THE FACE READER ‘Gwansang izle‘ (2013)



Song Kang-ho is the future.
If you’ve read any of my previous posts you’ll know I have a great regard for this actor.
A performer of such sensibilities that make him one of the most interesting screen actors of this century.

Here he plays Nae Kyung, a Face Reader, one who is adept at physiognomy, the assessment of a person’s character or personality by the study of their outer appearance especially the face.

Set in 1455 in the political world of the King and his potential usurpers, Han Jae-rim directs this historical tale of intrigue and conspiracy

Nae Kyung is lured into the employ of a Madame working in the city and is noticed by the Vice Premiere to the King, Kim Jong-so (Baek Yun-shik) and consequently finds himself working for the palace, getting involved in the political web that disgraced his father years before.

This film begins very light-heartedly and gradually progresses toward drama and tragedy. I recently read that this is quite a staple of period pieces from Korea, the only period piece I saw before this was the excellent Untold Scandal (also scored by this films composer, Lee Byung-woo).
It is a very enjoyable piece yet it lacks that bit of extra magic to elevate it to the heights it could have reached.

The cast are all on point and although Song Kang-ho is billed as the lead this is very much an ensemble piece.
Lee Jung-jae (The Housemaid, The Thieves, New World) is subtle in his snake-like portrayal of the King’s brother, Prince Suyang. Jeung Jo-suk is brilliant as Nae Kyung’s brother in law and provides all the great comedy moments early on, working as a great double-act with Song Kang-ho. Kim Hye-su takes on the challenge of being the only major female character in an ostensibly male dominated film (war usually is on screen) and relishes the opportunity.

This film is an historical epic that takes the viewer on a journey into territories unknown (especially non-Koreans) and that is all good.
An above average experience filled with wonderful moments and dastardly intrigue.



MEMORIES OF MURDER ‘Salinui chueok’ (2003)


Song Kang-ho is definitely my favourite South Korean actor.

If he is in a film I will take a look. His talent is immense and his capacity for comedy and drama is always a joy to behold.

Directed by Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Mother and the highly anticipated Snowpiercer), this cops vs serial killah thriller is a beautifully composed film that highlights the ineptitude of the South Korean police system during the mid 80’s.

Mood and atmosphere are key; the cinematography is both luscious and epic.

The police are frustrated by the lack of facilities available to them but are driven by the need to catch the killer. Kim Sang-kyung plays a detective dispatched from Seoul to this country town who looks on the methodology of the local cops as both ridiculous and as backwoods as it clearly is; here is where the contrast between the differing tactics makes for a lot of the humour in the film, and there is quite a bit.

Loosely based on Kim Gwang-rim’s stage play Come to See Me and starring Ryoo Tae-hoo as the second suspect (interestingly, he originally played all three of the suspects on stage) who is truly excellent as are the other two suspects, Park No-sik as the mentally challenged first and Park Hae-ill as the blank-page third suspect.
Everybody is brilliant, the mood and pace of the film is truly engaging, but it is Sang Kong-ho who anchors this film with the emotional journey that drags you in.

Another one of the South Korean 2003 heavy hitters.