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South Korea has seen a large number of films wrap shooting last month, foreshadowing a crowded release schedule in late spring.
The list includes a number of Cannes hopefuls, such as arthouse favourite Hong Sang-soo's fifth feature Woman Is The Future Of Man. Having two times presented features in the Un Certain Regard section -- The Power Of Kangwon Province in 1998 and Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors in 2000 -- Hong will hope that his latest work about two men who visit an old girlfriend is enough to vault him into the competition section. Woman is co-financed and sold internationally by France's MK2, and much of the film's post-production will take place in Paris.
Rising directorial star Song Il-gon, whose Flower Island screened at Venice in 2001, wrapped shooting on his second feature Spider Forest on January 18. A supernatural thriller with arthouse touches, the film features award-winning actress Suh Jung (from Kim Ki-duk's The Isle) in a story about a TV producer who has visions of dead bodies in a local forest. Song is also reportedly hoping to catch the eye of Cannes selectors.
But the film with the most chance of gracing the Croisette is likely to be the 99th feature by veteran filmmaker Im Kwon-taek, titled Haryu-Insaeng (pictured).
Im's previous feature Chihwaseon shared the Best Director prize at Cannes in 2002, and he remains the only Korean filmmaker ever to be featured in the competition section. Haryu-Insaeng portrays a young man's experiences in organized crime in the 1970s, and the film looks to have considerable local box-office potential. Now shooting in Busan, it is scheduled to wrap in late February.
Meanwhile, debut director Im Chan-sang's Barber Of The President (pictured) is drawing interest from local critics and audience members for its unusual storyline (Korean history from 1960 to 1979, seen through the eye's of the president's barber) and its acting tandem of Song Kang-ho (Memories Of Murder) and actress Moon So-ri (Oasis, A Good Lawyer's Wife). The first production of distributor Chungeorahm (formerly Big Blue Films), Barber wrapped on January 18 and is scheduled for a May release.
Lastly, the spring season will see the premiere of a potentially huge box-office hit. I've Got You Babe reunites the director and lead actress of Asia-wide hit My Sassy Girl (2001), in a romantic comedy about a tough policewoman and a naive schoolteacher. The film has been completely financed by Edko in Hong Kong, and a major simultaneous release is scheduled for South Korea and Chinese-speaking territories in April.