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“There Is No Scenario… Just as in Our Life”

Posted November. 18, 2003 23:08,   


“Low Class Life (下流人生).”

This is the movie that Director Lim Kwon-taek is working on now who has achieved a long-sought desire of the Korean filming industry by winning the Director’s Award at the Cannes Film Festival last year with “Chihwaseon (Strokes of Fire).” The movie is his 99th work since his first movie, “Farewell Dooman-gang” in 1961. I met the director at the open set of “Low Class Life” in Puchon Fantastic Studios in Bucheon, Gyeonggi at 5 p.m. on November 14. This is his first interview about his films since he won the Director’s Award.

- Music by “The Great Father of Korean Rock” Shin Jung-hyun

“‘ChunHyang’, ‘Chihwaseon (Strokes of Fire)’ and now ‘Low Class Life’... Even they (at the Cannes Film Festival) will get surprised, too. I wonder how they will react.”

The movie “Low Class Life” involves a lifetime story of a scamp who lived throughout the late 1950s and early 1970s. Tae-woong who was closer to his own fist than to a book is the hero of this movie. He is indifferent to the historical turmoil of 4/19 and 5/16, but he involuntarily gets involved in the raging waves of the history. Cho Seoung-woo of “ChunHyang” and “Classic” was cast as Tae-woong, and Kim Min-sun of “Glass Shoes” as Hye-ok who guides Tae-woong as the compass of his life as if being his mother or sister. It is also great news that Shin Jung-hyun, who is called as the great father of the Korean rock music, is working on the music of the movie.

The interesting thing about the movie is that the character of Tae-woong and the settings of the movie vaguely resemble the ones of the master trio of the director Lim, cinematographer Jung Il-sung, and producer and president of Taehung Pictures Lee Tae-won. Inside the film, there is a movie being made called “Low Class Life,” and Tae-woong gets involved in military goods supplying and making films after living as a scamp.

“I portrayed human nature with innocence getting stained with the crooked sides of our life, and the life continues to detriment without one’s being able to notice it. We, all three of us, have ‘survived’ those days. I thought of reviving the age where we and all the surrounding people have lived rather than doing a fiction,” the director says.

- Misunderstanding because of the rumor that it is a follower of “Son of the General”

The misunderstanding derives from the lack of known information about the movie. The action scenes take up around 30 percent of it, but he focuses on a different perspective.

“An act that steals a nation’s authority with might is third-class and low-class. All of us at the time, as well as the hero in the film, have lived a life as a third-rater. This movie is about the people who could not have avoided the fate of being sacrificed in that bleak age rather than an action movie,” he says.

- The number 100 drives me crazy.

Speaking of which, I asked about the movie that will become his 100th work.

He simply said, “I’m not interested in numbering it as the 100th.” He counts the film “Weed” of 1973 as his genuine “debut.” It is his 51st work as well as the first movie he produced.

“I barely survived before marriage. I just thought that it was lucky to be born and survive everyday. It was all in vain. Whenever I made some money, I spent it on drinking soju and didn’t care if I ran out of money. I never thought of making a good film that would last but just did it anyway to make ends meet. The first 50 films were truly made that way. So, that’s why the number 100 really drives me crazy.”

Would it be about a potter? He said that he has wanted to tell a story about a potter even before “Chihwaseon.”

“I interviewed people and stayed out some nights by the furnace. But I’m still not confident. I don’t know whether it would be the 100th, but I want to make it some time when I’m free.”

- It’s never satisfactory, but then it’s over.

“People say that I have achieved something since I’ve earned the Director’s Award at the Cannes Film Festival. But I have never thought that I have achieved anything. It’s just that the award has set some burdens off of the Korean filming industry as well as some of mine, and it felt good.”

There is no specific scenario for “Low Class Life.” The actors and actresses receive documents of the day’s acting plans every morning. This is out of his perfectionist desire striving to make the best scenes.

“There’s this large frame of the story. But a scenario with details in it confines the actors and actresses as well as the director. Surely, there is a better and more truthful expression for every scene. So we go crazy everyday.”

With my remark that the “master trio” has been together for 20 years since filming ‘Biguni’ together in 1983, he expressed surprise by saying, “Wow, that long,” and said, “It is a real present not to mention about one’s age or numbers.”

At 8 p.m. at the set of “Low Class Life” with darkness everywhere, Director Lim exclaimed, “Ready, go!,” finally directing a Q sign.

Reporter Kim Gap-shik, dunanworld@donga.com