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Quaranstream: Five Fantastically Infectious Korean Films

05/08/2020

Quaranstream: Five Fantastically Infectious Korean Films

 

As you’re probably already aware, we offer the streaming services Hoopla and Kanopy for movies, TV shows, documentaries, etc. During these times, we thought it might be a good idea to offer lists of films available through streaming on/from a variety of topics, themes, regions, directors etc. In the first installment, we will be selecting five Korean films that are available for streaming as of this writing (please note that most of these films contain mature subject matter and are intended for a mature audience only):

Burning is a 2018 psychological thriller film with a wonderfully ambiguous narrative. Aspiring author Jong-su runs into one of his childhood friends, Hae-mi. A relationship forms between them as they begin spending more time together. Early on in the relationship, Hae-mi announces that she is travelling to Africa for two months and asks that Jong-su take care of her cat while she’s away. Jong-su meets her at the airport upon her return where she introduces him to Ben, a travel colleague she met while at the airport in Nairobi. The three of them start spending time together in various configurations and scenarios. However, during this time, suspicions, tensions and emotions rise, which culminates with Hae-Mi’s mysterious disappearance.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is the first in Park Chan-Wook’s famous Vengeance Trilogy, which also includes Old Boy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance follows Ryu, a deaf-mute who recently lost his job, as he struggles to find ways to make money for his sick sister who needs a kidney transplant. Ryu and his girlfriend come up with what they think is an elaborate kidnapping scheme but it ends up going in directions no one could have predicted. The series of events that unfold show why the Vengeance Trilogy rightfully earns its name.

The Wailing is a brooding horror set around the village of Gokseong. A series of mysterious murders are happening around the village and the villagers’ suspicions start to point to the recently arrived Japanese foreigner. Jong-goo, a police man investigating the murders, starts to get more directly involved once matters become personal and family-related. While a bit prolonged in length at 156 minutes, you never get bored as the film is gripping throughout and full of atmosphere.

Treeless Mountain is a touching coming-of-age story. Six-year old Jin and her three-year old sister Bin are put in the care of their often-drinking aunt when their mother sets off to find her estranged husband. Jin finds herself having to take on many responsibilities while she observes the world of adults through the eyes of a child. Both sisters depend on each other waiting for their mother’s return. The two young leads offer very convincing and natural performances.

The Handmaiden adapts The Fingersmith by Sarah Waters and is Park Chan-wook’s most recent film. This meticulously crafted film is beautifully shot. A conman calling himself Count Fujiwara and a pickpocket named Sok-hee devise a plot to bilk a Japanese woman out of her inheritance. Sok-hee is tasked with being the woman’s handmaiden but affairs quickly become more complicated as the plan sheds many of its intricate layers. Dealing with themes of femininity, lesbian romance, independence, freedom and power, The Handmaiden is a piercing erotic thriller.

If you're looking for Korean films on DVD, be sure to also check out the Oscar winning Parasite and definitely Bong Joon-ho’s excellent Mother. Also check out the list below for 10 streaming Korean films, 5 of which are on this list and 5 additional titles.

If you’re interested in more Korean films, the National Korean Film Archive offers 110 Korean films on its Youtube channel.

Streamable Korean Films at OPLby OPL_Film

A selection of Korean films available through our online resources Kanopy and Hoopla. Note that many of these films contain mature subject matter.

  • Image: Sympathy for mr. vengeance
    This very stylish thriller is the first entry in the Vengeance Trilogy. Ryu is a deaf-mute man who recently lost his job and is scrambling to find money in order to pay for his sick sister's kidney transplant. His plan unfolds in a unexpected and violent way once things go awry. Directed by Park Chan-Wook. Intended for mature audiences.
  • Burning

    Aspiring author Jong-su reunites and starts a relationship with childhood friend, Hae-mi. He watches over her cat while she travels to Africa for two months. Upon her return, she introduces Jong-su to Ben, a travel colleague she met while in Africa. Things take ambiguous turns once they all start getting to know each other and eventually Hae-mi mysteriously disappears. This beautifully shot psychological thriller is well worth a watch.
  • Image: The wailing
    A dark and disturbing horror film about a small Korean village's response to recent, mysterious murders, which may or may not have something to do with the arrival of a foreigner.
  • Image: JSA

    JSA

    Joint Security Area
    Based on the novel DMZ by Park Sang-yeon, this mystery thriller revolves around a murder happening at DMZ between North and South Korea. Directed by Park Chan-Wook.
  • Image: Treeless mountain
    Jin is tasked with taking care of her younger sister Bin after they are sent to live with their aunt by their mother, who has gone off to rekindle a relationship with her estranged husband. This is a touching coming-of-age story with brilliant performances from the two young leads.
  • Image: Daytime drinking
    A comedy about a broken-hearted man who decides to join his friends who invite him to a getaway. Upon arriving at the destination, he find that none of his friends have showed up and the place is almost abandoned. He decides to socialize with the locals.
  • Image: A taxi driver
    Based on real life events, a Seoul taxi driver gets involved with a German reporter who has come to South Korea to cover the growing tensions within the country that led to the Gwangju Uprising of 1980. Their trip to and time in Gwangju creates a bond between them in this historical drama, that for some reason also includes an Indian Jones-esque chase sequence near the end.
  • Image: The villainess
    A kinetic action film about Sook-hee, an assassin trained from childhood who seeks revenge in order to escape and free herself from her past.
  • Image: The attorney
    A tax attorney becomes the defense lawyer for a group of men in their case against the government. He is convinced to do so after an old friend's son is abducted and tortured.
  • The Handmaiden | Kanopy

    Park Chan-wook's meticulously crafted erotic thriller shows a conman and a pickpocket as they devise a plot to scam a woman out of her inheritance. The pickpocket plays herself off as a handmaiden for the woman which eventually entails a series of revelations and twists in this exploration of individuality, femininity and power.