Hong Sang-soo's presence in the film industry has been celebrated since his first appearance -- his directorial debut pic "The Day a Pig Fell into the Well" was praised by critics and won several international acclaims. Fourteen years later, he has released his tenth production "Hahaha" where he has upped the cheerful tone to a never-before-seen level. Hong sat down with 10Asia to talk about the movie which has also been picked to present in the non-competitive "Un Certain Regard" category at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
Beck Una: The response to your film "Hahaha" was great after the screening. Just like its title, "Hahaha" is like a romantic comedy which constantly makes you laugh. I think it's worth looking forward to the film becoming somewhat of a commercial success too.
Hong Sang-soo: Yes... I heard that the audience laughs a lot [while watching it]. But such stories... I had told a lot in my previous work too. But... in the end... it didn't do that well. Who knows. It would be nice if many people watched it. Even the smallest profit the film makes by people watching it will help in filming my next movie and I'll have at least a bit to share with the staff and actors. Of course, I've never promised I'd give them anything but I want to... I wish I could be able to.
Beck: It was like that with your previous works too but it seems the cast of "Hahaha" are particularly satisfied with the movie.
Hong: The cast liked and complimented each other's acting. I think they really meant it and it made me feel happy.
Beck: It was with "Hahaha" too but when I meet the actors you've worked with, it seems that you communicate in a secretive way with them that not even the audience nor critics would ever notice. For example, actor Lee Sun-kyun recently said you were 'the best acting coach.' What's your secret? (laugh)
Hong: I think an actor does a good job when what the movie wants from the actor is something that he or she can feel comfortable doing. If not, it'll make the actor shrink back, depend on memory and calculate. When the actor shrinks back, it'll break a flow which will occur only when everything's in a natural setting so it's the directors job to provide a setting where this flow won't break. I have to help the actor really think his own thoughts than think useless thoughts and protect him so that he can stay in his real emotions within the movie. I'm not a coach. Why a coach, I don't do anything. (laugh)
Beck: Movies are usually considered an art for directors and in many cases, movies in general are understood as the medium through which a director uses an actor as the tool to deliver a story he wants to tell. But to you, filmmaking seems to have a different meaning and accordingly, it seems to have produced a different type of film.
Hong: I don't know what I want to do, in the initial stages. I just try putting together clumps of ideas and I put several actors next to those ideas. And then those clumps and the actors mix. In that, I discover something within the actors, discover what I want, and also what they want. Through the process of mixing them up, I finally realize what I want to do. I don't make the actors do something because I want to tell a certain story. I guess that's what is different.
Hong: We're working on it together 100 percent. I can't come up with it on my own. The process of how the movie gets moulded can only come strictly through interaction and whether it be the idea or whatever, it's no use if there are no actors. The story gets decided on by setting on the actors. If Yu Jun-sang hadn't played the part in "Hahaha," he wouldn't have been the same character in the movie. A different story would have been produced if the cast was different. That's what I can tell you for sure.
Beck: You continue to pursue a style of directing where there isn't a set scenario for each production but many things get decided on a daily basis on set.
Hong: I used to have somewhat of a frame which was well-knitted but I think that's happening less now. Before I even used to have over 20 treatments but I think I had maybe five for "Hahaha"? And that's including a lot of junk too such as my impression on the actors. You could say that basically, nothing was set. I pretty much had just a location and characters .I myself have no idea what I'll be writing that day until I actually get on set. In a way, I'm lazy. But I guess that's the way I want things to be.
Beck: Do you think the reason there are less pages of treatments or pre-negotiation is because you have gained trust in the actors in the sense that they'll understand your intentions and deliver it well even if you don't specifically deliver through words?
Hong: Things are the same in the sense that the actors and I meet up to pull out something from within ourselves and that without the actor even realizing it, they achieve something new. What's different is that there is a smaller number of treatments. I think it's because I have a greater desire to soak in the new clumps [of ideas] that approach me. I think I'm becoming more skilled at accepting and organizing them. So I prefer to wait on set for more things to come out. If I had started off with 50 in the past, I start with 20 these days and believe that something new will come along. But I think 20 is the minimum you need to make something happen. I think everything would come apart without even that.
Editor in Chief : Beck Una one@
Editor : Jessica Kim jesskim@, Jang Kyung-Jin three@, Lee Ji-Hye seven@
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