Back when there were Blockbusters and Family Videos scattered around the suburbs of northeast Ohio, my family took regular trips to the video store. Each kid was allowed a movie or two, depending on the length of rental times. Somewhere near ten, I gravitated to East Asian films, especially kung-fu and wuxia movies: the crazy wire-work and the boldness of the fight scenes were must-see filmmaking for the smaller version of myself. I shared a small bedroom with my brother, and to avoid disturbing him I watched them late into the night (post-George Lopez on Nick at Nite) without the sound. At ten, I felt that I had conquered the half-inch barrier of the subtitle and had discovered a whole new type of movie that nobody else in my life knew of.
Turned out, lots of other English-speaking people love East Asian films, and my hidden treasure wasn’t so unheard of. After Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019) won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Korean film in particular has garnered more attention from regular filmgoers. In fact, Parasite earned more at the domestic box office than any other non-English language film ever before.
With the end of the year right around the corner, I wanted to make a list of the best films of 2021 commemorating my first year writing consistently as a film critic (mostly for the Boston Hassle), but, in part because of COVID, 2021 was a rough year for new releases in both quantity and quality. (November is also a bit early for end-of-the-year lists, but my assigned day for the post calvin is the twenty-fourth, and a Christmas-related post next month feels obligatory). So instead I turned to my cinephiliac roots: East Asian, and particularly Korean, cinema.
The following is a broad palette of five modern Korean films to serve as a starter pack for anyone looking to fully kick down the half-inch barrier.
Continue reading at the post calvin.