TKFF – Mother Review (Kirk Haviland)

Toronto Korean Film Festival 2012

Mother

Starring – Kim Hae-ja, Won Bin, Jin Goo and Yoon Je-moon

Written by Park Eun-kyo and Bong Joon-ho

Directed by Bong Joon-ho

One of Korea’s new masters of cinema is the incomparable Bong Joon-ho. Starting with his breakthrough in 2003 Memories of Murder, a film I have yet to see but many consider to still be his best, then the international smash The Host in 2006, Joon-ho has shown range and courage as a filmmaker who is clearly not shy of breaking new ground with each film. 2009’s Cannes and TIFF critical smash hit Mother is no different, and the TKFF offers a unique chance to see Mother back on the big screen as part of its inaugural lineup.

Mother begins with a frazzled woman, the mother of the title (Hae-ja), as she walks towards the camera across a wheat field. Upon arriving at the camera she breaks into dance as the music fades into the scene and she tries to hold back tears, how she got there we have no idea, and the title card emerges. We flash back to her working cutting flowers as her grown up yet child-like mentally challenged son Do-Joon (Bin) is playing with a dog and is promptly hit by a passing car. As Mother frantically streaks across the street to attend to the uninjured Do-joon it’s instantly obvious that Mother constantly oversees her son’s actions to the point of overbearing based on his reaction. Do-joon and his friend Jin-tae (Goo), a lowlife in his mother’s eyes, track the car to a golf course where they confront the driver and his friends and they promptly get thrown in jail. Apparently this is a normal occurrence as Do-joon’s mother has a full routine worked out with the police upon arrival. After his release Do-joon waits in a bar for Jin-tae’s arrival which never comes. Stumbling drunk home with the golf balls he picked up on the golf course earlier, Do-joon comes across Moon Ah-jung, a local school girl walking home, and after attempting to proposition her leaves for home alone. But the following morning the schoolgirl ends up dead and with the golf balls sprayed all over the place there is only one suspect, Do-joon. Mother then desperately pulls out all the stops to prove that her son was framed as she must unravel the mystery and stop at nothing to set her son free.

Mother is a terrifically satisfying murder mystery with standout performances from its two leads. Kim Hae-ja is brilliant as the mother. Her angst, grief and determination are breathtaking. Her performance is the stuff that goes into legend, with film historians bound to be bringing it up for decades to come. With this to contend with, and playing a mentally challenged son that could easily devolve into camp and ridicule, Won Bin manages to embody Do-joon with enough likeability to make the character someone you want to stick with, even if he was the one who perpetrated this heinous crime. The rest of the cast are solid and Joon-ho’s direction is brilliant, keeping the audience guessing all along until the final revelation and the book-ended finish.

Mother is truly one of the greatest Korean films of the last decade, it’s a strong recommend and I urge you to seek it out. It plays Friday June 29th at the Innis Town Hall on the U of T campus for its TKFF presentation.

The Toronto Korean Film Festival continues until July 1st with screenings of the aforementioned Mother, Failan and a near perfect cinematic closing night with Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and one of my favorite films of ALL-TIME in Oldboy. Check out the rest of the schedule, tickets still available.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

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Toronto Korean Film Festival Preview (Kirk Haviland)

Toronto Korean Film Festival 2012

5 Reasons you need to check out the TKFF

This month brings the launch of a new film festival for us residents of “Festival City” aka Toronto. The Toronto Korean Film Festival runs from June 22nd until July 1st over 9 days and aims to introduce those not familiar to some of the best of Korean film. For its inaugural event the staff of TKFF have decided to feature a best of Korean Cinema lineup, rather than just new undiscovered cinema, as an introduction for the non-indoctrinated and to offer a rare chance to see these films on a theater screen to those who have seen them before at home. That said, I will now tell you the 5 reasons why I will be in attendance.

5 – Korean Culture. The festival organizers are just as motivated to introduce people to Korean culture in general as they are about its cinema. For those whose knowledge of Korean culture is derived mainly from its film, like myself, this is could be an intriguing opportunity to learn more about the country that inspired these cinematic gems.

4 – Quirky Comedy. Sunday the 24th  brings us a double bill of Korean comedy with Save the Green Planet and Invasion of  Alien Bikini. Green Planet is a TIFF Midnight Madness graduate that I saw back in 2003 about a man who kidnaps someone who he is convinced is an alien and his bumbling attempts to torture him into confessing it. Bikini is a film I have yet to see, but it’s been on my radar for a while, it’s about a female alien in need of sperm. Yes quirky is the key word here folks.

3 – Korean Horror. Sat the 25th gives us an exciting double bill of Korean horror that I haven’t seen, despite the fact that I actually own one the films! Eptitaph is a film set in a Korean hospital during the 1940’s and tells three different horrifying stories of events that occur in the hallways and rooms of the institution. A Tale of Two Sisters from 2003 is from one of Korea’s greatest new directors Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil; Foul King; and The Good, The Bad and the Weird) and was his first big smash crossover international hit. The creepy story of two doomed twin sisters is considered a classic of Korean genre cinema.

2 – Bong Joon-ho’s Mother. On Friday June 29th the TKFF will screen the critical smash hit Mother from another of Korea’s burgeoning directors Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Memories of Murder). The searing brilliant lead performances from its two lead actors (Kim Hye-ja as the titular Mother, and Bin Won) are a must see. This little mystery explores the bond between a mother and her son as her 28 year old developmentally challenged son is accused of murder, a charge she will literally do anything to clear him of. A brilliant 2009 festival smash, Mother is one of the gems of this fest.

And the number 1 reason…Park Chan-wook appreciation/closing night. July 1st closes the festival with bang as we get one of my favorite films of all-time playing that night, the second entry in the famed “Vengeance” trilogy, Oldboy, and its follow up Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. Both films feature brilliant acting performances from the incomparable Choi Min-sik as Oh Dae-su in Oldboy and Mr. Beak in Lady Vengeance. Oldboy is brilliant filmmaking with an unbelievable ending that will stun and amaze. Lady Vengeance is more of a character piece with a strong lead performance from Lee Yeong-ae. This is visual proof of Park’s brilliance and absolute must see films on a theater screen. If you attend only one evening of the festival, this is it.

As I stated earlier, the festival runs from June 22nd to July 1st.  All screenings are located at the Innis Town Hall, on the U of T campus, at 2 Sussex Ave. For ticket availability and pricing please visit their website at TKFF.

I hope to see some of you readers join me in celebrating Korean film.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

Follow me on twitter @moviejunkieto

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