Jules Does

Posts Tagged ‘Movies

This week was a bit different – unfortunately I was ill this weekend and couldn’t go to K-Pop Academy! I saw the photos of my fellow classmates promoting the London Korean Film Festival and felt even more sorry for myself than was necessary. It looked like fun – wandering around Leicester Square accosting strangers and spreading the good word about all the awesome films they can see between the 6th and 21st of November.

Shown here: happy-go-lucky scamps.

But I couldn’t just sit here doing nothing, so instead I thought I’d get into the spirit of the festival and talk a little bit about the history of Korean cinema and the part that cinema plays in Korean culture. As always, if I am wrong about any of this please do correct me in the comments.

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For this week’s K-Pop Academy Homework, I watched a film about a historical event in Korea, reviewed it and drew some conclusions about Korean history. Enjoy!

There is a huge wealth of Korean historical films and dramas, for which fans such as myself are immensely grateful. My favourite K-Drama ever is certainly Sungkyunkwan Scandal, a wonderful epic about royalty, cross-dressing and education in the Joseon Period (in this case, the late 18th century). The costuming is stunning, the plot relatively taut throughout, and the people are *gorgeous*. Did I say that last bit out loud? For this week’s homework, I watched the 2005 Korean movie The King and the Clown, reviewed it and assessed what I could glean from it about Korean history.

Before we start, a brief word about the dangers of learning from films. I love movies, truly I do, but movies are supposed to be stories, not accurate historical documents. They have to adhere to certain story-telling tenets and not leave huge gaps between the action, or people will get bored and go watch White Chicks 2 (yes, White Chicks 2 is everyone’s go-to replacement movie). If you believe absolutely everything you see in movies, you will end up being horrbly wrong about certain facts and will wind up irritating people who actually know something about the subject. Possible errors include:

  • Thinking the Trojan War took 6 months instead of 10 years.
  • Believing that the WWII Enigma machine was captured by the Americans, not the British.
  • “Knowing” that the Emperor Commodus reigned for about a month before being killed in the arena.
  • Picturing Jesus as a blonde white guy.

Gah, so many errors! Nevertheless, movies can be interesting sources of historical fact, particularly for smaller details like fashion trends and so on, so I’ll do my best to pick the wheat from the chaff.

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Can you believe we’re halfway through K-Pop Academy already? It’s become such a big part of the rhythm of my life that it’s going to be odd to stop going down to London every Saturday. I’ll be able to do so much more around the house!

Brigadier Parritt addressing the troops.

This week’s class was a bit brutal, as we were learning about the Korean War (1950-53). We had an excellent speaker come in, Brigadier (Ret.) Brian Parritt CBE, a British veteran of the Korean War, who told us about his experiences of the war and also gave us quite a bit of background on how the war began and how it was waged.

During WWII, Korea was occupied by Japan. Many Korean men fled Korea to avoid being forced to enter the Japanese army, and as Korea is a peninsula, they fled to the two contiguous neighbouring countries of Russia and China. Some of these exiles joined the guerilla armies of Chairman Mao and fought in battles in China for the Communists after WWII concluded. Those who had fled to Russia were also trained up, though not actually admitted into the army.

Upon the defeat of the Japanese in 1945, Korea was placed into the care of the Allied forces, as there was no Korean government-in-exile that could sweep in and take care of the country. Like Germany, the Allies split the country between them, with the land south of the 38th Parallel in the custody of the US, and the land north of the 38th Parallel in the trusteeship of the USSR.  The US put Rhee Syng Man in charge of the southern section of Korea, and the Soviets installed a certain Russian-trained Korean named Kim Il Sung in the North. The goal, as stated, was to patch Korea back up and make it into a unified country again once everything was sorted.

That’s not how it worked out.

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Despite growing up in the desert, I’ve never been a big fan of Westerns. Maybe it’s their intense focus on rugged, angry-looking men, or their espousal of traditional (read: sexist and/or racist) views. Maybe it’s all the guns and the low-voiced growling, or the way there’s always one guy who gets shot, clutches his chest and falls dramatically from a height. Maybe it’s the way they filmed night-time scenes during the day and then tinted them, making the sky a queasy shade of dark blue populated by unusually bright clouds and no stars to speak of.

Shane changed my mind. That is because Shane is basically cowboy Batman. 


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DISCLAIMER 1: I can count the things I know about anime on one hand using only my thumbs. I’ve heard enough to know that Miyazaki is the master of the art form (although further recommendations in the comments would be much appreciated), but of his work I’ve only seen My Neighbour Totoro, a film which I can only describe as whimsical (which is dangerous, given that ‘whimsical’ is generally applied to 1. Things which aren’t whimsical and are just silly or 2. Wes Anderson). As a result I brought very few preconceptions to Howl’s Moving Castle, although I suspect I would feel differently about it if I had seen Spirited Away, the film which won Miyazaki his Oscar.

DISCLAIMER 2: I have not read the original source material for the film, the book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, so I can’t compare the treatment of the subject matter in the two media.

That said, let’s get on to the review [Mild spoilers ahead].

The film is about a young lady named Sophie, who is turned into an old woman by a local sorceress, called The Witch of the Wastes, after an encounter with the enigmatic and magnetic wizard Howl. In order to hide her condition from her ditzy mother she runs away onto the Wastes outside her town and, with the help of a sentient scarecrow, she hops onto Howl’s moving castle and sets herself up as the resident cleaner. The newly-minted family faces a variety of challenges, including a looming war with a neighbouring kingdom.

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  I find lists very helpful, from ‘The Top 10 Worst Bugs Ever’ to ‘100 Books to Read Before You Die’ (I know, I know). So when I read that Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera had been voted 8th best film ever by Sight and Sound‘s poll of film critics, it seemed like a spectacular stroke of luck that it was going to be shown at the Prince Charles Cinema about a month afterwards. So I did what every list-ophile would do, and went to see it.

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