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Park Hae-il (front) and Tang Wei in a still from Decision to Leave.

Cannes Film Festival 2022: the Asian movies featured, from Lee Jung-Jae’s Hunt to Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave, and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Broker

  • Chinese actress Tang Wei stars opposite Park Hae-il in Korean maestro Park Chan-wook’s Chinese-language thriller; Lee Jung-jae is behind the camera for Hunt
  • Hirokazu Kore-eda is back on the French Riviera with Broker, whose Korean star Bae Doona pops up in Next Sohee too; China is represented by two short films
Asian cinema

The Cannes Film Festival returns to its traditional May berth, after last year’s pandemic-related switch to July, with splashy Hollywood premieres like Top Gun: Maverick, Elvis, and Three Thousand Years of Longing mixing with high-art competition entries.

Despite no Chinese feature films showing, as was the case at its 2021 edition, across the festival held on the French Riviera there is some significant Asian representation both in and out of competition.

The jury members, meanwhile, include Huh Moon-yung, director of the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea, who will sit on the Critics’ Week panel.

Here is our pick of the Asian films playing at Cannes this year:

Decision to Leave (South Korea)

Korean maestro Park Chan-wook broke out internationally when he launched Oldboy in Cannes back in 2003, the film winning the Grand Prix. Now he’s back with his first film in five years (after The Handmaiden, which also had its premiere at the festival) – a Chinese-language romantic thriller, which plays in competition.

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Co-written by Park, the film tells of a detective (Park Hae-il) investigating the death of a husband after he falls from a mountain peak. The dead man’s wife (Chinese star Tang Wei) is a chief suspect, but in classic film noir style, the investigator falls for her. Sounds juicy.

Hunt (South Korea)

Receiving a super-cool midnight screening slot is Hunt, the directorial debut of Lee Jung-Jae. The South Korean actor has already enjoyed international acclaim this past year as the breakout star of the Netflix-released mega-hit drama series Squid Game, and he co-writes, produces, directs and stars in this espionage thriller.
Lee Jung-Jae in a still from Hunt, which he also wrote and directed.

Lee plays a Korean Intelligence Service Foreign Unit chief tasked with rooting out a North Korean spy – known as Donglim – in their ranks. Fellow Korean star Jung Woo-sung (The Good, The Bad, The Weird) co-stars.

Broker (South Korea)

The last time revered Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda was in Cannes, he took away the top prize, the Palme d’Or, for 2018’s Shoplifters. He’s back in competition with Broker, which has a superb cast including Parasite’s Song Kang-ho, Gang Dong-won ( Peninsula) and Bae Doona (who has previously worked with Kore-eda on Air Doll).

This latest drama comes with an intriguing premise: a world where boxes are left out for parents to drop off unwanted babies that they cannot look after themselves.

Plan 75 (Japan)

Among the films showing in the festival’s Un Certain Regard sidebar competition is this Japanese-French-Philippines co-production from first-time feature director Hayakawa Chie.

An expansion of a short film that featured in the 2018 anthology Ten Years Japan, in which filmmakers imagined the country a decade in the future, this tells of a fictional government programme that encourages senior citizens to be voluntarily euthanised in a society where the population is increasingly old.
Baisho Chieko in a still from Plan 75.

The story centres around three main characters – an ageing woman, a Plan 75 salesman and a young Filipino labourer. Japanese actor Hayato Isomura headlines the cast.

All the People I’ll Never Be (Cambodia)

Cambodian producer-director Davy Chou makes it into Un Certain Regard with All the People I’ll Never Be (aka Retour à Séoul). Chou previously produced Kavich Neang’s White Building, which had its premiere at the 2021 Venice Film Festival, and this latest effort marks his second feature following 2016’s Diamond Island.

Park Ji-Min in a still from All The People I’ll Never Be.

Park Ji-Min plays a 25-year-old Frenchwoman who was born in Korea but adopted, and now returns to her birthplace to track down her biological parents. Among her co-stars are Oh Kwang-rok, previously seen in the brilliant A Bittersweet Life and Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr Vengeance.

Irma Vep (USA)

Strictly speaking it’s not from Asia, but French director Olivier Assayas has helmed a remake of his 1996 film Irma Vep, this time as an HBO limited series, which plays in the Cannes Premiere strand.
Alicia Vikander in a still from Irma Vep. Photo: HBO.
The original saw Hong Kong action star Maggie Cheung play herself as she arrives in France to remake the silent movie classic Les Vampires. Now it’s Alicia Vikander playing the central role, alongside a cast that includes Hong Kong actress Fala Chen, who recently featured in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Next Sohee (South Korea)

The closing film of the Critics’ Week sidebar comes from Korean director Jung July, whose debut feature A Girl at My Door previously played in Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section.

This film tells of Sohee, a young high school student who falls under huge pressure when she takes work in a call centre. Her fate, and that of a detective, will intertwine, in a story that looks set to examine workplace stress.

Bae Doona in a promotional image for Next Sohee.
Bae Doona, who also is appearing in Broker in competition, stars in what looks set to be a very busy festival for her.

Will You Look at Me (China)/Canker (China)

Two short films, both from China, are also set to play as part of the Critics’ Week selection. The first is Will You Look at Me, a self-reflective documentary piece by Shula Huang, in which the filmmaker travels to his hometown and undertakes a searching conversation with his mother.

The second, Canker, comes from the Beijing-born Lin Tu and tells the story of a social media influencer, named 33, who has a sore inside her lower lip that keeps getting larger. Now that looks like a delicious premise.

The Cannes Film Festival runs from May 17 to May 28.

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