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BLACK REPUBLIC

Korea, 1990 (MIFF 1992)

Director: Park Kwang-Su

A man comes to a dying coal-mining town looking for work. He calls himself 'Kim' — Korea's most common surname. He soon finds that the town is not as placid as it seems: strained labour relations are on the verge of exploding into violence, and the local tearaway biker gets away with near-murder because he's the son of one employer still in business. 'Kim' befriends the town hooker and determines to leave with her. But thats when the police dis­cover he is actually a wanted man...

Korea's 'new cinema' movement is gather­ing strength and speed year by year, and Park Kwang-su is very much its leader. He was the first filmmaker in Seoul to make a successful transition from independent shorts to features. His debut film Chilsu and Mansu proved it was possible to tackle social and political issues without being doctrinaire or sacrificing enter­tainment value. Black Republic goes further. It mixes spikey emotional drama with acid social commentary, anchoring both in plausible adult characters and situations. It looks a bit like early Wenders and plays a bit like a modern Western, but what makes this film so com­pelling is its underlying urgency. Unlike most movies these days, this one, you feel, had to be made

. • Tony Rayns

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