Genre-subverting horror flick hits a nerve in Korea
Busan festival co-founder Kim Ji-seok dies of heart attack in Cannes while Bong Joon-ho’s Netflix release wins over critics in the south of France
The marquee read “Get Out,” and over a slow weekend, just over a million South Koreans did just that, propelling the American absurdist horror thriller to the top of the Korean charts with a tally of US$8.1 million. Part of the Korean box office’s current sluggishness can be attributed to cineastes’ eyes being distracted by the Cannes Film Festival where Korean celebration and tragedy have unfolded.
The celebration came with the premiere of Bong Joon-ho’s Netflix film Okja, which received near universal acclaim from the automatic thumbs-up crowd and genuine critics alike. Depicting the plight of a girl who takes on a multinational corporation plotting to kidnap her gargantuan “super pig” pet, Okja, will soon be available for those impetuous viewers in 190 countries who will accept small screens over the cinema experience. And while Bong’s film will also earn a cinematic release in Korea in June, the question is: will the online release make that form of distribution superfluous?
Korean tragedy came at Cannes with the sudden death by heart attack of the Busan International Film Festival’s competition programmer, Kim Ji-soek. One of the founding members of the festival committee that helped make Asia a focus for film festivals worldwide, Kim survived the external and internal political turmoil that rocked Busan over the past couple of years and will be remembered for his gentle demeanor.
Meanwhile, back at the Korean box office, local movie buffs had the jump on Cannes when it came to crime caper The Merciless. The third film by writer-director Byun Sung-hyun (Whatcha Wearin?), is not due to have its Cannes screening until midnight of May 24. Premiering last week in Korea, the story of a second banana gangster (Sol Kyung-gu) who thinks he’s ready for the top job entered the charts at the number two spot and has so far reaped US$4.6 million in receipts.
In Japan, Beauty and the Beast picked up US$3.9 million last weekend to secure first place for the fifth straight week. Reaching a cumulative total of US$80 million, the Disney film is showing no signs of relinquishing its commanding grip on the Japanese box office. With equal tenacity Detective Conan: Crimson Love Letter holds on to second place for the fifth week in a row, picking up US$1.4 million this past weekend to reach a total of US$54.7 million and rapidly gaining on the 2016 entry in the anime series, Detective Conan: The Darkest Nightmare, which holds the series record with a total of US$56.8 million.
India continues to conquer China with wrestling movie, Dangal. The Aamir Khan vehicle (with hefty roles for Sanya Malhotra and Fatima Sana Shaikh) goes from strength to strength and has now reached a cumulative figure of US$115.7 million. The Hindi champion outpaced Life, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, which reached second place with US$14.5 million takings. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 dropped two rungs to third for a total of US$95.8 million.
Russia’s answer to Marvel franchise, the unimaginatively named Guardians, premiered at number four on the Chinese chart. Directed by Armenian-born, Moscow and Hollywood traversing, Sarik Andreasyan, the film’s cold war mindset was locally derided as an overly nostalgic throwback. The US$2.6 million Guardians has made in China so far, is almost half what the Russian superhero film made on its local release.
And while Guardians is unlikely to make in-roads elsewhere in Asia, Chinese viewers will have to prepare themselves for a sequel. Mainland distributor Turbo is funding a co-production that will feature Chinese locations and characters. Here’s hoping they improve on Marvel’s Sino add-ons of Fan Bingbing and product placement in Iron Man 3.