In contrast to the start of the year, when a huge number of films were in production, by year's end many investors had decided to hold back on funding any new films for a while, and the mood seemed to bode ill for 2007.
The other major issue for the film industry in 2006 was the controversial reduction of Korea's Screen Quota System, which obligates theater owners to screen local films for a certain number of days per year. Filmmakers responded with lengthy public protests, but were ultimately unsuccessful in trying to get the government to revoke its decision. (Note that King and the Clown was released on December 29, so it is listed on the 2005 page) Seoul population: 10.35 million Nationwide population: 49.0 million Market share: Korean 63.8%, Imports 36.2% (nationwide) Films released: Korean 108, Imported 237 Total admissions: 153.4 million (=4 million) Number of screens: 1,880 (end of 2006) Exchange rate (2006): 970 won/US dollar Average ticket price: 6034 won (=US.22) Exports to other countries: US,514,728 (Japan: 42%) Average budget: 4.0bn won including 1.4bn p&a spend Byung-tae is a teenager attending a tough high school, where the other students make it their daily habit to beat him up.
The pacing is perfect, the images of the friends in arms racing through the city still stay with me, and there's a nice little placement of one of the symbols of capitalism that brought a bit of laughter to what is otherwise a short full of sorrow, even more sorrowful considering its partly based on a true story.
Speaking of true stories, let me jump out of the order of this omnibus and mention the last short, Kim Dong-won's documentary about Korean-Chinese immigrants, "Jongno, Winter." Immigration laws in South Korea give advantages to diasporic Koreans from North America and Europe that are not afforded those from China, Russia, or the former Soviet States (the "-Stans").
Part of this may be due to the inherent pessimism in the work, and its portrayal of a town where life is bleak and unlikely to improve.
Yet on a cinematic level too, one wishes that there were just a bit more substance to the film.
With vulnerability and steely determination reflected in his eyes, Jae Hee, best known from Kim Ki-duk's 3-Iron, is well-suited to the role of Byung-tae.Here he plays this role with a mixture of world-weary passivity and sudden, electric bursts of violence.Although lacking the depth of the other roles he has played in the past few years, Pan-su possesses an attitude that is uniquely Baek Yoon-shik.Nonetheless, people in the film industry were sounding alarm bells by the end of the year.With so many films produced, and with the budgets of many films having grown out of control, a very small number of Korean films from 2006 ended up turning a profit.Ultimately Art of Fighting is worth watching, but is unlikely to rank as one of the highlights of 2006.