Local films go for mega flicks in 2008
Despite major hits such as “D-War” and “May 18” and Jeon Do-youn winning the Best Actress award at the 2007 Cannes International Film Festival, overall revenue dropped significantly.
With the number of people going to the movies decreasing for the first time in 11 years, some commentators claim that the decade-long Chungmuro renaissance is finished.
The JoongAng Ilbo surveyed 25 movie experts, including producers, investors and critics, on movies earmarked for release this year.
Included in the survey were the movie critics Kang Yu-jeong and Jeon Chan-il as well as Jeong Seung-hae, the owner of Achim Productions.
For them, the renaissance is still alive, though not in the first bud of youth.
Two trends describe Korean movies this year: blockbusters and period movies.
According to these 25 movie buffs, the most promising movie for 2008 is “The Good, the Bad and the Weird.”
It’s a Korean-style western set in Manchuria, the historical name of three Chinese provinces: Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaon.
Many Korean freedom fighters made their home there during the Japanese colonial rule in Korea.
The 10 billion won ($10.6 million) blockbuster tells the story of three guys ― a bounty hunter, a hit man and a train hijacker ― who are hunting for the same treasure.
The cast is very strong with Song Gang-ho, Lee Byung-hun and Jung Woo-sung taking the main roles.
Jung plays the cool good guy who pursues criminals for money. Lee plays the miserable bad guy who kills people for money. Song plays the witty weirdo who rides a motorcycle and hijacks trains.
The movie will open in theaters in the summer.
The respondents agreed that Kim Jee-woon, the director of this movie, produces high-quality comedy, horror and film noir.
“He adds a new flavor in each genre he directs,” they said.
Others said, “This movie will be an indicator of how well the Chungmuro industry will fare in 2008” and “Successful movies always have something refreshing in them.”
Another movie many respondents recommend to watch out for is “Modern Boy.”
It’s set in Gyeongseong, the former name of Seoul under Japanese colonial rule.
It’s about a man named Lee Hae-myung who doesn’t care about reality, but only seeks pleasure and romance. Everything changes after Lee meets the mysterious Jo Nan-shil through a college friend at Tokyo University.
The movie is about a dangerous kind of love that transforms a lightheaded womanizer into a fervent freedom fighter.
Director Jeong Ji-woo wanted a charismatic actress to play Jo. He needed to persuade the audience why the leading man was so obsessed with this woman.
“Her character must be so engaging and powerful that even if you believe she’s lying, you just hold her hand and follow her when she asks, ‘Come with me?’”
One of Korea’s top actresses, Kim Hye-soo, is perfectly cast as Jo.
The film buffs we surveyed said this movie is distinguished for its new approach to filming the 1930s and for its great directing.
“The visuals are terrific and the characters intriguing,” one of the respondents said.
Audiences will be able to watch “Modern Boy” in April.
Another period movie also caught the critics’ eye. “He’s Far Away,” still being filmed in Thailand, will open in theaters this summer.
It’s set in the Vietnam War in the 1970s. Many Vietnam War-era movies have been made, but this movie is one of the few that tells the story from a woman’s point of view.
Suni has been living a quiet life, but her world is turned upside down when her husband is drafted to fight in Vietnam. Suni misses him so much that she decides to join an entertainment support unit bound for Vietnam.
“It was refreshing to see the war from a woman’s point of view,” was one response in our survey. “The audience will be able to enjoy the music, a poignant story and the spectacle” was another.
Another promising blockbuster is “Shingijeon,” directed by Kim Yu-jin.
This 10 billion won movie is also a period piece. It goes back much further than the movies mentioned above.
It’s set in the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910). Shingijeon is the name of a weapon that King Sejong, the creator of Hangul, the Korean alphabet, ordered his scientists to develop in the 15th century.
The rocket-propelled weapon fires multiple arrows carrying small bombs over a great range. The production team made the now-defunct weapon using authentic designs from history books.
The movie is filled with epic battle sequences between secret agents assigned to protect the development of this weapon of mass destruction. The Chinese do not want the weapon to be developed.
Possible parallels with the world today and the problem of the proliferation of nuclear weapons?
Ahn Sung-ki plays King Sejong, and Jeong Jae-yeong plays Seol-ju, who falls in love with the daughter of one of the key scientists working on the weapon.
Seol-ju has to protect his love interest from a gang of Chinese agents determined to stop the Koreans and their arms industry. The movie will arrive in theaters in April.
All the movies mentioned so far are mega-budget epics that cost between 7 billion won and 10 billion won. But the more small-scale “Night and Day” also excited the survey participants. Kim Yu-jeong is a painter who runs off to Paris where he falls in love with a Korean student.
But Kim is already married.
Those that participated in the survey agreed that what is most promising about the 2008 releases is their “uniqueness.”
“People don’t want to watch a movie that reminds them of another movie they saw before. They get tired of watching the same stories over and over again,” was a general comment.
“One of the secret weapons of the Korean movie industry over the last five years has been its ability to produce refreshing commercial movies,” said another.
One person criticized the film industry in general. “Rather than blaming illegal downloading of movies and high ticket prices, Chungmuro needs to refresh itself.”
Not everyone agrees on the health of Chungmuro, but we’ll soon know ― when the 2008 movies finally open.
By Lee Hoo-nam JoongAng Ilbo/ Lee Yang-kyoung Staff Reporter [email@example.com]