Not Just Schlock: B Movies Make the Grade

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Not Just Schlock: B Movies Make the Grade

If you happen to be an intellectual film buff who scoffs at fantasy or horror, try defending your ideas to advocates of a popular festival. The organizers of the Puchon International Film Festival, otherwise known as PIFAN, believe that not all films have to reflect reality or follow a logical sequence.

At the fifth edition of PIFAN, you can admit if you are a film "escapist," because many other guests and film experts have come as much for the trashy horror and fantasy flicks as they have for the independent films that are deemed "high art." The psychopaths, beasts and flying yogurt bottles, which have invaded the screening rooms of this festival, may be hallmarks of "B-grade" or low-budget films in mainstream cinema, but here, these images represent the true spirit of dynamic filmmaking.

Almost 1,200 visitors, including 800 members of the press, descended upon Puchon, a city also known as Buchon and for fresh peaches and ginkgo trees, for the festival's opening weekend. Opening night in the Puchon Citizen Hall last Thursday began with remarks from festival hosts Bae Yu-jung and Hong Eun-chul, followed by a videotaped message from Darren Aronofsky, the director of the opening film, "Requiem for a Dream," who was unable to attend the festival.

The sibling directors of "Naked Again," Marten and Torkel Knutsson, who promoted their films at the Cannes film festival and in Puchon by baring everything and streaking the surprised audience, also appeared on stage fully clothed. Lloyd Kauffman, a festival jury member and director of "Citizen Toxie: Toxic Avenger IV," accompanied his rubber masked character Toxie on stage and received a rather ambivalent reaction from the audience when he made a sarcastic joke about another jury member's absence, cracking, "Director Huruhata Yasuo must be busy revising Japanese textbooks at home."

All tickets for the overnight screenings during the first two days of the festival were sold out. PIFAN's rather grueling schedule featured four consecutive films running from midnight through 8 a.m. Most of the young film enthusiasts managed to stay awake all through the night. Cine-rock live, which paired films with rock performances, was also a hit.

PIFAN is one of the rare events in Korea that seems to carry an authentic festival spirit. This is partly due to the event's eccentric selection of films, which draws at least as many people who want to simply laugh and have a good time as it does seasoned movie snobs. The city's small size, which makes it an unlikely venue for a festival of this magnitude, tends to bring a distinct collective sense to the festival atmosphere. Visitors were delighted to hear a recording from Jang Jin-young, this year's "festival lady"or representative, upon boarding the shuttle buses. Despite frequent delays in screening times and the difficulties in finding restaurants around the theaters, this rousing communal experience offered something for everyone.

by Park Soo-mee

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