2021BIFF Review: ‘Unframed,’ ‘Vanishing,’ ‘Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon,’ ‘What She Likes…’ and ‘IN THE WAKE’

2021 biff movie review
2021 biff movie review
Credit: ZAPZEE

The 26th Busan International Film Festival is coming to an end. Unlike last year, which was scaled down due to the pandemic, this year’s Busan International Film Festival welcomed movie fans by showing all 223 films from 70 countries around the world.

Following the OTT blockbuster series in the on-screen section, here are the reviews for three ambitious projects led by Korean actors and two intriguing new Japanese films.



Lee Je Hoon movie
Credit: WATCHA

This time, Park Jung Min, Choi Hee Seo, Lee Je Hoon, and Son Seok Gu greeted the audience as the film directors at the Busan International Film Festival. Unframed is a short film project written and directed by four actors, submitted under the Korean Cinema Today – Panorama category. The film starts with Park Jung Min’s movie named Vote for ‘I don’t know’ that illustrates a class president election process at an elementary school. The movie follows the classic pattern of a hip gangster movie and reveals the bitter reality dominated by the logic of power. Choi Hee Seo’s Bandi depicts a wonderful afternoon of a single mother and daughter and tells a simple yet beautiful story filled with warm affection towards life and people. Lee Je Hoon’s Blue Happiness illuminates the materialism and ruthlessness of present society that values money over dreams by depicting a gloomy day of a young job seeker who is addicted to trading stocks. Son Seok Gu’s RERUN is the wittiest of the four films. The episode that follows a struggling actor and his aunt, who misses her dead daughter, on their way to attend a wedding is filled with colorful lives, humor, and thoughtful consolation. (Editor Hong Hyun Jung)



Yoo Yeon Seok movie
Credit: BIFF

This film was one of the most-anticipated of the year due to its star-studded cast, Olga Kurylenko and Yoo Yeon Seok. Based on the original novel The Killing Room by Peter May, the film adaptation follows a French forensic scientist who travels to Korea for a convention and takes sever in an investigation at the request of a Korean police detective. However, this results in the invention of an organ trafficking union. The cast and synopsis are interesting, but perhaps expectations have run too high. The movie’s overall quality fell short of expectations and of the “world premiere” title. The suspense in the scene where they chase down the union was too low and brief, and the romance between the two main leads was somewhat random. Above all, even though it was set in Korea, we’ve got the impression that it lacks understanding of the country and is struggling to find its national identity. (Editor Hong Hyun Jung)


Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon
Credit: BIFF

Just like what Jeon Jong Seo said, this movie is an American indie film filled with hipster music and ideas. It tells a story of a young girl escaping from an asylum with a special power to control others. She enters back into the chaotic reality around her, making unexpected allies along the way. In a way, the film entirely relies on Jeon Jong Seo and her acting. Her role in the movie gives reminiscent of Young Sook in The Call, where she showed diverse personas ranging from an unleashed-beast-like individual to an innocent child who knows nothing about the world. With such versatility, she leads us on Mona Lisa Lee’s bumpy journey. The story of Mona gradually building friendships with Fuzz, Bonnie, and Charlie adds to the fun of the movie. Also, it is interesting to see new aspects of familiar actors such as Craig Robinson from Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Ed Skrein from Deadpool. (Editor Kim Won Hee)


What She Likes…

movie What She Likes...
Credit: MediaCastle

What She Likes … �is the most impressive film I’ve seen at the Busan International Film Festival this year. It is a romance between a gay man named Jun and a woman, Sae, who loves to read boys love novels. Just by looking at its pretty poster, hot actors and the tingly title, it is easy to get this movie mistaken for an ordinary high teen romance movie. However, the film throws serious questions about being gay through the story of Sae and Jun and portrays the love and friendship that transcends gender, leaving a long-lasting impression. Also, personally, I felt lucky to have come across this film because I discovered a talented actress named Anna YAMADA by watching this film. Perhaps I might end up checking out her previous works soon. (Editor Yang Young Jun)



Credit: BIFF

How far can the government go to protect people from a national disaster? Inspired by Shichiri Nakayama’s novel, IN THE WAKE is set nine years after the Great East Japan Earthquake and deals with gruesome murders where victims are tied up and left to starve. Famous Japanese actor Takeru Satoh plays the murder suspect and Hiroshi Abe plays a detective who tracks the case and builds up the tension. However, the movie does not focus on finding the true culprit. IN THE WAKE raises serious questions about those who are neglected and forgotten by the system in the process of resolving disasters. In addition, the tragic reality reflected in the film is not limited to the Great East Japan Earthquake, but it extends to the pandemic of our present time. (Editor Hong Hyun Jung)


Translator Cho EK: I’m a big fan of Korean dramas and movies.

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