Director refuses to get seriousWhen movie director Kim Sang-jin was asked why his movies always sell millions of tickets, his answer was, “Because I make them well.”
He won’t take the bait when invited to comment on reviews that say his newest comic horror movie, “Guishini Sanda,” or “Ghost House,” is disappointing compared to his previous work.
“I thank those who have watched all of my movies and compare them,” he replied.
Mr. Kim, 36, is famous for making movies that make people laugh. “Juyuso Seupgyeoksageon!” (Attack the Gas Station!) in 1999, “Shillaui Dalbam” (Kick the Moon) in 2001, and “Gwangbokjeol Teuksa” (Jail Breaker) in 2002 are his most successful pictures. “Guishini Sanda” opened on Sept. 17 and sold more than 2.4 million tickets in two weeks.
“During the holiday season, people tend to prefer light and funny movies. I was aware that the movie was going to open right before the Chuseok holidays, and it worked.” It is easy to see how he learned to direct from the famous Korean blockbuster-maker Kang Woo-suk.
But is Mr. Kim going to stop making movies that sell, and attempt films with substance, even though it may mean fewer people watching? His answer is simple: “No.”
“What is the point of making movies that no one is going to watch? It is a fantastic feeling to sit in the corner of a theater and see all the people who came to watch my movie,” he said. “Isn’t it all moviemakers’ wish to see their movies be popular?”
He eventually elaborated on his response to the negative reviews for “Guishini Sanda”; some critics called it “childish,” or “not as funny as his previous movies.”
“Compared to the past, the reviews are not as harsh,” he said. “When I made “Attack the Gas Station!” (the movie that made him famous), I was even referred to as a bad element of society.” He said that those who criticize and dislike his movies help him to make better films.
“The style of ‘Guishini’ is certainly different from my previous films. In my other movies, characters were the key elements. Now, the plot is the most important.
“There are parts that I’m not quite satisfied with in this movie, but I get good reviews from others, too. My father is one of them,” Mr. Kim said.
“When I made my first movie, my father was very proud of me,” he said. “When I was an assistant director, however, he used to say, ‘Quit the stupid job and get a real job.’”
There were other times his father, a police chief, was less than enthusiastic about Mr. Kim’s work. He did not like the way policemen were depicted in Mr. Kim’s movie “Two Cops.”
It was not the type of family background that necessarily lends itself to movie directing either, and his chosen career path bewildered some of his friends.
“My college friends said that they could never imagine me as a movie director,” he said. “It’s almost as mysterious as [famous Korean film star] Sul Kyung-gu, who used be so shy in front of an audience, becoming a movie star.”
Mr. Kim says he never watched so-called “model” movies like “Citizen Kane.” He spent his formative years as a director looking for funny films instead. “First class rules the world, but third rate changes the world,” Mr. Kim reiterated, sharing his view that progress comes from ordinary people and things.
In the future, he plans to have his movies depend more on realistic characters and plots than on spontaneous events and coincidence.
“My movies are going to be more story-oriented,” he said. “And they will have more human breath, like “Life is Beautiful” by Roberto Benigni.”
by Lee Sang-eon
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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