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Foreign culture and cinema are always a source of new ideas for us—from an unthinkable outfit to general style and culture points. With the Internet at our fingertips and companies like Netflix giving us more access to foreign media than ever before, we feel that there's no better way to prepare for a new work week than some influence from overseas. Here are ten Korean films from the last decade which we think should be taken into account in your closet.
1. The Good, The Bad, and The Weird (above): Everything about the styling in this movie is quirky and unexpected. Director Kim Jee-Woon likes to label it a "Kimchi Western" (after the traditional Korean dish consisting of spice and vegetables) because the film is spicy and vibrant. TGTBTW's art direction and wardrobe live up to the title and then some. Set in late 1930's Manchuria, the film follows three unique characters—one that is a spot-on Clint Eastwood (the good), one that seems to have stepped out of a 1980's music video, complete with guyliner (the bad) and one that mixes nylon, leather, twill, and everything else imaginable (the weird). The costume designer intentionally used an eclectic mix of influences and achieves combinations and details that will be inspiring to anyone clothes-obsessed.
What are some of the great blends that you can expect to see in this film? Check out the leather cowboy hats adorned with bullet holes and tied with lace sashes, giant beaded necklaces, coyote capes, floral vests, shearling shoulder pads and studded parkas. Even the horses are wearing cool necklaces and scarves. Would you wear a vintage leather ammo belt over your favorite fall coat?
2. The Man From Nowhere: This film mostly follows stylish guys, but does also feature nail-art, interestingly enough. From designer name-dropping gang members to the protagonist who looks a lot like Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, this thriller offers a lot, visually. Given the fact that the average Korean male is more into labels and personal appearance than an average American, these characters, "metro" by our standards, have more of an effortless cool vibe because their dress is a standard in the film.
3. Castaway on the Moon: Castaway on the Moon follows two individuals who are alone for separate reasons: A man who jumped off a bridge and is subsequently stranded on an island in the middle of a city, unable to get anyone's attention, and the one woman that notices him but has been afraid to leave her own apartment for years. It's much different from the Tom Hanks film the word castaway is typically associated with, and it offers beautiful imagery along the way, not to mention, even in full wilderness-mode, Kim Seung-keun pulls off the hippie headband.
4. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance: The third and final film in the highly regarded "Revenge Trilogy," Lady Vengeance is highly stylized and visually beautiful. The main character's ethereal styling, which is at one point compared to Olivia Hussey, is a stark contrast to her dark motives and her style, and the beginning of the film looks like it could be pulled straight out of an Anna Sui or Marc Jacobs lookbook. But this quickly changes as her quest for retribution becomes more morbid and she moves to a striking below the knee funnel-neck leather coat. Image is everything to this character. She wears blood-red eyeshadow (which is commented on by multiple acquaintances) until her quest is completed and even when choosing a gun, notes "It has to be pretty, everything should be pretty."
5. The Host: The Host is not your typical monster movie. It has an interesting creature, well developed plot, humor and style to boot. The film is akin to a Jaws of its era and the quirky family that is the main focal point of the movie has a Tennenbaum sort of charm. From the deadbeat dad to his bow-and-arrow-yielding, Fred Perry–tracksuit-wearing sister, all ends of the spectrum are represented in this film. If hobosexual is really a term the kids are using these days, Kang-ho Song could be their figurehead.
6. Chawz: Although its name may allude otherwise, unlike the movie preceding it on this list, Chawz is everything you would expect from a Korean monster movie with an inane title, and we think that's what it's aiming for. The people in Chawz' are over-the-top caricatures and their colorful costumes deliberately play that up. An animated hipster, ill-equipped cops, and an overly enthusiastic scientist are just some of the campy people in this film. Somehow, they even managed to make a grandiose professional hunter look kind of cool. We could definitely picture neon orange, camouflage and ironic shield sunglasses having their moment in street style.
7, Thirst: In this critically acclaimed movie, the vampires don't sparkle. They are actually dark and interesting. These vampires have more to worry about than teen angst, most importantly the quest for flesh in every form. Thirst isn't reinventing the vampire concept in a sea of other fantasy movies; its more in the vein of the original perception in A Symphony of Horror. It is the anti teen-movie but still feels trendy and even comical at times. The film's tone is consistently dark and cold, and the dress is mainly washed out and reminiscent of gloom. The imagery and contemporary clothing that is still reflective of conservative gothic styles could inspire an entire line, much like the Twilight T-shirt franchise.
8. Treeless Mountain: This film is not as stylized as others on our list. In this sense, the wardrobe is refreshing, as it gives a more unaltered look into the daily dress of Korean culture. It also takes place in a much lower class, so the necessity for layering and extension of combinations is more apparent and get's the films message across very well. Following two young girls as they fend for themselves in the inner city, the deterioration of their appearance is crucial to the plot. We would not say this is inspiring, but it is a wonderful example of the successful use of costume design to aid in storytelling.
9. Chaser: Dressing like a Korean pimp never really came to mind as inspirational before, but Yun-seok Kim's performance in The Chaser has brought the possibility to light. His combination of white slim-cut pants, a printed silk shirt, oxfords and a blazer looks like a something straight off of fall runways. And, the fact that he completes probably ten chase scenes, five jump-kicks, and countless bloody fist fights without getting said white pants dirty, is inspiration enough for us.
10. Mother: The mother, from which the film gets it's name, is a frizzy haired, strong willed, eccentric woman trying to prove her son's innocence in a murder case. Her at times subtle but quirky personality is translated visually through her almost elegantly disheveled appearance. At various points in the film, she can be seen dancing by herself to no music: She is a hipster's dream come-true.
Still confused by the whirlwind of foreign cinema? Here are some easy fall pieces that are giving us The Good, The Bad and The Weird vibes to get you started:
1. OTBT Astoria boot, $225; 2. Bailey Cutler hat, $57; 3. Theyskens' Theory Pepper flare, $295; 4. Tarnish tasseled square scarf, $78; 5. Free People Dursoduro maxi cardigan, $168; 6. Selima Optique round tortoise shell glasses, $325; 7. Trash and Vaudeville Bullet boot strap, $28; 8. Elizabeth and James Luminista jacket, $495; 9. Haute Hippie Boy Named Sue t-shirt, $95; 10. Monty/Legoin Imperium collar, $398; 11. Sanctuary Tribeca pant, $98; 12. Muubaa Clove bomber jacket, $378; 13. Sanctuary shearling vest, $73; 14. ASOS festival purse, $35; 15. Nathaniel Cole leather aviator cap, $75 —Payton Wang