Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Korea Best

The 55th BFI London Film Festival is in full flow and, judging by the vigorous churn of my Twitter stream, it’s getting full and thorough coverage. Go and stick the #LFF hashtag into Twitter Search and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve got no interest in adding to the LFF noise. I’m more excited at the prospect of the forthcoming 6th Annual London Korean Film Festival which arrives on the 3rd November and continues until the 24th. Plenty of other people want to talk about Kevin, I’d rather nock something else against my bow string - the festival’s opening night film Arrow, the Ultimate Weapon (or, as it seems to be increasingly known, War of the Arrows).

Director Han-min Kim’s third feature hits the ground running. Literally. The first images you see are pounding feet. The first sound you hear is laboured breathing. And that swiftly sets you up for the subsequent 122 minutes - a breathless, exhilarating, thoroughly enjoyable historical action movie. I found myself comparing it favourably to Apocalypto a couple of times.

The year is 1636, during the Second Manchu invasion of Korea. Chung soldiers (led by dour professional Seung-yong Ryoo, delivering the film’s standout performance) invade a village and kidnap Ja-In (Moon Chae-Won) on her wedding day. Her brother, the aimless and bitter Nam-Yi (Hae-il Park), is determined to rescue her, armed with nothing but his trusty bow and a quiver of arrows with distinctive red fletchings. The chase is on.

Han-min Kim’s sound design is glorious: lots of creaking bows, whining bow strings pulled taut and whooshing air as the arrows fly. The beautifully choreographed action sequences are leavened with well-judged moments of occasional slapstick humour, and everything builds inexorably towards a final reckoning.

The Opening Night Gala and European Premiere of Arrow, the Ultimate Weapon takes place on 3rd November at the Odeon West End in Leicester Square, followed by a Q&A with the soft-spoken and personable Han-min Kim and wrapping up with a K-Pop performance.

As usual, the festival programme is broad, varied and definitely worth exploring. I’m not going to copy-and-paste the contents of a press release here, so click here to head over to the festival website for further information.

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