Korean Movie Night New York's "Master Series: Lee Joon Ik" Celebrates a Master of Period Drama and Comedy

Featured Critic; New York City, New York
Korean Movie Night New York's "Master Series: Lee Joon Ik" Celebrates a Master of Period Drama and Comedy

A frequent guest to the New York Asian Film Festival, Korean director Lee Joon-ik is a brilliantly accomplished and remarkably versatile director, equally adept at both period and contemporary pieces. However, much of his popularity at home and his acclaim abroad derives from his historical films, such as the bawdy and irreverent The King and the Clown (2005), which is one of Korea's all-time box office hits.

Historical films are an enduring staple of Korean cinema, as well as Korean TV drama. By now, just about every period and major historical figure of Korean history has had some time in the silver screen or small screen sun. However, Lee's approach to historical drama and comedy is uniquely fresh and original. Boasting vibrant colors, excellent performances, and masterful staging, Lee brings a vibrant flair to just about everything he touches in this genre, and the parallels to contemporary Korean society are sharp and wittily observed.

Korean Cultural Center New York, which for a number of years now with "Korean Movie Night New York" has brought free screenings of current Korean releases - both blockbusters and indies - to New York audiences, has now partnered with the New York Asian Film Festival to launch their "Master Series," which focuses on the works of Korea's most notable directors.

As such, kicking it off with the historical films of Lee Joon-ik proves to be a fine place to start, giving New Yorkers a chance discover, or revisit, the rich and resonant work of a filmmaker who continues to grow and expand his considerable range with each new project. The series includes his latest, Dong-ju: The Portrait of a Poet, which just had its New York premiere at NYAFF, as well as his recent hit The Throne, which will also screen at the festival.

Lee Joon-ik will make several appearances and give extensive talks throughout the series, no doubt providing valuable insight into his fascinating process. Full details on the series are below.


Korean Cultural Center NY, a branch of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) of the Republic of Korea, is proud to announce a new film series to launch Korean Movie Night New York: Master Series – a showcase for the works of Korea’s leading filmmakers.

Co-presented with Subway Cinema, as part of the 15th New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF), the inaugural Korean Movie Night New York – Master Series will focus on director/producer Lee Joon-ik, a master of Korean historical drama. The program will consist of 6 of director Lee’s most representative films, with the screenings held June 28 - July 2 at Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th St.) and SVA Theater (333 W23rd St).

In the past two decades, he has produced, directed and appeared in over 20 films. More than any other Korean filmmaker, Lee Joon-ik has focused on telling the stories about the Korean society and its traditions though the format of historical dramas, often with razor-sharp satire and elements of black comedy, skillfully creating fictional stories around historical characters, and also reflecting on Korea’s contemporary politics.

While historical drama is one of the staples of Korean cinema, director Lee has been responsible for the genre’s now decade long resurgence with his 2005 hit King And The Clown. He has continued to make historic dramas as his preferred mode of communicating with an audience, in order to make Korean history and culture better known not only to international audiences, but also to generations of young Koreans.

Korean Movie Night New York: Master Series “Lee Joon-ik” schedule (June 28 to July 2):


Tuesday, June 28, at Walter Reade Theater

9:15pm Dong-ju: The Portrait of a Poet (2016)

Starring: Kang Ha-neul, Park Jung-min

(2016, South Korea, 113 min, DCP, in Korean with English subtitles)

It is a biographical film about Korean poet Yun Dong-ju, set during the Japanese colonial era. Written by arthouse director Shin Yeon-shick, and shot entirely in black and white, the film follows Dong-ju and his friend Mong-kyu, as they react in different ways to the harsh realities of their lives.

Thursday, June 30, 8:30pm at Walter Reade Theater

8:30pm The Throne (2015)

Starring: Song Kang-ho, Yoo Ah-in

(2015, South Korea, 125 min, DCP, n Korean with English subtitles)

“Yet the film’s compassion flows audaciously in all directions, as Lee extends a full measure of human complexity to every figure in the tragedy, all of them trapped in one way or another by a rigid social order that regularly turned family members into enemies” – Justine Chang, Variety

A tragic tale of 27-year-old Crown Prince Sado, who was ordered by his father, King Yeongjo, to be locked inside a wooden rice chest in 1762. It was South Korea’s entry for Academy Awards foreign-language category.

Friday, July 1 at SVA Theatre - Historical Drama Day

6:00pm King And The Clown

Starring: Karm Woo-sung, Lee Joon-gi, Yoo Hae-jin, Jung Jin-young

(2005, South Korea, 119 min, 35mm, in Korean with English subtitles)

A critical and commercial hit that became the highest grossing Korean film at that time, King and The Clown follows the intricate web of attractions and jealousies between Joseon Dynasty king Yonsan, his consort, and two male traveling performers. The film kick-started resurgence of Korean historical dramas on the big screen, which has traditionally been one of the most popular genres in Korean cinema.

8:10pm Talk with director Lee Joon-ik followed by Blades of Blood screening

The talk will focus on why director Lee has a preference for historical drama format.

Blades of Blood

Starring: Hwang Jung-min, Cha Seung-won, Baek Sung-hyun

(2010, South Korea, 111min, 35mm, in Korean with English subtitles)

Closing film of NYAFF 2010, and adapted from a popular manhwa, Blades of Blood is a sweeping 16th century epic of political intrigue and revenge, with the legendary blind swordsman (portrayed by Hwang Jung-min) at the center of the action.


Saturday, July 2 at SVA Theatre

4:30pm Once Upon a Time in a Battlefield

Starring: Park Joong-hoon, Jung Jin-young

(2003, South Korea, 104min, Digi-Beta, in Korean with English subtitles)

Lee Joon-ik’s very first foray into period comedy is a refreshingly post-modern twist on Korea’s ancient history, specifically focusing on the 7th century conflict between Korean kingdoms of Baekje, Silla, and Goguryeo, effectively (and hilariously) serving as a metaphor for political regionalism of contemporary Korea.

6:30pm Battlefield Heroes

Starring: Jung Jin-young, Lee Mun-sik, Ryu Seung-ryong, Kang Ha-neul

(2011, South Korea, 118min, DCP, in Korean with English subtitles)

The sequel to Once Upon A Time in a Battlefield, and the official selection of NYAFF 2011, focuses on the war between the southern Korean state of Silla and the lager northern Korean state of Goguryeo, set in 668.

8:35 pm Talk with director Lee Joon-ik and writer/producer Cho Cheol-Hyun (The Throne, Battlefield Heroes, Blades of Blood, Once Upon a Time in a Battlefield). They have been working together since Lee Joon-ik’s earlier film career in late 90’s. Talk will focus on the story development process.

Note: Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet and The Throne will screen as part of the 15th New York Asian Film Festival (June 22 – July 9 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and SVA Theatre, www.subwaycinema.com). Director Lee Joon-ik, writer/producer Cho Cheol-hyun (The Throne, Battlefield Heroes, Blades of Blood) and director Shin Yeon-shick (producer/writer of Dongju) will be in attendance.

Screen Anarchy logo
Do you feel this content is inappropriate or infringes upon your rights? Click here to report it, or see our DMCA policy.
KoreaKorean Movie Night New YorkLee Joon-ikNYAFF 2016

More about King And The Clown

Around the Internet