Category Archives: Crime fiction and film from South Korea

Crime scene at the Melbourne International Film Festival

I don’t know what everyone else thinks, but I’ve found the last couple of Melbourne International Film Festivals a bit lacklustre, especially when it comes to crime cinema. Having just read the latest program, I’m happy to say it looks like a very different story in 2011.

Maybe it’s the influence of new artistic director Michelle Carey, but MIFF 2011 offers a veritable feast of local and international crime cinema, including a section solely devoted to the genre, Crime Scene.

That said, the tickets are not cheap and time is limited. I’m also keen to avoid films that will probably get a mainstream release soon after the festival or be easier to check out on DVD.

My top pick for MIFF 2011 is the Congalese crime thriller Viva Riva! about a small-time gangster in Kinshasa who ignites a gang war when he steals a truck load of petrol in the middle of a fuel shortage. I’ve never heard of the director, Djo Munga (who cites his chief influences as Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leonne), but the film has done fantastically in his native Africa and if the trailer is anything to go by it’s definitely worth checking out.

 

Viva Riva! (2010)

 

Viva Riva! is one of several interesting looking films in the Crime Scene program.… Read more

Book review: The Wandering Ghost

GhostI glanced at the Martin Limon novels featuring Sueno and Bascom on bookshop shelves for years before finally deciding to crack one open and give it a try.

I’m really glad I did. After reading his first book, Jade Lady Burning (1992), I accidentally jumped three books to his 2007 novel, The Wandering Ghost. It was interesting to see how the series had developed.

Sueno and Bascom are officers in the Criminal Intelligence Division of the United States military, based in South Korea in the early seventies. The Vietnam War is waging, but it’s a sideshow when you’re on the beat in a country still technically at war with its northern neighbour.

For the most part, the South Korea depicted in Jade Lady Burning is cold, bleak, authoritarian and paranoid; the perfect backdrop for a couple of hard-boiled investigators to ply their trade.

A lot of the action is set amongst the bars and brothels that have sprang up to cater to the US military presence. Limon’s not the first writer to focus on what Western men do in Asia but his handling of the subject matter is vastly superior to most of what’s out there, focusing as it does on the culture clash that occurs when so many young men with money, most of them barely educated, are thrown in the middle of an ancient and very hierarchical society.… Read more