By Jessica Duncanson
These South Korean films cover a wide range of genres and tell many different stories. One thing they all have in common, however, is a focus on lesbian romance. Female sexuality is recurrent feature but one that is expressed quite differently in each. These are must-see films for audiences interested in Korean and LGBT cinema.
1. The Handmaiden (2016, dir. Park Chan-wook)
From the director of Oldboy and Stoker, The Handmaiden is a psychological thriller that focuses on female sexuality. Sensual and full of lush cinematography, the film sees a young pickpocket become handmaiden to a wealthy heiress due to a plan to con her out of her fortune. However, there is stark sexual tension between the two women and they engage in an affair. Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri star in this tale of eroticism and betrayal.
2. In My End is My Beginning (2009, dir. Min Kyu-dong)
After the death of her husband, Jung-ha discovered that he had been cheated on her with her friend Na-ru. Na-ru comes to Jung-ha begging for forgiveness and to let her stay with her. Jung-ha eventually agrees to let her move in but still holds much bitterness towards her. However, as time goes by, their complex relationship becomes romantic and erotic.
3. Two Weddings and a Funeral (2012, dir. Kim Jho Gwangsoo)
In this comedy film, a gay man and a lesbian woman decide to marry each other in order for the woman to be able to adopt a child with her long-term partner and so that the man’s interfering parents will be satisfied. In a lighthearted style, the film promotes increased openness toward members of the LGBT community, as well as adoption.
4. A Girl At My Door (2014, dir. July Jung)
Starring Doona Bae, this drama sees a young police woman be relocated from Seoul to a small fishing town after implications that her relationship with another woman has caused her difficulties in the force. When she encounters a young girl that is abused by her schoolmates and beaten by her drunken father, she takes the girl in. When the apparently homophobic people of the town learn about her past lesbian relationship, they become suspicious about the nature of her relationship with the young girl.
5. Whispering Corridors 2: Memento Mori (1999, dir. Kim Tae-yong and Min Kyu-dong)
This sequel to the horror film Whispering Corridors focuses on the romantic relationship between two female high school students. After a perceived betrayal on the part of the other, one of the girls commits suicide. Following these events, another student investigates the circumstances surrounding the suicide and the relationship of the pair.
6. Life is Peachy/Ashamed (2010, dir. Kim Soo-hyeon)
When an art professor and two students head to the beach for a video shoot, the professor relates the story of her past relationship with another woman. This slow-paced poignant drama portrays the difficulties of maintaining romantic expectations. Starring Kim Hyo-jin and Kim Kkot-bi, the film gained considerable attention for its lesbian sex scenes.
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