Comedy-maker Cho directs tear-jerker set in dictatorial regime

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Comedy-maker Cho directs tear-jerker set in dictatorial regime

It is unnecessary for movies to show tearful scenes to make audience members cry. Show a boy and a girl, and adroitly tell the audience that they were never meant to be and soon soft sniffling will ripple across the room.
Such sounds were particularly noticeable during the press premiere of “Once in a Summer” by Cho Keun-sik, a former comedy-maker who directed this tear-jerking romance featuring Lee Byung-hun and Su Ae.

To get a peek at their favorite Korean pop star, some Japanese fans also filled seats among the press at the Megabox theater in COEX, southern Seoul, last week. A middle-aged Japanese woman who introduced herself as simply “Lee Byung-hun’s fan” said she “loved the movie” and that she had to wipe away tears throughout the screening.
Another woman, who said she came from Yokohama to see her favorite actor at the special screening before the film is released, said Lee was a better actor than Bae Yong-joon, or Yonsama, as he is widely known in Japan.
“[Lee and Bae] are both popular there but Lee acts better, I think,” Mari Ishii said excitedly.
“Once in a Summer” is narrated by Yoon Seok-yeong (Lee), a lonely 57-year-old professor who misses his first love and hates himself for not having been able to protect her in his younger days.
The story then goes back in time to the turbulent summer of 1969 when he first encountered the girl.
Seok-yeong was a rich urban boy who reluctantly followed his college mates to the countryside to give a helping hand to farmers. There, he met innocent beauty Jeong-in (Su) and the pair falls in love. It is set during the dictatorial regime of late President Park Chung Hee, when student activism was rife.
What started as simple dates for the two turned into a disaster as they got tangled in ideological issues.
The emotion reaches its peak with the two face to face in an interrogation room, with investigators threatening them. Seok-yeong denies ever knowing Jeong-in, and she tells the investigators that what he said is true.
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“The director and I took a long time understanding Seok-yeong’s character,” Lee said after the screening, explaining that although the script initially portrayed him as a cynical and pessimistic figure, he realized that made his character bland.
So, he said, he decided to depend more on his personal feelings and impromptu responses as the filming proceeded.
“I’ve never used more ad-libs in my acting life,” he said.
Su said the press screening was her first time watching the completed version of the film.
“Actually, I tried really hard not to lose myself while watching this film ,” she said.
“It would have been really embarrassing to cry watching my own film.”
“Once in a Summer” opens in theaters nationwide on Thursday.


by Lee Min-a
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