Top critical review
A promising book which is the sound without the fury
on July 3, 2003
A certain quality which could have been redeeming about this book is that it approaches the films discussed from a point of view of a cinema reviewer or critic, and thus uses layman's terms without the hassle of all the academic jargon to explain what the critic's views are. However, there are more than just one point which mark for me the serious Achilles' heels(note, I use 'heels', and not 'heel')of the author's approach.
Firstly, the attempt to compare Korean film qualitatively with the cinema of Hong Kong, which defeats the whole point about Korean cinema's cultural idiosyncracies, which have often been pointed out by critics and scholars as both its strength and self-alienating weakness, yet very much an undeniable aspect Anthony Leong does not draw attention to. When one tries to call Korean cinema the "New Hong Kong cinema", one is just supplanting one's notions of what constitutes dominant filmic forms of expression in Asia for the rest which could be equally distinct and different apart from it. I managed to obtain access to the book via its online pages, where certain review sections were cut and pasted onto the Internet site for Anthony Leong's book, but disappointed at his whole paradigm of analysis, which assumes a certain shared culture or filmic set of paradigms for filmmaking between Korea and Hong Kong, I would dissuade anyone who wants to know more about Korean films to try doing so via Anthony Leong's book.
Secondly, the book shows little reference to the earlier periods of Korean cinema which are in fact the formative years, starting from the years of early Japanese colonialism and occupation, and the heavy censorship and propaganda exposure which seriously limited the film industry in Korea, to the deposing of the various military regimes from Sgnyman Rhee right through to the current legacy of the "Sunshine Policy" bequeathed by Kim Dae-Jung and how all these political-historical movements have affected the mediatised expressions of culture and nationalism on Korean cinema. Anthony Leong's book carries virtually little or no allusion to all these, which even the amateur interested in Korean cinema will make the effort to find out about.
If one desires a better and more comprehensive guide to Korean cinema and its auteurs, that is, for good publications in English, one would be better placed if he or she turns to Professor Lee Hyangjin's "Contemporary Korean Cinema" or journal articles written by either native Koreans or Tony Rayns and Chris Berry(academics established in the non-Korean world for their expertise in East Asian films).