Comparable to Thanksgiving in the US, South Korea’s Chuseok holiday used to be a reliable money-making long weekend for cinemas, with millions of South Koreans filling up theatre seats for some of the industry’s largest productions. But as they headed back to work on Wednesday, it became apparent that they had given the cold shoulder to ambitious productions such as Road to Boston, a historical drama about a marathon runner, and Cobweb, a black comedy about the film industry, starring Cannes-regular Song Kang-ho.
Though the world still remembers the historical Oscar wins by Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite during the pandemic, the country’s film industry has been in crisis mode ever since. Even after pandemic-era restrictions were lifted, South Korean audiences dealt a string of box-office bombs to studios and investors. While straight-to-streaming films, TV series and ticket-price inflation appear to have had a significant impact on viewing habits, well-made foreign films still have mass-market appeal, showing that people still value the big-screen experience: Japanese animated features The First Slam Dunk and Suzume both pulled in about 5 million South Koreans, while another 7 million flocked to see the latest Pixar film Elemental.
This crunch presents an opportunity for reform. Give a more diverse group of film-makers a chance and invest in daring new projects, even on a smaller budget. Insiders say that the industry has relied on a single formula for too long – star-studded dramas with budgets of about KRW10bn (€7.02m). Meanwhile, below that threshold, many film-makers, especially those veering away from mainstream formulae, are unable to find funding.
South Korean film-makers have proved to be among the world’s most creative and they have produced some highly memorable moments in recent years. It’s time to cast a wider net for talent.
Jeyup S Kwaak is Monocle’s Seoul correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.
The French are known to prioritise work-life balance, from the length of their summer holidays to their age of retirement. But a recent study found that they’re also champions of in-office culture. The report by real-estate consulting firm JLL revealed France to be the country with the highest weekly average of time spent in the office at 3.5 days. In comparison, UK employees spend an average of 2.6 days at work every week. According to JLL research director Flore Pradère, the results reflect the way that the French value their workplace community. Being able to communicate and exchange ideas with colleagues in person is important, whether through a quick chat or lengthy discussions. While other countries seem to be struggling to get people back in the office, it will take more for French workers to be seduced by the appeal of télétravail.
Duty Free Shopping Group (DFS), the travel-retail arm of French conglomerate LVMH, is taking a bet on its future with its latest project: DFS Yalong Bay, a luxury shopping and entertainment complex located on China’s Hainan Island. The project, which will open by 2026, has been dubbed a “seven-star experience”, bringing together more than 1,000 labels across fashion, beauty, watches, jewellery, wine and spirits.
“There will be many additional activities on offer too – luxury retail today is not enough,” says Benjamin Vuchot, DFS Group chairman and CEO. The project highlights that Hainan is well on its way to becoming one of the world’s leading luxury-retail markets. With plans to achieve independent customs operations by 2025 and become a free-trade port, as well as the current offer of visa-free entry to visitors from 59 countries, its appeal is bound to keep growing with both domestic and international shoppers.
The US House of Representatives sits empty today after eight Republican lawmakers joined opposition Democrats in agreeing on a motion to oust Kevin McCarthy as its speaker. In Europe, such votes of no confidence are common but the US finds itself in uncharted territory. President Joe Biden might yet regret the decision not to help him.
The US government is only funded until 17 November and the Republicans will be in no mood to compromise on a long-term budget. The US political system is one that allows rule by divided government: the Republicans currently control the House, while the Democrats control the Senate and White House. Unless these two parties can find a way to work together for the good of the country, another damaging government shutdown looms large.
The 67th BFI London Film Festival kicked off this Wednesday and runs until 15 October. The festival is an international affair and, with more than 250 films from 92 countries on the programme, cinephiles have the opportunity to scope out some of the biggest releases that are likely to dominate the awards season next year. Monocle sat down with the new BFI festivals director, Kristy Matheson, to learn more.
Many films are showing this year, including smaller productions that are often missed. Does this represent an opportunity to discover new talent?
Everyone who works at the festival has their own tastes, which allow us to present a large range of films. If audiences feel like going to the cinema for a laugh, for example, we have films to point to. We try to divide the programme up so that people can think about the mood that they’re in or who they might be going with. Then, they can choose something that aligns with them.
One change we noticed at this year’s festival is that the catalogue is smaller. Why did you do this?
It’s so much easier to pop in your pocket or your bag to carry around. Hopefully, people will read it as they move around the city. But we also thought about how we were writing about the films. We tried to condense their notes to make them more approachable to people who don’t always go to festivals.
The festival opened with Emerald Fennell’s new film, ‘Saltburn’. Tell us more about it.
It’s a fizzy thrill ride with great production values and an incredible cast but it’s also underpinned by laser-sharp writing. The characters are skilfully drawn and you witness performers who clearly had an exceptionally fun time making it. In her last film, we saw the world through the eyes of a woman. Now, she has turned her gaze on two young men and it’s equally thrilling.
For our full interview with Kristy Matheson, tune in to ‘The Monocle Weekly’ on Monocle Radio.
We head to the Austrian capital for its design week and review the recent run of fashion weeks in London, Milan and Paris. Plus: a visit to Stoke-on-Trent for the British Ceramics Biennial.