest winds up dead, it’s only the beginning of a run of seriously bad luck, as everyone who checks in meets a similarly grisly fate. Now, what to do with all those corpses? Loosely remade by Takashi Miike as The Happiness of the Katakuris, this jet-black comic thriller offers a subversive take on the concepts of duty and solidarity within the Korean family unit.
Saturday, November 23, 6:00pm
Wednesday, November 27, 2:00pm

Rainbow Trout / Song uh
Park Jong-won, South Korea, 1999, 35mm, 100m
Korean with English subtitles
Deliverance-style backwoods horror gets a Korean makeover in this rarely seen gem from the late nineties, a compelling genre work that comments on the hypocrisy and savage violence that lurk inside ordinary men. A group of city dwellers arrives at a remote mountain trout farm for a weekend getaway, but after the first night of convivial drinking, their vacation goes awry.  At first, a tense run-in with some local hunters unnerves the husbands, while the women harbor secret feelings of lust and jealousy for the trout farmer. When they come upon a hapless country boy peeping on one of the women, they’re quick to blame him for all their woes.
Wednesday, November 27, 6:30pm
Friday, November 29, 2:30pm

Resurrection of the Little Match Girl / Sungnyangpali sonyeoui jaerim
Jang Sun-woo, South Korea, 2002, 35mm, 123m
Korean with English subtitles
Blurring the lines between cinema, virtual reality, and choose-your-own-adventure thrill ride, this postmodern, mind-warp techno-fantasy comes perhaps as close as any film has to replicating the labyrinthine logic of a video game. Ju (Kim Hyun-sung) is a computer game–obsessed delivery boy who finds himself seemingly living in an elaborate video game based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale “The Little Match Girl.” His morbid objective: to lead her into a peaceful death while thinking only of him. As he is plunged further into the hyperkinetic, bullet-riddled world of the game, this digital neon fever dream spins off into increasingly hallucinatory realms.
Friday, November 29, 9:00pm
Tuesday, December 3, 4:00pm*
*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Francesca Beale Theater, 144 W 65 Street

4K restoration!
Save the Green Planet! / Jigureul jikyeora!
Jang Joon-hwan, South Korea, 2003, 118m
Korean with English subtitles
A hyperactive jolt of anarchic adrenaline, this mind-bending mash-up of sci-fi, horror, and psychological drama careens from darkly funny to shocking to heartbreaking with whiplash-inducing bravura. Convinced that evil aliens are infiltrating Earth in the guise of human beings, a possibly deranged amateur ufologist (Shin Ha-kyun) kidnaps a powerful businessman (Baek Yoon-sik) in hopes of exposing him as an extraterrestrial. Is it all in his head, or could he really be the only one who can save the world from destruction? The audacious tonal shifts and reality-shifting narrative gambits fly fast and furious in a one-of-a-kind genre-bender that is, ultimately, an urgent, heartrendingly humanist message in a bottle for our fragile planet.
Friday, November 22, 9:00pm
Tuesday, December 3, 6:30pm*
*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Francesca Beale Theater, 144 W 65 Street

Save the Green Planet!

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance / Boksuneun naui geot 
Park Chan-wook, South Korea, 2002, 35mm, 129m
Korean with English subtitles
Revenge is a vicious, nihilistic circle in the jolting first film in Park Chan-wook’s acclaimed Vengeance Trilogy, a blood-spattered moral tale with a nuanced philosophical underpinning. Urgently in need of the money to pay for his gravely ill sister’s kidney transplant, Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun), a deaf-mute factory worker with a shock of turquoise hair, resorts to kidnapping the young daughter of a wealthy industrialist (Song Kang-ho)—an act of desperation that sets into motion an unstoppable domino effect of violence that begets violence that begets violence… Cannily setting up a morally complex world in which there are no good or bad guys—only shades of anti-heroes—Park takes Jean Renoir’s famous maxim that “everyone has their reasons” to its shocking, audacious extreme.
Sunday, December 1, 6:00pm
Wednesday, December 4, 4:00pm 

Take Care of My Cat / Go-yang-i-leul boo-tak-hae
Jeong Jae-eun, South Korea, 2001, 35mm, 112m
Korean with English subtitles
The feature debut of Jeong Jae-eun, one of the few female directors to gain a foothold in the male-dominated Korean film industry, is an affectingly naturalistic portrait of five young women navigating the uncertainties of early adulthood in the industrial city of Incheon. Exploring issues of friendship, alienation, and economic anxiety as they directly affect women, Take Care of My Cat (the title a reference to the feline that the friends collectively adopt) eloquently expresses the apprehension of coming of age at the dawn of the 21st century. The use of artfully integrated text messages, through which the women stay in touch even as they grow apart, marks this quietly revelatory work as one of the first true “millennial” films. A 2002 ND/NF selection.
Wednesday, November 27, 4:15pm
Sunday, December 1, 1:00pm

Untold Scandal / Seukaendeul – Joseon namnyeo sangyeoljisa
E J-yong, South Korea, 2003, 35mm, 124m
Korean with English subtitles
Transposing the French classic Les Liaisons dangereuses to late 18th-century Korea, this luxuriant saga of boudoir intrigue begins as playboy nobleman Jo-won (a delightfully roguish Bae Yong-joon) makes a bet with his scheming cousin Lady Cho (Lee Mi-sook) that he can seduce a virtuous young woman (Secret Sunshine’s Jeon Do-yeon), setting into motion a salacious drama of erotic gamesmanship, jealousy, betrayal, and revenge. Elegantly directed by E J-yong, who delights in the opulent period trappings, Untold Scandal is a deliciously entertaining study of cruelty and pleasure that stands as one of the finest adaptations of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s novel. A 2004 ND/NF selection.
Saturday, November 30, 2:30pm
Tuesday, December 3, 9:00pm*
*Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Francesca Beale Theater, 144 W 65 Street

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