[ENTERTAINMENT]Film Buddies, Weird or Not, Intrigue Fans

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Film Buddies, Weird or Not, Intrigue Fans

Kim Gi-duk, 41, is a director with a reputation for outlandish films.

"Seom" ("Island") (2000) told the story of an obsessive, stormy love affair between an alienated woman and a man who killed his former girlfriend after she betrayed him. The film included several scenes, including that of a man trying to maim himself by swallowing a fishhook, which were anathema to some moviegoers.

This reputation for "weirdness" seems to contradict Kim's personality, which strikes many as innocent, even naive. But, for many critics, it works - the originality of his ideas won the movie inclusion in the feature film competition section at the last Berlin Film Festival and screening at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. He is now an established, if singular, figure in Korean film. His success owes much to the actor Jo Jae-hyun, 36, who has appeared in four of Kim's six movies.

Jo Jae-hyun is better known to the public for his supporting roles in TV dramas. He has put his talents to use in in a variety of roles - as a ludicrous secretary, making a spectacle of himself in "Juliet-eui Namja" ("Juliet's Man") and then as a smart, pure-hearted man who gives his heart to a woman who is in love with somebody else in "Rookie."

But Jo is now moving further into the limelight with a string of lead roles under his belt, mostly in movies directed by Kim. Their collaboration is so solid they say they are now indispensable to each other.

"Jo's original, magnetic acting ability fits my way of filmmaking. He is the man who understands my films just right. As far as I am concerned, he leaves nothing to be desired," says Kim.

The actor was impressed by the director's unique approach to film before Kim had even made his first movie. When Jo was filming "Yeong-wonhan Jeguk" ("Eternal Empire") in 1995, he was offered a major role by an unheard-of director. After he read the script of Kim's debut film, "Akeo" ("Crocodile"), he jumped at the part. He played a vagabond who earns his living by collecting the dead bodies of those who have committed suicide floating in the Han River. Thanks in part to Jo's stellar performance, "Crocodile" was a success.

Kim and Jo continued to work together on Kim's second and third films. Jo says that he declined to star in Kim's "Paran Daemun" ("Blue Door") because he did not want people to have the impression that they were unable to work independently.

Their most recent collaboration, "Suchwi-in Bulmyeong" ("Address Unknown"), is scheduled for release on May 26. Kim said he continues to be impressed with Jo's performance, and moviegoers may continue to find themselves nonplussed - Jo plays a dog-meat dealer who hunts dogs and strips their bones of flesh.

They are not, however, without any words of advice for each other. Kim says, "I wish Jae-hyun would stop taking supporting roles in TV dramas. I'd like him to concentrate on starring in films."

Jo offers up his own words of wisdom: "Sometimes, I want Kim to listen to what others say, instead of being so dogmatic."

Their tips for each other are indeed a prescription for even better collaboration, if they are to continue working together, and it looks as though they are. Their fans are already eagerly awaiting their fifth collaboration, "Nabbeun Namja" ("Bad Guy"), which will start filming in June.

by Shin Yong-ho

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