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Cinema Old Boy Dreaming Another Big Hit

Posted October. 20, 2007 03:11,   


He was imprinted on my mind when I read a review of “Dress to Kill” quite some time ago. Though I didn’t master Lamaze breathing, he and I have many things in common: we have loving daughters, we once enjoyed watching grand videos, we were both afraid of the World Cup, and we both like Thomas Alan Waits songs. His name is Park Chan-wook.

I could immerse myself in movies for several years as if I was mesmerized, and I could have inclinations to do something bizarre and electrifying. This is because I read his book, “The Secret Glamour of Watching Movies,” which is like the bible for me. The book, written by him who knows altogether too much about films and published again recently with a new title, “Park Chan-wook’s Homage,” would make me stay up all night.

In the book, while exercising his extraordinary imagination, he gives each movie a subtitle borrowed from other movies in order to epitomize images of the movie. For example, he gave “The Silence of the Lambs” a subtitle of “La Peau Douce” directed by Francois Truffaut, and “Hannah and Her Sisters,” was subtitled with “Family Game” by Yoshimitsu Morita.

It was late fall in 1994, as I remember, that I encountered him while on the bus. I took a last rear seat and noticed him seated near me. “I enjoy reading your book,” I stated. That was my first hello to him.

I could feel skepticism from him, which is typical for film aficionados, and he looked slimmer than he does now. He was surprised at my noticing him since he was not popular at the time. He was barely known in the film industry with his film debut of “The Moon is What the Sun Dreams Of.” He warmly responded to me with smile as if my earnest words had resonated with him. With his usual languorous voice, he let me know he was on his way to a magazine publisher to collect his writing fees.

My vague respect for him, however, was changed to an absolute admiration, and he became a star in my mind. A couple of years ago, while I was wandering the backstreets of Chungmuro (known as the Korean Hollywood) after drinking, I was caught in a heavy shower. To avoid getting wet, I entered the Myungbo Movie Theater, and watched “Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance.”

As I sought refuge and chose the film by the title, I didn’t expect much. But I was caught off guard through the movie’s end. Like Bae Du-na, a female lead in the movie who received an electric shock, I was utterly shocked by the “greatest masterpiece in my life.” The intense and inauspicious atmosphere such as the dark water in the Ness Lake and the film’s absurd humor awakened my passion for movies.

Then, I had a chance to meet him again at a gathering last year. I was so glad to see him again that I overstayed my visit there, talking with him for as long as 30 minutes. This time, I could feel from him a composure that is usually only exuded by those who lead fierce lives.

Film critic Kim Yeong-jin, who has known him since he was in college, wrote in his newly published book, “On the surface, he acts as if he slacks the reins on himself, but he is addicted to training himself through artistic experiences.” In fact, when we talk about music, I feel his free soul crisscrossing from ancient classical music to modern day tunes recorded by ECM, a German record label.

When it comes to books, he has a keen desire for reading Johan August Strindberg’s plays and well-translated books. He is the incarnation of the spirit of the Renaissance that respects all kinds of cultural products.

Meanwhile, his saying that the gory scenes in his movies are okay because they are manipulated but that those scenes in horror films such as “The Ring” are so terrifying that he watches DVDs at home leads one to think of him as quite a complicated and contradicting man.

When I sent him a translated manuscript of Alfred Hitchcock’s work to get his brief recommendation, he kindly gave me advice after reading the 1,376 page-long manuscript.

To express my gratitude for his kindness, I managed to uncover seven long-playing records of Thomas Alan Waits who was said to be his favorite artist, and took them to a gathering with him. “If the noise of the place drowned out Waits’ husky voice and you failed to appreciate it, please listen to the LPs that I left behind for you.”

I continued, “I would like to ask you to grace the last chapter of the ‘Series of the Great Artist of the Modern Art’ with your writing, and I hope you know the birth of this series is my own homage to the star in my mind.”

“Oh, I am sorry, I just returned from an overseas trip, so I am not sure I deserve to become the star in your mind,” said Park.

A phone call was a “ray of light” in my mind. On Thursday afternoon, I managed to connect with him. It had been almost 10 days since I got the manuscript of the series from Jeong Sang-jun, director of Ulyou Publishing Corporation. Park’s voice on the line was literally a ray of hope for me, as I had been desperately waiting for his response.

“I met Mr. Jeong by accident. We met each other while drinking. Though it was the first time we met, we got along well. You said it was on the bus? Actually, I don’t remember, but I also heard that from Jeong,” said Park.

Park remembers when he wrote a recommendation for Alfred Hitchcock’s work two years ago. Though he didn’t know Jeong, he accepted the request because he was a fan of the series. He said he was “honored and proud.”

Park’s endeavor was more than a recommendation. He, who later confessed he was morbidly obsessed with writings, not only spellchecked but also pointed out mistranslations. Though Jeong was disturbed by his acts, he was received warmly by Jeong at their first encounter.

“Ulyou is a reputed publisher, but he was very humble, unlike other scions of distinguished figures. He was sophisticated and full of pride. I cannot help but become close to him,” said Park.

Park said, “Rather, Ulyou was a star in my mind.” He said the series of world literature published by Ulyou helped form who he is now and still maintains the series. With the association with Jeong and his affection for books, he became an advisor of the company.

“Did you ask how I am getting along? Well, I almost finished my new scenario. The title of it was known as ‘The Bat,’ but I will change it because it sounds like a horror movie. Though a vampire appears, it’s about love. Thank you for your interest. I hope we meet again later.”