See Korean Film #1: Christmas in August (THE EAST Campaign in Association with & Korean Cultural Centre UK)

Date: 11th December, 7pm
Venue: Korean Cultural Centre UK, Ground Floor, 1 Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5EJ
Fee: Free (Booking is Necessary for your free ticket)
Tel: +44 (0)20 7004 2600
Web site:

Review by Darcy Paquet (
This is a debut feature by director Hur Jin-ho and stars two of the most popular actors in Korea today, Han Suk-kyu (The Contact, No. 3, Green Fish, The Ginkgo Bed) and Shim Eun-ha (Art Museum by the Zoo). It was released in January and then screened in the International Critics Week section at the Cannes Film Festival in May. From what I hear the screenings generated a fair amount of interest.

The film was shot in a regional city called Gunsan and centers on a small photography shop owned by the main character (Han Suk-kyu). We learn soon into the film that he has a disease which leaves him only a short time to live. Nonetheless, the director chooses to focus on the more common details of his life: portrait-taking, drinking with friends, and spending time with his father and sister. At this time he meets Darim (Shim Eun-ha), a meter reader who drops by his studio to develop pictures of parking violators. As she becomes a part of his daily routine he finds himself becoming more and more attached to her.

I own a copy of this film, and I’ve watched it I don’t know how many times. Apart from the acting I love the film’s subtlety. Many scenes hinge on the most delicate changes in facial expression, and yet the film as a whole creates a powerful impression. The director has stated that he wanted to present an image of death in ‘warm tones,’ and I think he succeeds beautifully. The director, Hur Jin-ho, studied at the Korean film academy and worked as an assistant director on two films by noted director Park Kwang-soo, To the Starry Island and A Single Spark. He also co-wrote the screenplay for A Single Spark.

This film is notable for being the final, posthumous work of cinematographer Yoo Young-kil. The 1998 Pusan Film Festival screened a special retrospective on Yoo, whose remarkable career spanned several decades and included some of Korea’s most original and respected films. This is hardly the first film to choose death as its theme, but I believe it to be somewhat unique in its measured, intimate approach. It is well worth seeing.


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