[ENTERTAINMENT]Focus of year's films: crazes, originality

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Focus of year's films: crazes, originality

"You are a descendant of the Hyeongpung Gwak family, am I right?" asked Gwak Jae-yong (43), director of "My Eccentric Girlfriend."

"Yes, I sure am," replied Gwak Gyeong-taek (36) director of another 2001 hit movie "Friend," as he identified what clan his family is from. The two directors are two leaders of the craze for all things gangster and yeobgi, or bizarre, that hit the peninsula this year, bringing in unprecedented numbers of ticket buyers.

Like many Koreans, they began by talking about acquaintances. "I was friends with the actor Joon-baek while studying in the United States. He played a small part in my movie," says the younger Gwak. "Of course, he and I were in the same film club in college," said Gwak Jae-young. "He still nags me to pay back the 300,000 won ($232) I borrowed back then to make a short film."

Their conversation naturally led to the craze. "The movies 'Friend,' 'Kick The Moon' and 'Hi, Dharma' were all filmed around the same period of time," noted Gwak Gyeong-taek. "In other words, 'Friend' did not inspire the other two movies. Last year, horror movies were in and then melodramas were the mainstream during the first part of this year. It doesn't seem right to denounce all gangster and yeobgi films together," said Gwak Gyeong-taek.

In reply Gwak Jae-Yong said, "I agree. Critiques should contemplate more on why audiences like these kinds of films. In fact, didn't 'My Wife Is a Gangster' and 'My Eccentric Girlfriend' both reverse the fixed idea of chauvinistic men and oppressed women in our society?"

Gwak Jae-yong then joked about how the veteran actor and assemblyman Shin Seong-il strongly criticized the violence in "Friend," but thought "My Eccentric Girlfriend" was such a funny film. Gwak Gyeong-taek suggested, "Don't you think it is because there wasn't much happening this year in general? Things were disappointing in both politics and the economy, so people turned their eyes to the movie scene." He also argued that "Friend" was simply a human drama with the trappings of a gangster film.

While they largely agreed about the current status of the Korean movie industry, they held quite different thoughts on its future.

"The industry should avoid following one mainstream style," said Gwak Jae-yong. "The tendency for producers to focus so much on casting is also a problem. Everything, from the screenplay to distribution and marketing, needs a more systematic evaluation."

Gwak Gyeong-taek, however, believed that large corporations needed to nurture new talent, as is done in the United States.

They have both already chosen their next cinematic challenges. Gwak Jae-yong will make a science fiction melodrama, and has a contract to make two other movies in the next five years. Gwak Gyeong-taek is eager to make "Champion," the life story of the late boxer Kim Deuk-gu, an idea which he has had since he was 17.

by Park Jong-ho

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