Watch More Than 400 Classic Korean Films Free Online Thanks to the Korean Film Archive

Even if you don't know much about Korea, or indeed about film, it's safe to say that you know at least one Korean film: Bong Joon-ho's Parasite, which has circled the world gathering acclaim and awards since its release last spring. First it won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first Korean production to do so; more recently, it made film history even more dramatically at the Academy Awards. There it won Oscars not just for Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director, but also Best Picture, becoming the first non-English-language film to do so. For many viewers, Parasite and its director seem to have come out of nowhere, but lovers of Korean cinema know full well that they come out of a rich tradition — and a robust industry.

Maybe you thrilled to Bong's suspenseful, funny, and violent tale of class warfare as much as the Academy did. Maybe you've even seen the work of Bong's contemporaries: Park Chan-wook, he of the controversial hit Oldboy; the even more transgressive Kim Ki-duk; the prolific Hong Sangsoo, with his Woody Allen-meets-Éric Rohmer sensibility.

But do you know their sonsaengnimthe generations of Korean filmmakers who went before them? Now you can, no matter where in the world you are, on the Korean Film Archive's Youtube channel. There, at no charge, you can experience decades of Korean cinema and hundreds of works of Korean cinematic art, including but not limited to those of mid-20th-century masters like Kim Ki-young, Im Kwon-taek, and my personal favorite Kim Soo-yong, director of haunting, even brazen pictures of the 1960s and 70s like Mist and Night Journey.

I actually met the then-octogenarian Kim Soo-yong a few years ago, when he called me over to his table out of curiosity about what a foreigner was doing at a screening of Mist. It happened at the Korean Film Archive's cinematheque (known as Cinematheque KOFA) here in Seoul, where I've lived for the past few years. During that time I've also been writing a Korea Blog for the Los Angeles Review of Books, which occasionally features essays on the classic Korean films made available online by the Korean Film Archive. I began the series with Night Journey, and more recently have written up pictures like the 1960s neorealist cry of agony Aimless Bullet, the 1970s college-under-dictatorship comedy The March of Fools, the 1980s Westernization comedy Chil-su and Man-su, the 1990s food-sex-horror satirical mixture 301, 302, and others.

If you need more suggestions as to where to start with the KOFA's more than 400 free films online, pay a visit to the Korean Movie Database (KMDb), where KOFA regularly post selections from their catalog. This month's picks are "spy thriller films from the 1950s to 1970s infused with the anti-communist ideology during the time." Previous months have rounded up "melodramas that are filled with women’s desire and craving for love," films about "individual or family tragedies leading to historical tragedies," and "heart-warming classical movies all the family members can enjoy together." You can watch all these films either on the KMDb (which requires free registration) or on KOFA's ever-growing Youtube channel. Either way, as we say here in Korea, 재미있게 보세요.

Related Content:

The Secret of the “Perfect Montage” at the Heart of Parasite, the Korean Film Now Sweeping World Cinema

Martin Scorsese Introduces Filmmaker Hong Sangsoo, “The Woody Allen of Korea”

The Five Best North Korean Movies: Watch Them Free Online

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch This Year’s Oscar-Winning Short The Neighbor’s Window, a Surprising Tale of Urban Voyeurism

As the last couple of generations to come of age have rediscovered, urban living has its benefits. One of those benefits is the ability to keep an eye on your neighbors — quite literally, given a situation of buildings in close proximity, sufficiently large windows, and minimal usage of drapes. Fortysomething Brooklyn couple Alli and Jacob find themselves turned into voyeurs by just such a situation in Marshall Curry's The Neighbor's Window, the Best Live Action Short Film at this year's Academy Awards. "Do they have jobs, or clothes?" asks Alli, overcome by the frustration of looking after her and Jacob's three young children. "All they do is host dance parties and sleep 'till noon and screw."

You may recognize Maria Dizzia and Greg Keller, who play Alli and Jacob, from their appearances in Noah Baumbach's While We're Young. That film, too, dealt with the envy New York Gen-Xers feel for seemingly more freewheeling New York Millennials, but The Neighbor's Window takes it in a different direction.

Curry based it on "The Living Room," an episode of the storytelling interview podcast Love and Radio in which writer and filmmaker Diana Weipert tells of all she saw when she enjoyed a similarly clear view into the life of her own younger neighbors. "Am I supposed to have maybe respected their privacy and just looked away?" Weipert asks, rhetorically. "But it's impossible because that's the way the chairs face. They face the window! I couldn't have not seen them if I wanted to."

Then again, she adds, "I guess I could've not gotten the binoculars." That irresistible detail makes it into The Neighbor's Window as a symbol of Alli and Jacob's surrender to their fascination with the couple across the street. "They're like a car crash that you can't look away from," as Alli puts it. "Okay, a beautiful, sexy, young car crash." Yet both she and her husband, like any human beings with a partial view of other human beings, can't help but compare their circumstances unfavorably with those seen from afar. Eventually, as in "The Living Room," the twentysomethings experience a reversal of fortune, changing Alli and Jacob's view of them. They also regain the view of themselves they'd lost amid all their voyeurism — enough of it to make them forget that the observers can also be observed.

The Neighbor's Window will be added to our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Wes Anderson Releases the Official Trailer for His New Film, The French Dispatch: Watch It Online

James Pogue in the Baffler recently lamented the rise of "shareable writing," manifest in a now-common breed of article both "easy for publishers to reproduce" and for readers to absorb. Shareability requires, above all, that pieces "be simple to describe and package online." This in contrast to the writing published by, say, The New Yorker in decades past. "Every time I have a reason to pull up a piece from the archives, I am shocked at how strange and outré the older pieces read — less like work from a different magazine than documents from an alien society." That alien society provides the backdrop for Wes Anderson's next feature film The French Dispatch, whose trailer has just come out.

Anyone who watches one of Anderson's films will suspect him of loving all things mid-century — that is to say, the artifacts of life as it was lived in the decades following the Second World War, especially in western Europe. This love comes through in the look and feel of even Anderson's earlier pictures, like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, whose stories ostensibly take place in contemporary America. But in recent years Anderson has gone in for increasingly intricate period pieces, setting Moonrise Kingdom in mid-1960s New England and The Grand Budapest Hotel in the years 1932, 1968, and 1985, all in the imagined European country of Zubrowka. The French Dispatch takes place in the 1960s in the very real European country of France, but a fictional town called "Ennui-sur-Blasé" that allows Anderson to conjure up a mid-20th-century France of the mind.

The mid-century objects of Anderson's love include The New Yorker, a magazine he's read and collected since his teen years. The influence of that love on The French Dispatch has not gone unnoticed at the current New YorkerA piece published there offering stills of Anderson's new film describes it as "about the doings of a fictional weekly magazine that looks an awful lot like — and was, in fact, inspired by — The New Yorker. The editor and writers of this fictional magazine, and the stories it publishes—three of which are dramatized in the film — are also loosely inspired by The New Yorker." Heading the titular dispatch is Arthur Howitzer, Jr., played (naturally) by Bill Murray and inspired by New Yorker founding editor Harold Ross. Owen Wilson's Herbsaint Sazerac is "a writer whose low-life beat mirrors Joseph Mitchell’s." Jeffrey Wright as Roebuck Wright, "a mashup of James Baldwin and A. J. Liebling, is a journalist from the American South who writes about food."

Other regular Anderson players include Adrien Brody's Julian Cadazio, an art dealer "modelled on Lord Duveen, who was the subject of a six-part New Yorker Profile by S. N. Behrman, in 1951." Consider, for a moment, that there was a time when a major magazine would publish a six-part profile of a British art dealer who had died more than a decade before — and when such a piece of writing would draw both considerable attention and acclaim. There are those who criticize as misplaced Anderson's apparent nostalgia for times, places, and cultures like the one The French Dispatch will bring to the screen this summer. But here in the 21st century, inundated as we are by what Pogue calls the "largely voiceless and precisely formulaic" writing of even respectable publications, can we begrudge the filmmaker his yearning for those bygone days? The only thing missing back then, it might seem to us fans, was Wes Anderson movies.

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Watch Wes Anderson’s Charming New Short Film, Castello Cavalcanti, Starring Jason Schwartzman

Watch the New Trailer for Wes Anderson’s Stop Motion Film, Isle of Dogs, Inspired by Akira Kurosawa

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Experimental Abstract Films of Pioneering American Animator Mary Ellen Bute (1930s-1950s)

There’s been a lot of talk about the blurring of national and linguistic boundaries at the Academy Awards this year. Have we entered a new era of moviemaking internationalism? “History, that never-failing fount of irony,” writes Anthony Lane at The New Yorker, “may be of assistance at this point.” When Louis B. Mayer first proposed the Academy in 1927 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, it was to be called the International Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “The word ‘International’ didn’t last long. It smacked of places other than America, so it had to go.”

As every student of the medium knows, however, not only have various international styles dominated film since its inception, but so too have various international cinematic languages—among them the production of abstract “visual music” films like those pioneered by German-American artist and filmmaker Oskar Fischinger, who worked on the special effects for Fritz Lang’s 1929 Woman in the Moon, created several dozen short films, and inspired Walt Disney’s Fantasia.

Fischinger’s work also inspired another, far less famous American filmmaker, Mary Ellen Bute, a Houston-born, Yale-educated animator and experimental director who “produced over a dozen short abstract animations between the 1930s to the 1950s,” notes Ubuweb, “set to classical music by the likes of Bach, Saint-Saens or Shostakovich, and filled with colorful forms, elegant design and sprightly, dance-like rhythms.” See a brief BBC introduction to Bute at the top, and several of her short films above and below.

Bute collaborated with many prominent creators, including composer Joseph Schillinger, musician and inventor Thomas Wilfred, Leon Theremin, animator and director Norman McLaren, and cinematographer Ted Nemeth, whom she married in 1940.

The films in Bute’s Seeing Sound series are “like a marriage of high modernism and Merrie Melodies”—and the shorts proved so compelling they were screened regularly at Radio City Music Hall in the 1930s.

Like Fischinger’s, her animations spoke a purely abstract language, though they sometimes gestured at story (as in "Spook Sport," further down). “We need a new kinetic, visual art form—one that unites sound, color and form,” she told the New York World-Telegram in 1936. She conceived of sounds and images as working in harmony or counterpoint, along the same mathematical principles. “I wanted to manipulate light to produce visual compositions in time continuity,” Bute wrote in 1954, “much as a musician manipulates sound to produce music.”

The language of film has narrowed considerably in the decades since Bute made her films, it seems, excluding experiments like visual music. In so doing, contemporary cinema—with its reliance on narrative plotting and dialogue as its central engines—has excluded a significant part of the human experience. In her last film, her only feature, Bute adapted passages from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, a book that turned literature into music as Bute had sought to do with film.

She opens her Finnegans Wake with title cards bearing quotations from Joyce, including a quote she also used to explain her transition from abstract, animated film to a movie with actors and sets: “One great part of every human existence is passed in a state which cannot be rendered sensible by the use of wide-awake language, cut-and-dry grammar and go-ahead plot.” Such modernist abstraction in cinema, Bute wrote, adds up to more than “novelty,” a word sometimes used to describe her work to the public. Like Joyce, her use of abstraction, she wrote, “is about the essence of our Being.”

via @reaktorplayer

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Watch “Bells of Atlantis,” an Experimental Film with Early Electronic Music Featuring Anaïs Nin (1952)

Watch the Meditative Cinepoem “H20”: A Landmark Avant-Garde Art Film from 1929

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Iconic Film from 1896 Restored with Artificial Intelligence: Watch an AI-Upscaled Version of the Lumière Brothers’ The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station

Machine learning keeps, well, learning in leaps and bounds, and at Open Culture we have watched developments with a fascinated, sometime wary eye. This latest advance checks off a lot of Open Culture boxes: traveling back in time through the power of film; homegrown ingenuity; and film history.

YouTuber Denis Shiryaev took the latest advances in AI tech and turned them onto one of the earliest works of film: The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, shot by the Lumière Brothers in 1896. There are plenty of urban legends around this 50 second short: that it was the first ever Lumière film (it wasn’t, they had a selection of previous shorts); and that audiences were terrified, thinking the train would hit them (they were amazed, no doubt, but they weren't that naive).

You might want to watch the original below before watching Shiryaev’s 4K upscaling and AI “smoothed” version to get a sense of the marvel at the top of the post.

What we are seeing is not a traditional “restoration,” however. Instead, Shiryaev is using a commercial image-editing software called Gigapixel AI. (If you have the processing power, you can try it out). The original film was not shot at 60-frames-per-second. Instead, neural networks are looking at the original frames and “filling in” the data in between, creating what you can see is a more naturalistic effect. People on and off the train move like they do in real life. It looks like it was shot yesterday.

Now, this isn’t perfect. There are a lot of artifacts, squooshy, morphing moments where the neural network can’t figure things out. But hey, this is just one guy on his computer. It’s an experiment. The computer code will get better.

The Gigapixel AI was developed by Topaz Labs originally to help photographers upscale their pics by 600 percent without losing detail. It didn’t take long to apply this to video, but be warned, it can take hours of processing power to render a couple of seconds. Still it hasn’t stopped people from experimenting, even with similar neural network programs:

Here’s a clip from Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” video upscaled to 4K with Gigapixel AI:

User AkN upscaled A-Bomb footage from the 1950s:

Some clips from Home Alone:

You get the idea. As with any technology, there are also some horrific examples out there too where it just does not work. But I have a feeling that Shiryaev’s first dive into film history is not going to his, or the internet’s, last.

Related Content:

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Pristine Footage Lets You Revisit Life in Paris in the 1890s: Watch Footage Shot by the Lumière Brothers

Immaculately Restored Film Lets You Revisit Life in New York City in 1911

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

Why Every Nominated Film Will Win the 2020 Oscar: A Pretty Much Pop Podcast Debate (ep. 30)

The 2020 Academy Awards are nearly upon us! Realistically, most of you will find this episode well after the winners have already been announced, but seriously, that should not affect your enjoyment of this discussion. Your intrepid non-film-critic Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast hosts have each been randomly assigned three of the best picture nominees to argue for either for why it should with the Oscar, or if we really don't like it, why we think it will win anyway. The assignments were as follows:

  • Mark Linsenmayer: 1917, Little Women, Joker
  • Erica Spyres: Jojo Rabbit, Parasite, Once Upon a Hollywood*
  • Brian Hirt: Ford v Ferrari,  Marriage Story, The Irishman**

*Covered in our ep. 12.
**Covered in our
ep. 29.

As we hash out the relative merits of these films, we reflect on what it is to be an Oscar-winning type-of-film as opposed to one people might actually enjoy watching, patterns of what kinds of films win in which categories, and the effect of viewing conditions, prior knowledge, and preconceptions on our enjoyment.

In preparation, we all watched all nine films and looked at some of the positive and negative reviews about them. Here are a few more articles covering the Oscars more generally that we also used to make ourselves more susceptible to OSCAR FEVER.

The particular negative 1917 review Mark talks about was by Richard Brody. Here's an article about Joaquin Phoenix improvising his stunt work as Erica mentions. Speaking of Joker, have you heard the (sub)Text podcast presentation by Mark's Partially Examined Life co-host Wes Alwan on the psychoanalytic dimensions of that film?

This episode includes bonus discussion musing about past winners and 2020 acting categories that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

What is a Blade Runner? How Ridley Scott’s Movie Has Origins in William S. Burroughs’ Novella, Blade Runner: A Movie

Why, in the course of two extraordinary films by Ridley Scott and Denis Villeneuve, do we never learn what the term Blade Runner actually means? Perhaps the mystery only deepens the sense of “super-realism” with which the film leaves audiences, including—and especially—Philip K. Dick, who only lived long enough to see excerpts. “The impact of Blade Runner is simply going to be overwhelming, both on the public and on creative people,” he wrote. As usual, Dick saw beyond his contemporaries, who mostly panned or ignored the film.

Dick seemed to have “had no beef with the fact Blade Runner was not a faithful adaptation of his novel,” writes David Barnett at the Independent. Not only did he not write a book called Blade Runner—the film was loosely adapted from his 1968 book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?—but he also never used those words, "Blade Runner," to describe his characters. “It’s not a phrase used in the book and it doesn’t really make much sense in the context of the movie…. It’s simply a throwaway slang for cops who hunt replicants.”

The phrase, as Keele University professor Oliver Harris tells The Quietus, is so much more than that. It brings along with it “a weird backstory that tells us something about how the Burroughs virus spreads around,” infecting nearly everything science fictional and countercultural over the past half-century or so. That’s William S. Burroughs, of course, author of—among a few other things—a 1979 novelistic film treatment called Blade Runner: A Movie.

If Scott and screenwriter Hampton Fancher had adapted Burroughs’ nightmarish 21st century to the cinema, we would have seen a much different film—though one as wholly resonant with our current dystopia. The story imagines “a medical-care apocalypse,” in which medical supplies like scalpels become smuggled contraband—hence “blade runners.” Burroughs' book is itself an adaptation—or a re-writing and re-editing—of sci-fi writer Alan Nourse’s 1974 pulp sci-fi novel The Bladerunner.

It is Nourse who introduced the scenario of a “medical apocalypse” and who coined the term “blade runner,” though we owe its separation into two words to Burroughs. “Reading one text against the other is fascinating,” says Harris. “Nourse writes pedestrian, realist prose with two-dimensional characters who all talk in the same colourless style.” Burroughs, on the other hand, writes with “extraordinary economy, mastery of idiom, and wildly unbound imagination.”

In the crumbling New York (not L.A.) of Burroughs’ future world, the government controls its citizens “through the ability to withhold essential services including work, credit, housing, retirement benefits and medical care through computerization.” Granted, this might not seem to lend itself to a very cinematic treatment, but Burroughs was attracted to the central concept of Nourse’s book, one inherently rich in human tragedy: “medical pandemics appealed to his vision of a species in peril, a planet heading for terminal disaster.”

Dick imagined a species in peril from a different kind of infection, as Burroughs would have it—artificial intelligence. Was the most cinematically-adapted sci-fi novelist aware that he had indirectly helped reintroduce a strain of the Burroughs virus—a paranoid, if justified, suspicion of authority—back into popular culture through Blade Runner? We might expect, given his status in the science fiction community at the time of his death, three months before the film debuted, that he might be aware of the connection. But he gave no hint of it, leaving us to ponder what Burroughs' Blade Runner: The Movie, the movie, would be like, made with the skill and sensibility of a Scott or Villeneuve.

via The Verge

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How Jim Jarmusch Gets Creative Ideas from William S. Burroughs’ Cut-Up Method and Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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