A backward glance for Mr. Bae

Home > Culture > Arts & Design

print dictionary print

A backward glance for Mr. Bae


Director Bae Chang-ho [JoongAng Ilbo]

Failures become most obvious in retrospect. The past allows you to see situations objectively. At least that’s how life works for director Bae Chang-ho.

Currently, The Korean Association of Cinematheques is holding a “Retrospective on Bae Chang-ho” in Seoul Art Cinema in Jongno, central Seoul.

The featured films include Bae’s debut work, “People in the Slum” (1982) and “Whale Hunting” (1984). The retrospective started last Tuesday and ends this Sunday.

“At first, opening a retrospective was a burden for me,” Bae said. “On second thought, however, it was a chance to look back on my career from a third-person point of view.”

Those films that Bae thought were failures based on audience attendance turned out to be significant for the lessons they taught him.

“Looking back relates to the future,” the director said. “For future reference when making films, it’s important to be in touch with what the public is interested in.”

“Deep Blue Night” (1985), which plays tomorrow at 5 p.m., stars actor Ahn Sung-ki and actress Jang Mi-hee. The film was a big hit during the 1980s.

In the film, Ho-bin (Ahn Sung-ki) dreams the American dream. He intentionally meets random Korean-American women in the hope of obtaining American citizenship. Ho-bin’s wife, however, is in Korea.

Whale Hunting, a film capturing the contemporary emotions of youth, screens today at 2:30 p.m. It features Byung-tae (Kim Su-cheol) and Min-wu (Ahn Sung-ki).

Byung-tae, a young man, runs away from home in despair after being turned down by his lifetime crush.


From top to bottom:“People in the Slum” (1982); a scene from the film; a scene from “Deep Blue Night” (1985). Provided by the organizer

While wandering along the streets, Byung-tae meets Min-wu (Ahn Sung-ki), a bold beggar. The two wander together around the city.

Other films to be screened are “Road” (2004), “My Heart” (1999), “Love Story” (1996), “The Young Man” (1994), “Hello God” and “Our Sweet Days of Youth” (1987), “Hwang Jin-ie” (1986), “How Warm Was the Winter” (1984) ,“The Flower on the Equator” (1983) and “People in the Slum” (1982).

Bae, 55, became a director at age 29. In the 1980s, he directed 10 films, which is an average of one per year.

Bae says film culture is different now.

“Young directors today are fearful of failure,” Bae said. “But failure is what makes you learn. It points out what you are missing.”

“Young directors and filmmakers today are artificers of a capitalistic society,” Bae said.

Youthful passion is what’s needed today, Bae says, though he himself pursues depth in films, which reflects his life experience.

And to proceed with in-depth features, Bae quit his job as a professor early last year to concentrate on his work as a film director.

This isn’t the first time Bae has said farewell to a secure life. At age 29, he quit working at Hyundai and became a film director.

It wasn’t easy at first. His future was unclear.

And from his experience, he tossed some realistic advice to those youngsters who dream of being directors.

“Jumping into the film industry comes with a heavy price,” Bae said.

“It’s economically insecure,” he added.

“Writing one or two interesting novels during a lifetime is possible. But sustaining good work is what’s most difficult.

“Always remember that life comes before films.”

By Lee Hoo-nam JoongAng Ilbo/ Lee Eun-joo Staff Reporter [angie@joongang.co.kr]

The retrospective runs until Sunday. All films have English subtitles. Tickets cost 6,000 won for adults and 5,000 won for students.

To reach Seoul Art Cinema, take Jongno 3-ga Station, line No. 5, exit 5. For more information, call (02) 741-9782 or visit

Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)