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A Small Roof, a World of Film

BUSAN, South Korea — Nestled into an obscure, out-of-the-way corner of Haeundae waterfront property, next to the yacht club, with trees completely obstructing the view of its structure from the road and the awe-inspiring sight of the new I’Park condominium towers dominating the skyline, is the Busan Cinematheque. This quaint little 12-year-old theater is steeped in the richness of classic, arthouse, and independent cinema from all over the world. For the ardent film purists, there is a video archive of over 5,000 films, complete with private viewing booths and English subtitles, as well as a library of books (with a good chunk of them being in English) on the art of film making and the history of cinema.  

The building itself might not look like much on the outside, and the actual theater is a rustic little “grindhouse” style auditorium of old, much akin to the $2 theaters one might find in North America which have been open for two or three decades, without seeing much in the way of renovations. This is far from the state-of-the-art multiplex cinemas that you find showing 3D versions of ‘Transformers’ or ‘Harry Potter’ charging you 12,000won per ticket. Though if you wanted that, you wouldn’t have decided to check out the Cinematheque.

The Cinematheque is run by a modest staff with a set of offices on the upper level, where you might find Director Heo Moon-young pouring over his computer in search of the reels for the film selections to come. In the archive itself, a very friendly Lee Ho-jae sits at the counter, ready to pull one of the thousands of DVDs from the shelf for you to enjoy at a viewing booth. Just don’t expect to engage the gentleman in a conversation about movies, as his English is severely limited, and he’ll be quick to push his catalogue of films into your hands for your perusal. A fellow film columnist/blogger, Jacob Worrel, is quite passionate about the Cinematheque and had this to say about its archive:

“I used to spend entire days there, basically educating myself about the history of film. It's also the only place in Busan that consistently offers foreign language movies (old and contemporary) with English subtitles.”

Most importantly of all is the selection of films scheduled to be screened at the theater. There is no time like the present to discover the Cinematheque, considering that the summer lineup consists of classic films from the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. Sadly, my personal favorite Hitchock masterpiece ‘Rear Window’ won’t see a screening this time around, but there are plenty of entertaining films that beg to be experienced in a theater. Hitchcock’s “film noir era” entries being screened include ‘Strangers on a Train’, ‘Shadow of a Doubt’, and ‘The Wrong Man’. Then there are, of course, the Hitchcock’s that need no introduction such as ‘Dial M for Murder’, ‘Psycho’, and ‘The Birds’. Lastly we have what I believe to be the most purely entertaining film of Hitchcock’s career, ‘North by Northwest’, which doubles as “the Bond film Hitchcock might have made”. If you haven’t seen this sharply humorous, and briskly plotted adventure film starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, then I suggest you jump at the opportunity to see it at the Cinematheque as soon as possible. For the screening schedule itself, you can always check out the Cinematheque website or head to the front entrance where plenty of copies are on hand.

There aren’t many places in Busan quite like the this. This wonderful little relic of Busan’s past (which was introduced when the Pusan International Film Festival was only in its second year) is still going strong, despite the lack of foot traffic they see.  Admission for a screening is only 5,000won, certainly a small price to pay for the likes of Alfred Hitchcock. The Hitchcock screenings, coupled with films from Claude Chabrol, begin July 30th and continue on all the way through to the end of August. There’s really no excuse, so divert your attention away from the bars and the beer for two hours time and check it out. If you’re a fan of the cinema, there’s little room for disappointment.

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For the Haps page with map go here.






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