We briefly chat to the director of The Last Stand, A Tale Of Two Sisters and A Bittersweet Life…
Kim Jee-woon hardly needs an introduction. The director made his Hollywood debut earlier this year with The Last Stand, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and recently signed on to direct comic book adaption Coward, but was already well known for horror A Tale Of Two Sisters and crime drama A Bittersweet Life before The Good, The Bad, The Weird was released in UK cinemas.
He previously presented I Saw The Devil at the London Korean Film Festival in 2010, but this time he was in town to present four of his short films: One Perfect Day, Coming Out, Heavenly Creature (from Doomsday Book) and Present.
I’ve been lucky enough to interview him before. Twice. He’s easily a director for whom a dozen questions will pop into your head without even thinking. But as I’ve previously noted, he approaches questions in a scrupulous and deliberate manner, meaning that my already squeezed 10 minutes doesn’t go very far at all. No matter, maybe next time I’ll finally get round to asking him what he thinks of Takashi Miike’s version of The Quiet Family. Maybe…
You’re at the London Film Festival to showcase your short films. What is about the process of making short films so special?
It’s difficult to compare the two genres, but maybe you could compare short with feature length films in the same way you might the novel and poetry. Whereas the novel is the epic of literature, poetry encapsulates the essence of thing, the esprit of situations. The director has to learn to use these pneumatic rhythms accordingly.
In some ways, you have to give a strong impact in the very short duration of time that’s available to you, so working on a short film is often tougher than working on a feature length film, in that regard.
I wondered to myself why I keep making so many short films. It’s probably not because I have any love or affection towards them, but more because I can’t bear not making films full stop. The waiting period for the next film can be quite long, so I’d rather make something short rather than just sit around. And also making short films involves less pressure.
It feels like there is something of a shift towards established directors like Park Chan-wook making short films, rather than emerging ones. Do you think that might be saying something about the film industry?
I don’t think it’s a big shift within the film industry per se, but I feel many big companies are changing their marketing strategy to include short films. For instance in the late 1990s, when the renaissance of Korean cinema began, many star directors were asked to make short films. But the environment back then was very different form the one we have now. Back then the focus was on that renaissance, whereas now it’s much more to do with the marketing strategy of big film companies.
Also something else that is happening more these days, is when you have a new technology, such as a cinema related technology with emergence of 3D, and now something called ScreenX from CGV. Short films are deployed to demonstrate that new technology [referring to his short film The X].
Some of the sponsors you’ve found for these films have been quite surprising; the sponsor for One Perfect Day is a clothing company. How did that come about?
That company, called Kolon, a sporting, outdoor clothing company, their chief marketer had this idea of not going for the regular form of advertising. He wanted to have collaborations with well-known Korean directors to promote a very high-class image of the brand, and he was aware of something similar being done at Chanel and Louis Vuitton. They were very interested in changing the culture of advertising in Korea, so that’s why the two Park brothers and I were invited to make films for them.
On a personal level, I used the opportunity to have a go at new genre, because I had never tried a melodrama or a romantic comedy before.
I believe you are attached to direct the live-action version of Jin-Roh, and I wonder if you could tell me what attracted you to the project?
I’ve always been a fan of Oshii Mamoru and I’d always wanted to try a sci fi noir film, I was also very drawn to the very distinctive looking protective gear worn by the characters and drawn to a story with strong male characters.
Thank you for your time.