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Chuseok comedies and other film fare

Sept 27,2006

A scene from ‘Marrying the Mafia 2.”

Theaters are being filled with an abundance of new movies a week before the Chuseok harvest holiday.
“Our Happy Time,” starring Kang Dong-won and Lee Na-young, premiered two weeks ago and brought in about 1.2 million viewers during its first week of release.
Last week, six films in all, including two comedies (“Marrying the Mafia 2” and “Mudori”), were released. The film industry follows a rule of thumb that comedies are the most successful type of film at the box office in holiday seasons; many are wondering if this will again be true this year.
The quintessential movie that follows this rule of thumb is “Marrying the Mafia 2,” directed by Jung Young-gee, which debuted Thursday. It is the sequel to the hit of the same name released at about this time last year,
“Marrying the Mafia 2” went into production soon after its predecessor passed the 5-million viewer mark.
But looking at the quality of the sequel, it seems to be a repetition of the comedic moments of the original more than anything else. The movie centers on an evil lawyer (played by Gonh Hyun-jin) from the first movie. He is released from prison and begins to threaten the Lee family of gangsters, with results predictable but perhaps still amusing to viewers of the first movie.
This practice of matching comedies to holidays is also apparent in the recent release of movies “Mission Sex Control,” directed by Ahn Jin-woo, and “Mudori,” directed by Lee Hyung-son.
“Mudori” is a black comedy rather than a slapstick one, with a plot framed by the small mountain village of Mudori, which an Internet suicide group proclaims as the best place to kill oneself.
The movie plays out almost like a “grandpa” version of “Mapado,” with an overlap of comedy and tragedy. This low-budget film showcases a combination of the approachable acting style of a trio of old men ― Park In-hwan, Choi Ju-bong and Suh Hee-seung ― with a unique and rather macabre plot.
There are other films showing during this holiday, however, that cannot be grouped with the movies described above.
In fact, compared to only three films released before the Chuseok holidays last year (“Marrying the Mafia,” “April Snow” and “Duelist”), this year’s offerings have a much wider variety of themes on display.
“Tazza,” to be released on Thursday, deals with the underground world of professional Korean card players, with appearances by Choi Seung-wo and Kim Hae-woo.
“Radio Star” mixes comedy and drama, featuring Park Jung-hoon as a burnt-out manager who was once a star of the broadcasting world in the days of yore.
“The Fox Family” is a fresh attempt at a musical by the director Lee Hyeung-gon.
Foreign blockbusters to be shown include “The Night Banquet” and “BB Project,” both produced in China.
Shim Hee-jang, a production director at City Theater, observed, “It would be very difficult for one film to be ‘the’ hit during this holiday season. The competition, even among only domestic films, is very tough. Most likely, two or three films will be on top.”
It seems as though the competition will start with a race to grab the largest number of screens, an obvious strategy and one that is even more obvious when eyeballs rather than box office revenue is the measure of a film’s success.
“Our Happy Time,” released two weeks ago, was being shown on 520 screens in Korea as of last week.
“Even actors and actresses stress the importance of getting a presence on the most number of screens, because this has a major effect on the outcome of the early success of a film,” said Cho Jang-rae, a manager at CJ Entertainment.
As of last week, “Our Happy Time” was emblazoned on 470 screens, and “Marrying the Mafia 2” was showing on 500.
Industry watchers say that the competitive situation will become much clearer after seeing whether these two films have the “legs” to turn them into blockbusters or begin to fizzle soon.


by Lee Hoo-nam


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