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Director Jang Jin's Movie Picks

최종수정 2009.11.10 08:40 기사입력 2009.11.09 23:57

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Director Jang Jin [Chae Ki-won/10Asia]

A detective who investigates a serial murder case, a man who contemplates suicide, a man whose life never works out. If one were to ask someone to make a movie about such men, most would think of making something dark and serious. But some people would put a twist on such subjects. Like the detective who is so helpless that you feel like you want to help him, suicide attempts which always go wrong, the man whose life never works out and even gets driven around by a taxi driver who does not know the directions. The title of the film was “The Happenings”. This exceptional debut film by director Jang Jin informed the Korean movie industry of the arrival of a man with the most unique code. He has covered infinitely heavy themes, including division of a country (“The Spy”), professional assassins (“Guns and Talks”) and time-limited life (“Someone Special”), but has told those stories with infinitely “fantastic storytelling”.

Some connect his filmmaking philosophy with theater, based on the simple fact that he was already a famous theatrical director before he started making movies, but it can now be said the director Jang Jin -- who expresses the human irony between life and death with flashing introspection and humor -- has his own unique world regarding films. And it is probably because of this unique, impossible-to-imitate worldview possessed by the director that so much attention is being paid to “Good Morning President”, a film he made after directing “My Son” and “Righteous Ties” -- two works in his filmography that are slightly different in style. Who, among Korean directors, would think of making “a comedy with Jang Dong-gun as president” and tell a story about “a president who won the lottery”? But he is a man who can nonchalantly say, “I was under no pressure. I thought that I could tell the story from a different perspective” about the president, a figure who has “a heavy, hard-to-approach image.” He is a director who deals with the most serious issues in an un-serious way and gives viewers a chance to reflect upon them. Here he picked five movies about life and death.

1. “Our Joyful Young Days” (1987, directed by Bae Chang-ho)
“I have probably seen this movie about four times. It was made over twenty years ago, but even now it doesn’t seem corny at all. When you watch this movie, you can see why director Bae Chang-ho was called the genius director of Chungmuro at the time. He is incredible in leading the character’s emotional flow and making the audience fall into it. The acting by Hwang Shin-hye and Ahn Sung-ki in the last scene in particular is unforgettable.”

In “Our Joyful Young Days”, death completes against pure, innocent love. Young-min (played by Ahn Sung-ki) meets Hye-rin (played by Hwang Shin-hye) in college and falls in love with her. His one-sided love continues even when Hye-rin marries someone else, gets divorced and eventually stands at the crossroad between life and death. It may seem to be the typical 1980s melodrama, when movies used to get made based on stories alone, but director Bae Chang-ho turns this typical love story into something more everlasting and eternal.

2. “White Badge” (1992, directed by Jeong Ji-yeong)
“In the 1990s, there were a lot of movies that were based on novels and this is one of the more really outstanding ones amongst them all. There aren’t that many movies made in Korea that deal directly with the Vietnam War. I remember those characters who still carry wounds within them from the Vietnam War and have nightmares of those times. I can still remember some of the images from the War very vividly.”
Han Kiju (played by Ahn Sun-ki), a serial novelist writing about the Vietnam War, is visited by a Vietnam War veteran Pyon Chinsu (played by Lee Kyung-young), whose emotional wounds from the Vietnam War slowly unveils. The movie made headlines for being filmed in Vietnam as well as for its radical, at the time, attempt to telling the War from a veteran soldier’s perspective. One of the Korean renaissance movies of the 1990s.

3. “Hable Con Ella” (2002, directed by Pedro Almodovar)
“It’s a movie that is not generous when it comes to love. The movie says that if I love someone, I shouldn’t make compromises for that love or give it up for any reason. I think the film’s message is that love is love till the day we die. I don’t watch a lot of movies, but I think I went to see “Hable Con Ella” three times at the theater because I loved it so much.”

Director Pedro Almodovar, who can only be described as “unique”, tells a unique and incredibly appealing love story in “Hable Con Ella”. Memories and time, points in time keep changing within the movie, but the feeling of endless love remains the same throughout the film. How much can you love about the person you love?

4. “Love Letter” (1995, directed by Iwai Shunji)
“’Love Letter’ was a really unique melodrama movie. How can movies express love so wonderfully when the characters don’t even get to hold hands? You know about the cliche, unforgettable love that even death can’t part, right? I think this movie showed how to bring out that emotion. It’s a very well-made teen melodrama. (When asked if he had a favorite love story among his own movies) Me? Not yet.”

While remembering her former fiancee Fujii Itsuki, Watanabe Hiroko (played by Nakayama Miho) discovers that there is a female middle school classmate with the same name Fujii Itsuki. With the story’s set-up about a person with the same name and the memories of one you can never see again, director Iwai Shunjii perfectly delivers the tingling sensation of love that remains in each character’s memories.

5. “Scoop” (2006, directed by Woody Allen)
“Woody Allen is really extraordinary. He is an old, veteran director yet he still comes up with the most brilliant jokes and goofs in his movies and it’s amazing that he deals with heavy, serious stories in a pretty light way. He maintains a certain consistency in his films and you can feel that he has fun making them. I really respect that he doesn’t compromise his movies to commercialism and has maintained his own way of filmmaking all these years.”

Woody Allen, whose films express the worries about life and death with an incredible sense of humor, is the kind of director that Jang Jin cannot help but fall in love with. In “Scoop”, Woody Allen shows that he still has what it takes to make a good film, and the movie begins its story with a death. What would happen if a handsome, young millionaire may be a serial killer, and a female journalist falls more in love with him even when she knows he may be the killer? "Scoop" is a fun drama of death, mystery and comedy that only Woody Allen can create.

“Well, I don’t think a director should ask the audience how to watch a movie.” That was Jang Jin’s answer to the question if he had anything to say to the viewers of “Good Morning President”. He would only politely ask that they watch the movie “without any prejudice”. Over the years, he has received conclusive judgements on his work just for the fact that he came from the theater or that he has made a lot of comedies. Maybe the reason he placed his unique sense of comedy at the forefront of "Good Morning President” is because he is that much confident in his “fantastic storytelling.”

Reporter : Lee Ji-Hye seven@10asia.co.kr
Photographer : Chae ki-won ten@10asia.co.kr
Editor : Lynn Kim lynn2878@asiae.co.kr
<ⓒ10Asia All rights reserved>


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