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