[ENTERTAINMENT]Strange love to test waters at Venice

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Strange love to test waters at Venice

What does a public toilet mean to you? To Fruit Chan, a director from Hong Kong, it's a springboard for youthful, adventurous tales, perhaps a place where a hero is born. His latest movie, "Public Toilet," produced by the Korean firm Digital Nega, will be screened at the Venice International Film Festival, which begins Wednesday. It is in the noncompetitive, or "upstream" section, which is set aside for established directors young and old.

The movie consists of three substories: one each set in Korea, Japan and Hong Kong. The local bit is set in Busan, and stars the Korean heartthrobs Jang Hyuk and Jo In-seong. Cho Sung-kyu, the head of Digita Nega, told the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition: "Chan deals with philosophical topics through fantasy here." Sixteen other films are in the upstream section, including a compilation put together by some of the world's best directors like Bernado Bertolucci and Jean-Luc Goddard called "Ten Minutes Older: The Cello."

The 21 directors vying for the Golden Lion, or best film award, include Korea's Lee Chang-dong, with "Oasis." Lee is a leading art house director; his stories deal with the dark side of society. "Oasis" is a love story between an odd couple ?one mentally disabled, the other handicapped.

Lee's film was late getting to the organizers, but they made an exception for him. Normally, films must be in by June 15, but "Oasis" was getting its finishing touches around then, and was given an extra month.

Lee follows two other local directors whose movies played Venice last year -- Kim Ki-duk with "Nabbeun Namja" (Bad Guy) and Song Il-gon with "Kkotseom" (Flower Island). Both came back lionless, but insiders say Lee has a better chance. In Korea, "Oasis" has attracted about 500,000 viewers since opening last week.

But it may be an upstream battle for Lee, because his film will be up against a few star-heavy U.S. entries. One, "Road to Perdition," stars Tom Hanks and Paul Newman and is directed by Sam Mendes of "American Beauty." "The Hours," by Stephen Daldry, has Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Ed Harris. "Frida," by Julie Traymor, has Salma Hayek, Ashley Judd, Edward Norton and Antonio Banderas.

The festival runs to Sept. 7, and will include events to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks in New York.

by Chun Su-jin

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