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Symmetry, Morose and Drunk: Cannes Just Loves This Korean

2005/05/12 Source

Hong Sang-soo Film in Surprise Cannes Invite
The 58th Cannes International Film Festival on Thursday kicked off 12 days of movie mania in the southern French resort town with Dominik Moll's "Lemming".

Featured prominently once again is Cannes' darling Korean director Hong Sang-soo. The festival continued to show the director love with a surprise invitation just a week ago for the fourth of Hong's films to make its way to the Croisette. "The Power of Kangwon Province" (1998) and "Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors" (2000) were entered in the festival's "Un Certain Regard" section, while the red carpet of the competition section was unrolled for "Woman is the Future of Man" last year and "Tale of Cinema" this year. Hong's sixth movie, it is still two weeks away from its May 27 debut in Korea. It's a comedy done in the style of a movie within a movie telling the story of an aspiring film director (played by Kim Sang-kyung) who runs into a young woman (Uhm Ji-won) as he leaves a movie theater and realizes that she's the star of the film he just watched.

-- I heard you'd already received word of your invitation to Cannes before the "surprise announcement" last week.

"I promised, promised, promised never to tell. Cannes Film Festival's artistic director Thierry Frémaux suddenly contacted me asking if it would be possible to see even a director's cut, and it was decided".

-- I'm not sure about Cannes, but it seems general audiences haven't particularly taken to your films. Up till now, you've never made a film that broke even.

"That's why I produced it myself this time. With 'Woman is the Future of Man', the production costs were W1.7 billion(US$1.7 million) alone, so with 'Tale of Cinema', we cut production costs by W800 million. I can't remember exactly what the figure was (laughs), but I heard if we want to break even this time, we have to attract some 200,000 viewers.

-- The character of Dong-su, who's been dreaming of being a movie director for 10 years, lives his life in imitation of the films he's seen. It appears to be a loop in keeping with your characteristic "symmetry" style.

"I wanted to break the traditional structure of a drama. Isn't single progression a framework that Hollywood has perfected over several decades? I wanted to avoid that, so one of the things I found was symmetry. I did four films in that style, but I got sick of it, so I tried single progression with 'Woman is the Future of Man'. Having done that, I'm back to symmetry with this film".

-- Stars Kim Sang-kyung, Uhm Ji-won and Lee Ki-woo get pretty drunk in your film. You did the same thing in past films. What's the greatest gift alcohol gives you?

"We drank a lot during 'Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors' and 'On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate'. Before, everything was soju (fairly strong liquor), but these days, I drink baekseju (a considerably weaker drink). I quit smoking, too, about two months ago when the two packs a day I used to smoke started hurting my heart. Booze brings people together and allows them to spend time with one another. It's another level of exchange".

-- They say you tend to be contemptuous or scurrilously negative about the world. Do you agree?

"I can't agree. Perhaps people who think, 'I'm an ethical person', or 'We're an outstanding family' would say that. In films, bad people need to be punished in the end, but in my movies, they live well. It seems people have different degrees of acceptance. There are also a lot of people who seem to laugh through my films in enjoyment".

-- Some say your six films are repetitive, and others call them "auteurism".

"There's a limit to creative people, too. Regardless of whether it's film, literature or art, when you've built up work in your particular genre over more than a decade, can you completely change direction? Maybe. If you've experienced one great change and others notice it, I guess that would be lucky. Most stick to their own principles and accept the experiences that come with age. With luck and material, there are also times when you produce unique results. That's reality and life.

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