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.