Seen in Jeonju

Archive for October, 2009

Spinning a Tale of Cruelty Towards Women (1983)

27th October 2009

spinning a tale of cruelty towards womenI was not sure what to expect when I saw that EBS was airing the awkardly titled Spinning a Tale of Cruelty Towards Women.  On the one hand, I was excited that I was given the opportunity to see a movie I had never watched before.  On the other hand, it is from my least favorite period of Korean film-making.  The early eighties were an unfortunate time.  Although some of the restrictions that had hampered directors in the previous decades were being relaxed, the filmmakers were taking advantage of this by filling thier movies with overtly sexual imagery–whether it was necessary for the story or not.  In small doses, it is fine–in larger doses it becomes funny…but when it is overdone, it just becomes uncomfortable.   The first 30 minutes or so of this film had me wondering if I would be able to get through it.  Phalic-shaped rocks dotted the landscape and women made use a giant wooden morter to grind grain while giggling suggestively.  Not to mention the main character was raped twice in about ten minutes. However, I stuck though that part and my patience was rewarded with a surprisingly well-told story—particularly the final chapter.

The story can basically be divided into three parts.  The first chapter finds our heroine, Gil Rye given to a wealthy family to take part in a ’spirit wedding’.  By that I mean that she is wed to a man who has been dead for years since a soul was believed not to be at rest if the person died a virgin.  The living half of this type of couple was expected to behave as if his or her spouse was alive.  That means that Gil Rye, a widow before she was even married, was expected to remain chaste.  She proves to be up to the challenge and does her best to impress her in-laws who, in return, set her up in a beautiful home with many servants.  The problem comes from a lecherous man living nearby who realizes that Gil Rye’s house is inhabited only by women.  He begins to make nightly visits to Gil Rye’s room and she finds that she is powerless to stop him fro raping her. However, the man is seen leaving the house by Gil Rye’s father-in-law who sets a trap for the rapist.

Although, Gil Rye is clearly not responsible for what happened, she is thrown out of the house. This is actually an act of mercy on the part of her in-laws who could have enacted a much more extreme punishment. Left to her own devises, Gil Rye wanders the countryside for awhile until she meets Yoon Bo. Yoon is the son of a fomerly wealthy family who has had their titles and property removed. He is now working as a common laborer for a rich noblemand and Gil Rye finds herself working a serving girl there.  The two fall in love but their feelings for each other are threatened by the nobleman who seeks to bed Gil Rye.

After an event that could have turned quite tragic, Yoon Bo and Gil Rye seem to have at last found peace.  With his title and wealth restored, Yoon formerly marries Gil Rye with his parent’s approval and for a short time things seem happy.  But this is not destined to be and in the final years of her life, Gil Rye is doomed to suffer some of the hardest emotional trials anyone could be asked to bear.

This film was directed by Lee Doo-yong whose action movies of the 70s I have always found to be competent if uninteresting.  He seems better suited for melodramas.  Lee has remained active right up until 2002 when he tried his hand at a remake of Ariang… (Which hasn’t been released on DVD….I wonder why?) The lead actress was Won Mi-kyeong who does an excellent job in the first and final chapters of Gil Rye’s life. She seems to slip in the second chapter however.  I was actually unsure for a little while if her character was meant to be the same person or not.  While playing the serving girl, Won makes Gil Rye almost a comic relief simpleton–quite at odds with the dignified lady of the earlier and later chapters. I got the impression that perhaps the middle portion of the movie was filmed first and Won was not yet familiar with the story.

In any event, despite the title and a few problems with the story, Spinning a Tale of Cruelty to Women is a very watchable movie and worth the 100 minutes it takes to watch it.

On a quick side note, I am still upset with EBS TV for blurring out knives, blood and cigarettes on their late night movies…but I am also happy that they are branching out a little and now including movies from the 80s and 90s.  Next weekend they will be screening Green Fish.  I will skip it as I have it on DVD, but it is an excellent chance to watch this film if you have not already seen it.

Posted in 1980s, Review | 1 Comment »

Korean Box Office: October 23-25

25th October 2009

102310252009Good Morning President took the top spot in this weekends box office–which is not surprising. What is surprising is just how successful it was. The film’s ticket sales comprised nearly 60% of all tickets sold nationally and more than that figure here in Jeonju. No doubt the biggest draw to this film was the role of popular actor Jang Dong-geon who has not appeared on the big screen since Typhoon four years ago.   The success of Good Morning President left all the other movies wallowing in single digit percentages save for District 9 which came in a very weak second this past weekend.   Looking at the films being released this coming week, I would estimate that Paju will provide the only competition for first place in the box office. I will say though that it is nice to see so many small, indie Korean films getting wider releases by theaters.  This week that includes Sea and Sky, Today and the Other Days and A Brand New Life.


A.  A Brand New Life (fr/kr)- d. Ounie Lecomte, starring Kim Se-ron, Ko Ah-seong

B. The Cove (us)- d. Louie Psihoyos, starring Louie Psihoyos, Richard O’Barry <documentary>

C. Inglorious Bastards (us/ger)- Quentin Tarantino, starring Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger

D. Killer Bride’s Perfect Crime (jp)- d. Goro Kishitani, starring Juri Ueno, Yoshino Kimura

E. Paju (kr)- d. Park Chan-ok, starring Lee Seon-gyun, Seo Woo www.

F. Sam’s Lake (us/can)- d. Andew Erin, starring Fay Masterson, Sandrine Holt

G. Sky and Sea (kr)- d. Oh Dal-gyun, starring Jang Na-ra, Jyu Ni

H. Stormbreaker (ger/us)- d. Geoffrey Sax, starring Alex Pettyfer, Ewan McGregor

I. This Is It (us)- d. Kenny Ortega starring Michael Jackson

J. Time Traveler’s Wife (us)- d. Robert Schwentke, starring Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams

K. Today and the Other Days (kr)- d. Choi Wi-an, starring Ha Hee-kyeong, Jeong Jae-jin

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2001 Imagine (1994)

23rd October 2009

screen capture from 2001 Imagine (1994)The fourth installment of the My Beautiful Short Films was released earlier in October. This series of DVDs feature short films spanning the decades are a must-see for viewers who wish to watch early movies/student projects  by their favorite directors or the creations of popular directors outside of their mainstream works.  The collections could be criticized for not being cohesive–they do not have a common theme at all and the films chosen often seem random. I could also criticize them for the order in which the films are shown–my mind turned off during the intentionally confusing yet somehow boring animation on My Beautiful Shorts 4 leaving me struggling to pay attention to the later movies on the disk.  However, I won’t criticize them at all. These DVDs are one of the few places to view Korean short films outside of film festivals and with the occassional film such as 2001 Imagine appearing occassionally appearing among the collectiosn, it is definitely worth investing in owning the sets.

2001 Imagine was directed by Jang Joon-hwan with the cinematography by Bong Joon-ho.  With such a collaboration, it is any wonder that this film is engrossing?  Jang would later go on to direct the love-it-or-hate-it film Save the Green Planet (which I loved) and the short film Hair which has been declared a hit whereever it has screened.  Jang is also slated to direct the sequel to Tazza which is now being called Tazza: The Revenger (still in the scenario writing stage as of this posting) and it was announced last week that he will be directing part of the omnibus movie being created for the 2010 Pusan International Film Festival currently being called The Pusan Project.  It is a shame that we have not had more feature-length movies from this amazing director–but until we do, we will have to content ourselves with whatever we can.

2001 Imagine is the story of a man who is under the delusion that he is the reincarnation of John Lennon. He tells us in a voice-over that he has always known this but has kept it a secret. He has grown up alone with his mother after the suicide of his drunken, abusive father. However, his mother has a weak heart and she cannot continue to do the hard work required to support the two of them. She winds up in the hospital after her heart fails. The man, played by Park Hee-soon (The Scam, A Million, Hansel and Gretel…), decides it is time to reveal who is really is in order to relieve his mother’s concerns about money. However, as he whispers his secret to her, she has a heart attack and dies. 

Left alone, the man falls deeper and deeper into his delusion. Donninig a wig, sunglasses and general attire of a latter-years Lennon, he goes out to astound the world with his singing and songwriting skills. To his surprise, he is thrown out of every audition he attends. It is no surprise to the viewer though as he does not know how to play the guitar and the only song he attempts to sing has the words “I love you” repeated over and over and over again. Like any artist who does not have his ‘genius’ recognized, he does not blame himself, but society at large for being blind and/or idiots.  He then meets a young woman who bears a passing resemblance to a young Yoko Ono and stalks her.  She agrees to go out with him after he lies to her by saying his father was a wealthy diplomat but it is not long afterwards that viewers learn just how unstable he really is.

Throughout the film, the viewers’ sympathies are drawn to the man who, aside from being slightly odd, seems quite likable.  Therefore some later aspects of the film, as the man spirals deeper into insanity and desperation, we see quite a different side to him that is unexpected and terrifying. His frequent internal voice-overs no longer match the actions we can see unfolding on the screen and we can know firsthand how much he needs to lie to himself to maintain his fantasy world.  I strongly recommend this 30-minute film. It can be viewed on the My Beautiful Short Films 4 DVD and is subtitled in English for non-Korean speakers.

Posted in 1990s, Review, short films | Comments Off

Korean Box Office: October 16-18

18th October 2009


It’s already time for universities to give students mid-term exams and fall is deeply entrenched. Gone are the summer audiences that flocked to see the latest films. District 9 was the only film able to clearly divide itself from the pack taking nearly three times the percentage of viewers that the number two film was able to earn. As expected, the new movie Busan did not do very well–(the actors chosen for the leads kept me away)–except in the city of Busan itself. There the movie ranked fourth in the box office charts.

Speaking of Busan… It will be interesting to see how Good Morning President does this week when it opens in theaters.  It was the opening film of this year’s Pusan International Film Festival and has been receiving quite a bit of attention from the press.


A. Cake (can/us)- d. Nisha Ganatra, starring Heather Graham, Sandra Oh

B. Come Out Fighting (us)- d. Dito Montiel, starring Channing Tatum, Zulay Henao

C. Good Morning President (kr)- d. Jang Jin starring Lee Soon-jae, Jang Dong-geon

D. Grace Is Gone (us)- d. James C. Strouse, starring John Cusack, Shelan O’Keefe

E. Lala Sunshine (kr)- d. Kim Ah-ran, starring Yang Eun-yong, Lee Chan-yeong

F. Naruto: The Move (jp)- d. Masahiko Murata, starring Junko Takeuchi, Romi Pak

G. New York, I Love You (fr/us)- d. Shekhar Kapur et al, starring Natalie Portman, Orlando Bloom

H. Pandorum (us/ger)- d. Christian Alvart, starring Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster

I. Rabbit and Lizard (kr)-d. Ju Ji-hong, starring Jang Hyeok, Seong Yoo-ri

Posted in Box Office | 1 Comment »

Carniverous Animals (1984)

17th October 2009

carniverous animalsAh, Kim Ki-yeong…this is the third film of yours that I have reviewed on this site and I have to say that I am becoming increasingly disillusioned with your work.  After viewing The Housemaid (1960), I thought you were a genius.  I was very impressed with your 1979 movie Neumi. But then you made Woman of Fire in 1982 which was a new– but not improved version of The Insect Woman. And now this–Carniverous Animals–which not only rehashes several plot points of your earlier works but has managed to sear into my head some of the most disturbing fetish images I have ever seen on screen.  I am not so happy with you right now…

Carniverous Animals stars Kim Seong-gyeom as Dong-shik (the name of main character in both The Housemaid and Woman of Fire).  Dong-shik is married to a strong confident business woman played by Jeong Jae-soon and has a son and a daughter, both of college age. Dong-shik’s major problem is that he does not have the respect of anyone in his family primarily because his wife is the major bread-earner of the household.  He suffers insult after insult and is even at one point locked in a small room by his wife.  He feels as powerless as an infant…a point that will come into play soon.

Dong-shik spies a pretty young bargirl played by No Kyeong-shik. He pays her employer to allow him to get her drunk and then takes her out to his car and rapes her. The bargirl threatens to go to the police unless he takes her in as his wife and she is fully supported by her co-workers and boss who storm Dong-shik’s home while he is out and break dishes and furniture forcing his true wife to come up with a plan of action.  None to pleased with what is occuring she decides to teach her husband a lesson.

His wife arranges for Dong-shik to live in two houses and and will even give his mistress an allowance on the condition that Dong-shik does not lose weight while with her and that he is always ready to return home at midnight. At first Dong-shik cannot believe his wife’s generousity however it does not take long for him to realize that living this double life is not only exhausting mentally and physically, but it can also be dangerous. Squabbles break out nearly daily between his family and his mistress who his children are asked to call their ‘little mother’ even though she is younger than they.  Then their is the mysterious appearance and disapperance of a baby in his mistress’ house before a stranger turns up dead in her basement.

The movie has many of the same thematic elements found in Woman of Fire–a man, devoid of power, trapped between his wife and his mistress.  There is also the presence of rat poison which pops up in most of the other films by Kim that I have seen.  The scenes with the rats are very well done. When we first see them, they are rising out of a manhole cover in the mistress’ basement–literally. They were piled onto the cover and then it was raised so it looked as if hundreds of rats were pouring out of the hole (when if fact there were probably less than two dozen). While the young woman is aware she has a rat problem, she is not aware how serious it is–at least not until she leaves the baby alone in the house for several hours…

The subplot with the baby was very interesting and may have been the highlight of the film–what was not so good was the subplot of infantilism–the fetish of dressing up and acting like a child.  On three separate occassions Dong-shik and his mistress role-play baby and mother. The first is the worst where middle-aged, overweight Dong-shik dresses up in a diaper, bonnet, bib and bottle. Prior to having sex, his mistress tells him to dirty his diaper so she can change it–the whole scene is very disturbing…. The final time they take on their roleplay parts, they wind up having sex on a glass table covered with hard candies (actually marbles). The camera is placed below the table so we are ‘treated’ to this scene from underneath. Blah.  In Woman of Fire, Kim had his actors painted with gold paint and filmed them through a fireplace for a very artsy look.  There is nothing artsy about this scene though–not only is it unappealing, it looks extremely uncomfortable.

I recommend that if you are looking to watch films made by Kim Ki-yeong you should avoid anything made after 1980.  His early works are great–his later works will leave you cold.

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The Happy Life (2007)

16th October 2009

happy lifeOriginally posted January 19, 2007– A recent article in the Korean Herald mentioned how an increasing number of films are being made to target the older members of the audience who are making up an ever-growing percentage of the box office figures.  By ‘older members’ they were refering to viewers over thirty who have more stable jobs and a disposable income. The article mentioned several films that were propelled to success because of this crowd including May 18 and Radio Star.  The Happy Life was not mentioned, but clearly should have been as it was certainly created for the late thirties/early forties demographics who may long for the days when they were still young and free to do whatever they dreamed of rather than face the burdens of responsibility, failed careers that they do not really like anyway and marriages that have dissolved into a dull routine.

 The above description aptly fits the life of Ki-young, the main character in the film. He had lost his job sometime before the film begins and does not seem to have enough ambition to search for another at his age.  His short-tempered wife is a teacher and it is her salary that allows their family to continue. She appears to have stopped nagging him about getting a job though and goes through her daily routine that barely includes her husband. 

Ki-young learns of the death of a college friend who was also the leader of a band called ‘Active Volcano’ that both were members of.  After the funeral, the surviving members remember their days in college and Ki-young suggests that they start up their band again. After all, it was a dream that they all passionately shared before life got in their way and they all seem to be weary and tired of struggling through the motions of living lives they were never meant to. By denying themselves their dreams, they are slowly fading away to nothingness.

That is all well and good for Ki-young, but not really practical for the other former musicians.  Drummer Hyeok-soo is supporting a wife and two children who are studying in Canada to give them an academic advantage. He sells used cars for a living and sends his entire earnings to his spouse which has reduced him to living in a single room apartment and eating ramen every night.  The bass guitarist Seong-wook has recently been laid off from work and has taken to working several different part time jobs until his company is able to hire him back.  His wife, however, does not seem to realizes the seriousness of their situation and constantly spends money on the best tutors for their son, the best afterschool academies and any other method she can buy to make sure that their young son will be at the top of his class.

What follows is the story of their struggles to live life the way that they want to, regardless of the cost.  Showcased throughout this tale are several songs written for the story that are quite catchy.  One of them was near to wearing out its welcome by the fifth time I heard it, but fortunately it is good enough so I didn’t really mind it.

This movie is listed as a comedy, but as you can see, there is nothing at all comedic about the plot.  ‘Feel good’ film yes, comedy no.  Definitely worth your time to see

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Director Lee Seong-gu

16th October 2009

lee seongguOriginally posted January 24, 2008— Director Lee Seong-gu is a man whose films I look forward to watching.  While not nearly as famous or as easily recognized today as his contemporaries Im Kwon-taek or Shin Sang-ok, Lee nevertheless was an extremely talented director who was often able to impart something special into his films.  I have already reviewed two of his works on this site, The General’s Mustache and Plateau, so I thought I should take the time to introduce the man.

Lee Seong-gu was born Lee Beom-ryong in 1928 in the city of Hamheung in what is now North Korea.  After he graduated from high school, Lee headed south and attended Donggook University majoring in Literature.  He was the nephew of director/producer Lee Byeong-il and used that connection to get a job as assistant director for Donga Productions in 1947–at only 19 years old.

Seong-gu did not work steadily at the job because of his studies at the university and then the war, but he did eventually debut as a director in his own right in 1960 with the film A Young Look starring Uhm Aeng-ran. This was followed the innovative Murder Without Passion where a chauffer and the wife of his employer try to make her husband’s suicide look like murder so they can collect the insurance policy.

All in all, Lee directed about 50 films and appeared as the lead actor in one, Baek Ho-bin’s A Ghost Story (1964).  Lee most famous movie is The General’s Mustache. His interest in literature lead to adapt many popular works of the times to film such as The Sun And The Moon (1967), When Buckwheat Flowers Blossom (1967) and Seven People in a Cellar (1969). 

In 1968 after completing The General’s Mustache, Lee attempted to immigrate to the United States.  This information surprised me considering his treatment of the characters who had just returned from the US in that film. The characterization was very unflattering as he made them appear to be simaltaneously arrogant and foolish. However, Lee himself failed his attempt to leave Korea at that time and he resumed making movies.

In 1978, Lee made his last film, The Road. In 1980 he and his wife, actress Lee Eun-shim (who played the title role in the acclaimed 1960 film The Housemaid), packed up and moved to the USA.  As of 2004, Lee was still living there.

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Fade Into You (2004)

16th October 2009

Originally posted January 28, 2008— fade into youFade Into You is a great movie for a rainy day when you might be feeling a little bit introspective.  It is NOT a movie to watch if you are in the mood for breathtaking action or exciting visuals.  During this film’s 70-minute running time, I don’t think more than ten short lines of dialog were spoken-and none that I remember in the first segment. However, the realistic actions of the characters living their solitary lives draws you in and allows you to identify with what they are feeling–or not feeling. The story is divided into three segments which briefly look into the lives of three different individuals with remarkable similarities.  The first stars Lee Nan (who had directed the short Swing Diaries in 1996) as ‘the man who travelled to space’. The second features Kim Han as a new worker who takes a short business trip to Wonju and the final third of the film watches a young woman played by Ok Ji-yeong who travels to Jeju Island.

The fact that they all taking trips is not what ties the three together. What marks them as similar is their complete lack of contact with other people.  The man travelling to space works in some sort of custodial position in a large facility.  He does not appear to have many duties and spends his time wandering the halls, looking out the windows at nothing in particular, eating in the company cafeteria or sleeping on his cot presumably on his job site. There is at least one other person there-and probably many more given the size of the facility–but we never see their faces and the man never speaks a word to them.

The second man has many more opportunities to have contact with people. He stops to help an old woman in a bizarre and amusing sequence. He works in an office that has an often-absent supervisor and at least one other employee.  All three of them drive to Wonju for a meeting and must spend the night there. However, the ride in the car is silent and the young man literally fades in and out as if he is not really there. Once in Wonju, the three eat a silent meal and sleep in different rooms. All opportunities to communicate and reach out to people are ignored.

The woman vacationing on Jeju Island is travelling alone and despite obviously being on holiday does nothing. She spends the entire first day lounging in her hotel and even orders room service instead of going out for dinner. Eventually, she phones for a rental car (which may be the only time where one of the characters initiates a conversation) and drives to the mountains where we watch her wander around looking at..nothing. With all the beautiful things a Jeju, the only thing that catches her attention-and that she examines for several minutes is a small stone.

At several points in the film, the viewer may wonder ‘What is such-and-such character looking at? Why are they doing nothing?” and then the director turns the tables on us. At one point in the film the director turns off the camera.  I sat and watched the suddenly dark screen waiting for something to happen. And I sat…and I sat… and I realized that I was doing exactly what the characters in the film were doing. I was just sitting and looking at an empty screen–not moving, not speaking–just waiting. And in that instant where I realized what I was doing, I completely understood the characters and felt even more empathy for them than I already had.

Fade Into You is the first and only work to date for director Chae Ki.  Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more from him in the future

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Director Bae Hae-seong

16th October 2009

bae haeseongOriginally posted November 30, 2007–Director Bae-Hae-seong was born as Bae Beom-seong on Christmas Day 1954.  He attended an industrial high school and later was able to enrol in the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. However, after just two years, he dropped out.  In the early part of the 1970s, Bae was travelling between Seoul and Busan involved with various works in the music industry, although he was not a musician himself. He became involved with a group of photo enthusiasts and was soon holding several posts in their club, including president for several consecutive years.  He interest in photography grew and he eventually founded an advertising company so he could work as a photographer creating ads. During that time, he also freelanced as a columnist writing articles about films and music. 

Bae directed three films, the first of which was I Want To Cry in 1989.  It was the story of three friends who are arrested and sent to prison. One of them is released early after she gives birth to a child whom she later abandons while another of the friends plots revenge against the old man who had her put in jail. The movie was based around a popular song of the same title released in 1988 and the film starred that song’s singer Lee Nam-yi.

His second film was a children’s superhero film called Space Warrior, FireMan. The plot and the style of the film were clearly influenced by the popular Ulemae series and starred comedian Lee Kyeong-gyu.  In the film, a princess and her general are on the run from an a hostile force that has invaded their planet. The take refuge on Earth in an elementary school where they are aided by the children one of whom can change into the mysterious superhero known as Fireman. This film was released in 1991.

He then took a seven-year hiatus from movie-making before returning in 1998 with the film Blues about a trio of friends who are willing to do anything for money. One of them is ready to leave the group to live an honest life with his new girlfriend, but the others convince him to do one last job with them. They plan to intercept a large shipment of drugs which they can later sell. Of course, things go horribly wrong…

Although it has been almost ten years since his last film, we may yet be hearing from Director Bae in the future. An internet search revealed that Bae seems to be back in the advertising/photography field including designing a cd cover for a band.

Update:  Director Bae returned to filmmaking in 2009—11 years after his last film— with the indie movie Father.  I have recently ordered his new movie and hope to review it shortly.

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Director Lee Jeong-guk

16th October 2009

lee jeonggukOriginally posted November 7, 2007— Lee Jeong-guk was born in Boseong, South Jeolla Province  on August 20, 1957.  He attended Joongang University majoring in the Department of Film and Performing Arts. While in college, Lee made four short films. The best of these were Baekil Mong (1984) and A Day in the Life of Two Men (1986).  These screened at short film festivals and earned Lee a great deal of positive feedback and critical acclaim. He had high hopes when he was finally was in a position to make and release his first feature length film, the independently produced The Song of Ressurection (1990).

Unfortunately, this film which focused on a man caught up in the events of the Gwangju Massacre failed to attract audiences nor did it gain the approval of critics. Quite frankly, it was ahead of its much so that no one wanted to film it for fear getting arrested. The facts about the Gwangju Massacre may have been well known to Lee who grew up in the area, but what happened in that incident was not generally known by the rest of Korea and most citizens at that time preferred to accept the government’s take on the event. Now, in the more open and democratic climate,this film would probably benefit from being re-evaluated by current critics and viewers.

After that failure, Lee waited three years to release his next film, The Story of Two Women.  This film was a great success. It depicted the lives of women from the end of the Korean War through the seventies–a time of extreme poverty and rapid changes that were not always easily assimilated. This powerful film won Lee numerous awards including Best New Director and Best Screenwriter in 1994. 

His next film was Channel 69 in 1996.  In this film, Lee chose to battle have his characters battle censorship as they struggle to create a porn website. Because of the nature of the film, it did not receive wide acceptance, but his next move The Letter (1997) became one of the most popular melodramas of its time. From its cute meet at the beginning to its heart-rending end, The Letter follows a formula set forth by many melodramas before it, but it does it quite well. It helped that the lead actors were Choi Jin-shil and Park Shin-yang.

This film was followed by yet another melodrama, The Promenade in 2000. However, while audiences were kind to the predictable nature of The Letter, they were far less kind in their evaluations of The Promenade and the film is considered a failure. (But I love the poster!)

After a three-year break, Lee returned with one a film I hate above all others, Blue. This horrible, ‘blockbuster’-style, action/melodrama left me extremely disappointed with direction his career seemed to be taking. Its a movie that doesn’t seem to know which way it wants to go…Lee speaks about the film in an interview he did with Film2.0 at the time of his release translated below.

Most recently, Lee co-directed The Resurrection of the Butterfly (2007) that received a limited release in an arthouse theater in Seoul. Currently, Lee is a film professor at Sejong University.  Even more recently Lee


++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++     ++++++++++++++++++++++

This interview, conducted by Jang Byeong-won was conducted on February 5, 2003

Doesn’t it seem a bit extreme to go from making melodramas like <Promenade> and <The Letter> to making a high-seas action blockbuster?

I suppose, on the surface, it might look like a ‘high-seas action’ movie but the central theme that I really wanted to express was the strength of friendship that can be found between men.  I personally feel that this movie is not a big change from what I have done previously.  Although the scale is a little larger, it is basically the story of <The Letter> moved out of the forest and onto the ocean.  Did you read the information about our shooting schedule running over and how much we spent, especially on special effects and computer graphics? That was the real change. Dramatically, there is hardly any difference.  And it was a great opportunity for me to learn about filming action sequences, and using the graphics and special effects that we needed for this film.

<Blue> was in production for a very long time.

This is the first time that it has taken me so long to make a movie. <Promenade> took exactly 21 days to shoot and it was released within 3 months of starting.  <Blue>, on the other hand, took about 3 years to finish.  That was partly because it was such a large scale movie combined with the fact that we had to adjust our shooting schedule daily according to the navy’s schedule.  Also, even though we had received permission from the Ministry Of Defense to shoot on the navy base in advance, we had to go through the whole process of requesting permission a second time when the head of the ministry changed.  We needed time to work with the actors, select the opening computer graphics and post-production required even more time to complete a lot of the computer graphics found throughout the movie.

The computer graphics, special effects and underwater photography all combined to make the scale of this film bigger. But it seems you had to be especially careful in doing all these things at sea.

I left all the problems of graphics, effects and underwater photography to the specialists. I devoted myself to depicting the drama in <Blue> in a manner I would be satisfied with.  Above all things, this movie is a drama. Maybe some directors who make art films can ignore drama because he possesses a sense of style, but I make commercial films. The main concern of any commercial film is the drama within. I wanted that to go without a hitch and that was my only focus.  I was satisfied with talking to the specialists before each shoot so I could tell them the image I wanted to create in each scene.

The underwater scenes looked great.

Back when they made <The Phantom Submarine> they used a ‘dry-for-wet’ technique. They used some kind of smog to create the feeling of being at a great depth.  Then 3D graphics were added.  The shots of the nuclear submarine were actually shot on a set and the rest was completed with computer graphics.  Several years have passed since that technique was developed and a lot of progress has been made on it since then.

It feels as if there is no clear antagonist in <Blue>.  Most of the disagreements are caused from difficulties in love, friendship, and authority.

When I first saw the scenario, I thought that it was a little stale and I considered throwing it out.  I thought out some more problems to draw out the drama and added some elements of danger.  Without those elements, the story had seemed disjointed.  The basic story is just two men in love with one woman, but the friendship grows stronger because of disaster.  I once made a movie called <A Tale Of Two Women>, this movie could be called ‘A Tale Of Two Men.’

With all the plotlines running through <Blue>, it seems like we are seeing several different movies.

I wanted to make a movie like <The Letter> where the genre is clearly defined, but it didn’t work out that way.  It became a mixture of genres.  These days, many Korean movies seem to have an identity crisis.  Melodramas are stuffed full of comedy and comedies are filled with action.  <Blue> is basically a melodrama which incidently contains comedy, action and suspense.  The story is mixed, not because I intentionally blended genres, but because it was difficult to separate those elements out.  In the long run, having various dramas helped in filming this movie.

What kind of movie do you think you’ll make next?

For the past two years, I have been working on a thriller. Korean film critics have indicated that there is a stagnation of certain genres and have said that if someone wants a challenge, they should take on a thriller.

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