Sunday, June 06, 2010

My TOP 10 Period Movies

As stated this list is subjective, biased, and totally unreliable. Ever since I have liked period movies, you know, Three Musketeers, Dangerous Beauty, Ivanhoe, everything that was set before 1789 in Europe. So, naturally, I came to Asian ones. For now, Chinese are way too epic, too long, too...well, epic, as for my small taste. But I have nothing against long Korean ones. Especially with the filtre they use. I just love that all colors are so vibrant, so vivid. It depends of course on the movie, but the using of colors in Korean cinema is another topic. This also applies to the Japanese cinema as well (the random movie I can think about is Border Line, i.e.). I have nothing against the BW movies though. I will not include dramas, because there are only two that captured my head/heart* (* scratch what doesn't sound right): Chuno and Queen Seonduk, and those two are sageuk, taeha, historical dramas. And yes, I have nothing better to do today.

 1. Miindo (2008)
Visually stunning, emotionally wrenching, bold, exquisite. My favorite ever since I've seen it over a year ago. I'm sorry Jae Young-sshi, but the first place prize do not belong to you this time. It belongs to Kim Nam Gil this time, who is just second in command right after you (oh my poor heart). The movie depicts the story of talended girl with painting gift, who has to disguise herself as a boy to take lessons in the academy. I could write an essay on this movie, how it is shot, framed, accompanied by music, how characters progress...
Born to a family of established court painters, seven-year-old Yun-jeong is a young girl gifted at painting. However, the pressure is on her brother to carry on the proud family tradition, as women aren’t allowed to become professional painters. While her brother trains to take his place in the court, Yun-jeong helps him out by secretly painting for him. The little girl’s life is turned upside down when her brother kills himself. In order to preserve the family honor, she is forced to take her brother’s name and lives as a man. Yun-bok’s genius and talent captures the heart of another great master of the time, Kim Hong-do. But her daring depictions of women are condemned by the royal institute as obscene. Yun-bok meets Kang-mu and falls deeply in love. For the first time, she feels the strong desire to abandon everything she has built and simply be a woman in front of the man she loves. Kang-mu sacrifices all for his love as well. Kim Hong-do, who loved the genius of his best student, ends up loving everything about her, and Seol-hwa, a Gisaeng at the courtesan house, possesses a love for Hong-do that turns into fatal jealousy. The secret behind Shin Yun-bok’s masterpiece, Portrait of a Beauty, is finally revealed after 250 years of silence. (hancinema)

2. The Divine Weapon (2008)
Jeong Jae Young and Ahn Seong Gi. Period. Han Eun Jeong is so weak in this movie. But I just fell in love with Seol Joo character (who wouldn't?).
Synopsis: During the reign of King Sejong, Joseon Dynasty was the embodiment of the perfect state. To the Ming China, the aspiring imperial power, Joseon presented an obstacle to territorial expansion. The Ming China demanded submission and interfered with internal affairs of Joseon. All the while keeping Joseon in check with the constant threat of the northern barbarians. Disgusted by the Chinese interference ,King Sejong secretly develops the Phantom Arrowslinger, a weapon he intends to use to take back Joseon’s land and supremacy. but When Chinese spies discover the plan, the Chinese emperor attempts to disrupt the development with force, setting off a chain reaction of violence. (hancinema)

3. The Frozen Flower (2008)
Lets face it, my first Korean period movie. That is why I'm so attached. Some disturbing scenes included. Beautiful Hwarang boys, stunning costumes and Jo In Sung as the cherry on top. Boy, this guy improved! And his torn soul was the main axis of this movie. Well done. I would get rid of the last scene, this flashback, but in overall, great experience. OK, this is maybe a movie tagged as GTM (Gay Theme Movie), but I would state that this is rather a LTM: Love Theme Movie. Love can come in any shape, every time, anywhere.
Synopsis: In the end of Goryeo era politically manipulated by the Yuan Dynasty, the ambitious King of the Goryeo Dynasty organizes Kunryongwe. Hong Lim, the commander of Kunryongwe, captivates the King of Goryeo, and the Queen keeps her eyes on the relationship between Hong Lim and the King with a reluctant view. Meanwhile, the bilateral relation between Goryeo and the Yuan gets worse as Yuan demands to install the cousin of the King in the Crown Prince of Goryeo with ascribing it to no son the King has. The King refuses it resolutely, so the high-ranking officials of Goryeo, who are in submission to Yuan, are discontented with the king. One day, the King gives Hong Lim a covert yet unobjectionable order to sleep with the Queen instead of himself to protect the independence of Goryeo from the Yuan by making a son, the successor to Goryeo throne.(hancinema).

4. Chunhyang (2000)
Story is sang like pansori song. Very strange and unique technique. The story sometimes  goes to modern times, and we see students talking about the national legend of faithful Chunhyang, then again it skips back to the love story.
Synopsis: Based on the Pansori folk song of the same title, Chunhyang tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers who consummate their love after overcoming various obstacles. Mongryong, the son of a nobleman, falls in love with a beautiful maiden on a swing. He learns that she is Chunhyang, the daughter of a retired kisaeng ( geisha) named Wolmae, but he pursues her despite her lower social status.Mongryong succeeds in winning the heart of Chunhyang and Wolmae and pledges Chunhyang as his life-long companion. Unfortunately Mongryong is forced to leave the side of his beloved when his father is summoned by the king's court. Sadly he leaves for the city with the promise to return as a court official. One day a new governor, BYUN Hakdo arrives in Namwon, the hometown of Chunhyang. Notorious for his insatiable desire for women, he orders Chunhyang to serve him after hearing of her beauty. When she refuses, BYUN tortures Chunhyang and throws her in jail. Meanwhile Mongryong passes the state exam with the highest distinction, whereby the king makes him his personal emissary, a post which grants him the authority to punish corrupt officials. Disguised as a vagrant and accompanied by his envoy, Mongryong heads toward Namwon with a vengeance... (hancinema)

5. The King and The Clown (2005)
I was shocked in the end. And another movie labelled as GTM.
Lee Jun Ki showed how it looks like to look like an androgynous being. But it's not what this movie is about.
Synopsis: The two performers are arrested and accused of treason, a crime that carries the death penalty. The clowns then make a deal with the King - if they can make him laugh with their play-acting, he will spare them. They are successful, and become the official entertainers of the royal court. Things become more complicated, however, as the king shows increasing affection towards one of the clowns and they realize that their lives may have begun down an irreversible path. A thrilling drama exploring secret desire in the top echelons of power, King And The Clown is a taboo-breaking cinematic treat that tackles subject matter rarely seen in Korean Cinema. (yesasia)

6. Untold Scandal
Chosun's most infamous Casanova, irresistible temptress and virtuous widow entangled in provocative and dangerous liaisons
The end of the Chosun dynasty-a period when rigid Confucianism clashed with encroaching new beliefs.
Lady Cho is a brilliant woman who mastered the classics on her own, and she resents the limited life she must lead as a woman. A devoted wife on the surface, she secretly entertains herself with sexual conquests.
On the other hand, her younger cousin Jo-won is accomplished both as a scholar and in martial arts, but rejects a high government post as if he disdains the hierarchical and patriarchal conventions of the time. He indulges in the pleasures of the flesh with as many women as he can seduce. Lady Cho was his first love, and they become co-conspirators in a high-stakes game of love and intrigue while hiding their true feelings for each other.
One day, Lady Cho asks Jo-won to deflower the innocent young Soh-ok, who is to become her husband's concubine, but his attentions are elsewhere: Lady Sook. Graceful and aloof, Lady Sook lives according to her convictions as a Catholic. Jo-won becomes obsessed with seducing her, a woman who has remained chaste for nine years since her husband's death. However, it proves to be more difficult than he expected when Chosun's greatest playboy sets out to conquer the most virtuous woman in the land...  

7. Modern Boy (2008)
Not that much of a period movie, but I found this entertaining, cynical, and satyrical.
LEE Hae-myung is proud to be the most modern boy in Seoul, living in the 1930’s at the height of its early development. With his Japanese friend Shinsuke, he enjoys the high life, seducing modern girls in dance halls and cafes. One day, in a basement dance hall, he discovers CHO Nan-shil, a startlingly beautiful chanteuse who calls herself “Laura,” and is transfixed at first sight. They start to go out together. However, Nan-shil takes Hae-myung’s assets and disappears without a trace, while he believes that she also falls in love with him. Hae-myung’s unstoppable love and dreams for Nan-shil can be ultimately attained. (hancinema)

8. Shadows in the Palace (2007)
Although it may seems slow and without much action, the movie portrays women in the society, where women have no rights. Especially those who serve at the court.
 A maid-in-waiting hangs herself within the realms of the palace. But while performing an autopsy, palace medic Chunryung suspects murder and starts to investigate the case. With a sense of justice and full of wit, Chunryung bravely unmasks the deceptions, but soon confronts the veiled past, kept hidden by those that had far more power than she had expected.(hancinema)

9. Hwang Jin Yi (2007)
I think the drama was slightly better, but what the hell!
Synopsis: A story of HWANG Jin Yi, the most renowned courtesan of the Chosun Dynasty, and her love affair with a male servant named Nom-yi. (hancinema)
Strong point? Ryu Seung Ryong. Niice^^

10. Musa (2001)
The scenery is beautiful, the story is interesting. The characters are despicable. I really hated each of them.
"The Warrior" is a period epic set in the 14th-century China.
The film's plot is based on real history: shortly after the Ming Dynasty seized power in China, a Ming envoy to Korea was murdered souring the relationship between the two countries. In an effort to mend ties, Korea sent numerous envoys to China. "The Warrior" is the story of a group of envoys sent to China and one of the group members' love story with a Ming princess in the wilderness.