[ENTERTAINMENT]An Improviser Rides Dark Roads of Life

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[ENTERTAINMENT]An Improviser Rides Dark Roads of Life

In the late 1960s, iconoclastic filmmakers like Dennis Hopper and Peter Bogdanovich burst into Hollywood threatening a revolution, but the coup never took place. Recently, a couple of Kurt Vonnegut's black-humor novels were adapted to the big screen but flopped conspicuously. That doesn't bode well for the young local filmmaker Hong Sang-su, a nonconformist whose movies are dark and cynical and have yet to draw big numbers at the box office.

But Hong doesn't mind the lack of commercial success. He probably understands that the disturbing realism he injects into his films puts off most viewers. Hong's films - 1996's "Ddoejiga umule bbajin nal" ("The Day a Pig Fell Into a Well"), 1998's "Gangwondoui Him" ("The Power of Gangwon Province") and last year's "Oh! Sujeong" ("Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors") - focus on and magnify the small things in life, and proceed to peel away layer after layer of masks and facades until the shocking, rotten core of reality is exposed.

Hong is wrapping up shooting on his fourth film, "Saenghwalui Balgyeon," which translates to "The Discovery of My Routines," although the official English title has not been settled on. The story follows a young actor (Kim Sang-gyeong) who decides to escape his day-to-day tedium by hitting the road around Gyeongju for a week. Along the way he befriends a dancer (Ye Ji-won), who came to the area to write poetry, and trysts with a married woman (Chu Sang-mi). Akin to the themes in his previous works, the director seems driven by a suspenseful search for truth and a compulsion to lay bare shame.

Taking a page from the stylebook of the auteur Jean-Luc Godard, Hong's creativity is grounded in instincts and improvisation. He does not write scripts for scenes until the night before he shoots. Then, every morning, he gathers the cast and explains to them where the story is headed that day.

"I try to keep the focus on the moment, and traveling," he says. "The cast and I get together and create scenarios every morning. I prefer collaborating with them in the morning because the lines we produce seem to come out more realistically."

The cast perceives the approach as an ongoing, unpredictable happening. "I feel like I'm just traveling around, not acting or doing anything artificial," said Kim Sang-gyeong. "A nice surprise is that I've found myself to be more creative than ever before."

In past films, Hong patterned his plots so that they eventually dug up secrets buried deep in the mind. But this time he's not as determined to wield the shovel. "I'm trying to find a little happiness in between our moment-to-moment life," he insists. The film is scheduled for release early next year. Will this one be Hong's first big money-maker? We will have to wait for the end of the story to find that out.

by Shin Yong-ho

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