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A Dialogue between Film Directors Song Hae-sung and Iwai Shunji

A Dialogue between Film Directors Song Hae-sung and Iwai Shunji

Posted October. 13, 2004 23:24,   


Director Song Hae-sung’s movie “Yeokdosan” is about a Korean wrestler who became a hero in Japan. “Love Letter” by Iwai Shunji has drawn the biggest audience in Korea among reality films. The two directors each presented their new works in the Ninth Pusan International Film Festival; Song Hae-sung (40) showed his film “Yeokdosan,” and Iwai Shunji (41) brought his new film “Hana and Alice” to the Korean audience. On October 9, Dong-A Daily invited both directors to a hotel lounge for an interview.

Song and Iwai share some common features. Both are in their early 40’s, and they have a one-year age gap. Also, they both have good looks like actors and are notorious for their stubbornness during the filming process.

Iwai’s new film “Hana and Alice” will meet Korean audiences in theaters on November 12. Song’s 10 billion won blockbuster “Yeokdosan,” in which 60 percent of the scenes are filmed in Japan, opens in theaters on December 15, and is scheduled to meet Japanese audiences around June next year. Let us hear what these two promising directors from Korea and Japan are talking about to each other and about movies.

“Loyal Fans – the Driving Engine for the Development of Korean Films”-

Song: What do you think of recent Korean movies?

Iwai: I think the Korean government’s subsidies to the movie industry, talented directors, and enthusiastic fans have boosted Korean movie growth.

Song: I personally feel sorry for the imbalanced movie industry. For example, Korean directors who have reached their 40’s begin preparing for their retirement. On the other hand, in Japan, elderly directors over 80 still take the megaphone. The size of the movie industry definitely expanded, but directors find the longevity of their career is getting shorter. Capital flow to movies has increased, but the integrity and spirit towards movies have disappeared.

Iwai: In Japan, there are some maniacs who watch Japanese movies only. But they are mostly enthusiasts for great directors like Kurosawa Akira. It is shameful, but honestly speaking, young directors in Japan don’t have loyal fans.

Song: For Korean directors, it is incredibly difficult to make several films in their lifetime. Their opportunities are blocked. Reflecting the commercialism in the movie market, my career as a movie director is now going downhill (laugh).

Iwai: I guess directors are destined to be incapable of being satisfied. They always say, “No.” I think that is the path for directors.

“Sensitive History That Even Japanese Directors Can’t Touch”-

Song: “Hana and Alice” seems to have your distinctive style of having images like watercolor paintings, and teenage innocent love and memories. Your screen aesthetics and keen sensibility somewhat impacted Korean directors. But I can’t make those sensitive flicks at all. “Failan” and “Yeokdosan” both have fights and dark scenes of back streets.

Iwai: I don’t want to stick to melodrama. The issue is money. I have scenarios for different genres, but it is financially insecure to make those into films.

Song: What do you think about a Korean director who makes a movie about Yeokdosan?

Iwai: I think it will be very sensitive work. Yeokdosan was a hero of my father’s generation. I hope a lot of Japanese view the era fairly as it was seen through your movie.

Song: I bet I would get a lot of criticism from the audiences. (laugh)

Iwai: Considering his sketchy death, nobody could make a movie about him 10 or 20 years ago. You put yourself in one of the most sensitive chapters of history in both Korea and Japan.

Song: Yeokdosan in my movie is not a hero. He shows some heroic figure aspects; meanwhile, he does drugs and inflicts violence on women to get out of his obsessive ideas. Japanese audiences will probably wonder why Yeokdosan is not described as a hero in my movie.

Iwai: That makes the plot transform into a movie. If he was an obvious hero figure, his story should not be necessarily made into a movie. Showing his story is a task left for a director.

Gab-Sik Kim dunanworld@donga.com