Korean directors talk ‘Wave’ crash

Discussions held at PiFan fantasy film fest

BUCHEON – Helmers Friday searched for explanations and appropriate reactions to the rapid recent crash of the “Korean Wave,” the phenomenal surge of popularity which for a few years made Korean movies the dominant force in Asian cinema.

Discussions were part of a seminar hosted by the PiFan fantasy film festival. They followed screening of “The Angry Young men of Korean Cinema,” a documentary by French helmer Yves Montmayeur, which was lensed at absolute crest of the “Korean Wave” and now seems hopelessly at odds with current reality.

“Eighteen months ago we were working like crazy, we could scarcely find time for your interviews,” Ryu Seung-wan told Montmayeur. “Now things are a lot calmer.”

“It now seems Bong Joon-ho’s monster was prophetic,” Kim Yeung-jin said, in a reference to last year’s overwhelming, but unrepeated hit, “The Host.”

PiFan aud quizzed helmers if they had deliberately toned down the political and social critiques in their more recent movies. “The fundamentals of what we are doing don’t change even if the tactics do,” Min Kyu-dong (“Memento Mori”) said. Ryu, who worked as a laborer to finance films including “Die” Bad” and “Crying Fist” was clearly irked by the question, but admitted “I have a wife and children. Maybe I am less angry these days.”

Park Chan-wook, best known of the helmers present and who recently suffered dismal flop of his “I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK,” said that establishment of director-led production houses in Korea was not a conscious rejection of studio system, but a part of the creative process.

“We all show each other our scripts and treatments,” Park said. “I’ll have to include the people who have criticized them on the end credits.”

Montmayeur, who has also made a docu on Hong Kong cinema, offered a suggestion that such communal approach may be one means to step away from current air of crisis. “Hong Kong cinema reached a crisis with the end of the studio system in the 1990s,” he said. “Now we see new independent companies being built around the like of Johnnie To and Alan Mak. It may be the start of a new creative system.”

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