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종교 영화 어떻게 볼 것인가

2004년 멜 깁슨이 연출했던 <패션 오브 크라이스트>(Passion of Christ)는 예수의 고난을 사실적으로 그렸지만 영화의 리얼리티와 그로 인한 이미지의 잔인함과 폭력성과 리얼리티 사이에서 영화를 볼 것인가 말 것인가로 극장 밖에서는 영화 보다 더 큰 논란이 일었습니다. 그 후 2년이 되기 전에 멜 깁슨은 음주운전에 걸리게 되었고, 취중에 “이 세상의 전쟁은 모두 유대인들 때문” 이라는 발언을 던져 하루 아침에 인종차별주의자가 되고, <패션 오브 크라이스트>까지도 인종차별에 기반한 영화라는 논란에 휩싸이게 되지요.

그리고 10년 후 2014년 <노아>가 상영중입니다. 구약성경의 노아의 방주의 이야기를 다룬 이 영화는 타락한 인간들을 명망시키려는 신의 예시를 받은 노아가 그를 실천에 옮기는 이야기 입니다. 다들 아시다 시피, 커다란 방주를 짓고 이 세상에 존재하는 모든 동물 한쌍 씩을 태우자 하늘에서는 청천벽력과도 같이 비가 쏟아져 내립니다. 그러나 이 영화는 우리가 알고 있는 이 과정에 대한 영화가 아닙니다.

신의 계시를 받은 노아는 모든 인간을 말살하고자 하는 메시지를 하나의 오차도 없이 실행하고자 합니다. 이는 인간의 씨를 말려야 한다는 그의 해석에 기초해, 자신의 가족 역시 더 이상 대를 잇지 못하게 하기 까지 합니다. 둘째 아들이 원하는 여자 마저 외면한 채 아들만 데리고 방주에 올라야 했던 노아, 마지막 순간 방주에 올라 타려는 수 많은 사람들의 비명소리에 침묵하며 모른채 해야 하는 노아, 며느리가 임신을 했다는 사실을 접하고 태어난 손녀를 죽이려고 결심한 노아. 그는 신이 내린 계시와 그것을 실행하는 인간의 행위 사이에서 고뇌하고 오열합니다. 그야말로 인간 노아가 선택한 결심에 대한 가장 큰 두려움과 갈등, 괴로움을 깊이 있게 다루고 있지요.

영화 <노아>에 나오는 신은 ‘갓(god)’이 아닌 ‘창조자(creater)’로 호칭됩니다. 영화속에서도 우주의 탄생과 함께 지구에 어떻게 새명체가 존재하게 되는가를 성경의 창조론과 지적설계론을 교묘하게 섞어서 보여줍니다. 또한 노아가 방주를 짓도록 도움을 주는 타락천사의 등장은 오늘날 성경이 아닌, 채택되지 못한 외경 에녹서에 기반한 해석임을 알 수 있습니다. 여기에 타락천사들이 노아를 위해 돕고 희생하는 과정에서 창조자에 의해 다시 하늘로 불림을 받게 된 것도 현 기독교의 성경과는 배치되는 내용이지요. 며느리가 낳은 쌍둥이를 죽이려 하는 노아, 가족과 화해하는 순간에 비로소 무지개를 선물로 내린 점 등 즉, 영화 <노아>는 여러 면에서 현재 기독교가 승인한 성경의 내용과 위배되거나 확대된 내용을 전제하고 있다고 볼 수 있습니다.
이런 점 때문에 <노아>는 논란이 될 수 있고, 기독교 신자들에게는 불편한 요소들을 다분히 가지고 있습니다. 그러나 성서의 해석이 좀 다를 지라도 이 풍부한 텍스트와 상징을 안고 있는 영화 <노아>는 영화로써 그 완성도 면에서 전혀 손색이 없는 작품입니다. 우리가 상상할 수 있는 노아 시대의 홍수의 모습과 방주의 실태, 러셀 크로우와 제니퍼 코넬리의 연기 등은 대런 아르노프스키 감독의 상상력에 기반한 노아에 대한 새로운 해석과 뛰어난 연출로 값진 작품을 만들어 낸 것이지요. 민감한 종교영화, 취할 것이냐 버릴 것이냐는 각자의 선택에 놓이게 되지만, 성경에 기반한 영화적 장르로 표현해낸 작품에 대해 그것을 다시 성경의 기준으로 심판하는 것은 어쩌면 영화에 대한 종교적 신념을 가져다 댄 지난친 율법주의가 아닐지도 모르겠습니다. 자유롭게 영화로 대하십시오. 그러면 이야기 거리가 더 많아 집니다.

스토리는 저리 가라! 촬영의 명품 <캡틴 아메리카:윈터 솔져>

정의를 위해 목숨을 바쳤던 스티브 로져스는 세계 안보기구인 쉴드(S.H.I.E.L.D)의 부름을 받고 다시 태어납니다. 맹활약을 하던 스티브는 조직내의 다른 음모가 진행되고 있음을 어렴풋이 눈치 채게 되고, 자신의 상사인 닉 퍼리가 조직내 세력에 의해 암살 당하는 사건을 경험하게 됩니다. 닉은 스티브에게 이렇게 말하고 숨을 거둡니다. 어느 누구도 믿지 말라고.

이제 스티브는 조직 내 닉을 따랐던 블랙 위도우와 함께 이 보이지 않는 음모를 쫒아 닉을 죽인 세력을 밝하고자 나섭니다. 그 가운데 오래전 죽은 줄 알았던 자신의 가장 절친했던 친구 벅이 윈터 솔져로 자신과 맞서 싸운다는 사실을 알게 되고, 거대한 조직에 의해 이용당하는 윈터 솔져와도 대결을 벌입니다. 그리고 영화 결말에서는 죽은 줄로만 알았던 닉이 비밀리에 생명을 유지하고 있었고, 결국 음모의 세력을 일망타진합니다. 영화 <캡틴 아메리카: 윈터 솔져>(Captain America: The Winter Soldier)의 이야기 입니다.

위의 이야기 패턴은 이미 수없이 보아왔던 헐리웃의 스파이 액션물 혹은 수퍼 히어로 물의 전형을 따릅니다. 일차의 오차도 없이 기존의 영화적 패턴을 그대로 따르고 있지요. 음모, 배신, 그리고 충직한 보스의 죽음, 그로 인한 갈등, 복수를 위해 나섬, 고난, 그리고 죽은 줄 알았던 보스의 부활, 사건의 해결이라는 이 스토리의 알레고리는 <캡틴 아메리카:윈터 솔져>에서도 어김없이 드러납니다. 그런데, 신기하게도 <캡틴 아메리카:윈터 솔져>는 어디에 내놓아도 손색이 없을 최고의 엔터테인먼트 컨텐츠가 될 듯 합니다. 이쯤되면 의문이 들지요. 헐리웃 영화의 힘이 창의적인 스토리텔링이라는데 이 뻔한 스토리로 어떻게 이게 가능하냔 말이죠.

헐리웃이 <캡틴 아메리카:윈터 솔져>로 택한 자기 생존 방식은 결국 스토리가 아닌 화려한 액션과 스타일리쉬한 영상입니다. 이미 뻔한 스토리에 대한 자기 변명은 포기한 지 오래입니다. 그냥 솔직히 이 영화는 보는 재미로 가득한 액션 영화 그 이상도 이하도 아니라고 답변합니다. 우리에게는 이미 한국 영화 <신세계>를 통해 익숙한 엘리베이터 대결씬은 <캡틴 아메리카>에서 미국식으로 다시 탄생합니다. 숨막히는 2분 30초 동안의 이 좁은 공간에서의 액션은 가장 크고, 가장 넓으며, 가장 빠르고, 가장 높은 곳에서의 액션에만 길들여져 왔던 미국 관객들에게 최고의 액션 명장면으로 회자될 듯 합니다. 망망대해에 떠 있는 함대를 잡은 (컴퓨터 그래픽이건, 모형의 재촬영이건) 카메라의 각도 혹은 카메라 연출은 헐리웃의 시각적 영상 미학이 얼만큼 발전했는지 단숨에 증명해 보입니다.
닉 퍼리의 차를 공격하는 자동차 추격 및 폭발씬은 인간의 도심속 액션에 대한 동선과 디자인에 대한 상상력이 어느 정도까지 발전했는지 그 이상을 보여줍니다. 캡틴 아메리카 스티브와 윈터 솔져가 대결을 펼치는 시가전 대결은 마이클 만 감독의 영화 <히트> (1995)를 뛰어넘는 새로운 경지의 액션을 보여주지요. 두시간 조금 넘는 상영시간 동안, 이 영화는 위의 몇 장면 만으로도 그 어떤 식상함도 극복할 수 있는 아드레날린을 보증합니다. 대단한 놈인 온 거지요.
뻔한 스토리를 가지고도 관객들을 만족 시킬 만한 <캡틴 아메리카:윈터 솔져>의 크레딧의 상당 부분은 캡틴 아메리카 역의 크리스 에반스도, 감독 앤쏘니 루소(Anthony Russo)와 조 루소(joe Russo)에게도가 아닌, 촬영기사인 트렌트 오팔로크(Trent Opaloch)에게 돌아가야 할 듯 합니다. <디스트릭 나인>,< 엘리시엄>, 그 밖의 수많은 게임과 광고물들을 통해 이미 능력을 인정 받은 그야 말로 이 영화를 성공적으로 살려낸 최고의 능력자 일 듯 합니다. 헐리웃 액션 히어로의 다음 영화들이 좀 긴장 할 만 합니다. 덕분에 우리는 좀 즐길만 하구요.

어느 외계인의 불행한 지구 탐색기_언더 더 스킨 (2014)

자동차를 몰고 시내와 교외를 배외하는 한 검은 곱슬 단발의 한 여성. 싸구려 모피 자켓에 딱 붙는 청바지를 입은 그녀는 조심스럽게 남자들을 관찰합니다. 차를 세우고 길을 물을 때 꼭 확인까지 합니다. 그 남자가 혼자서 사는 사람이라는 걸 파악하게 되면 이 여성은 남자를 차에 싣고 자신의 거처로 유인해 갑니다. 그리고 혼자서 걸어 나옵니다. 영화 <언더 더 스킨>의 이야기 입니다.

그녀의 거처에서 벌어지는 광경은 묘하기 짝이 없습니다. 깜깜한 입구에서 남자들에게 유혹의 눈빛을 보내고, 집안으로 들어서면 옷을 하나씩 벗기 시작합니다. 섹스에 대한 기대를 가지고 그녀를 따라간 남자들은 그녀를 향해 걸어갈때 점차 몸이 녹아내리는 혹은 입수되는 것도 눈치 채지 못합니다. 그리고 그들은 바닥 밑의 까만 물속 혹은 무중력 상태의 블랙홀 같은 곳에 갇히게 되고 소비됩니다.

그녀는 외계인 (극중 ‘로라’)으로 인간의 몸을 빌어 남자들을 유인하는 목적을 수행하는 역할을 하며, 그녀 이외에도 바이커의 몸을 빌린 다른 외계인들과 함께 공조를 펼칩니다. 영화는 과연 이 외계인들의 목적이 무엇인지, 유인되어 사라진 남자들은 녹아내리거나 혹은 터져버려서 어떻게 쓰여지는지에 대해서도 설명하지 않습니다. 그러나 그 불친절함이 오히려 이 영화의 가장 큰 매력이 되기도 합니다.

현악기의 신경을 자극하는 팽팽한 음악과 외계인의 관점으로 들리는 주파수 맞추는 듯한 신호음 등은 <언더 더 스킨>이 가진 오묘함과 불안함에 더해 신비함 마저 더하며 적절하게 사용됩니다. 듣기 코믹할 정도의 강한 액센트를 구사하는 스코틀랜드의 글래스고우 지방을 배경으로 펼치지는 이 영화는 비내리고 눈발 날리는 으산하고 쓸쓸한 지구의 모습을 더욱 이국적이고 이채롭게 보여주기 까지 하지요.

스코틀랜드의 축축한 숲, 파도가 몰아치는 스산한 바닷가 등 친절하지 않은 야생의 배경을 헤매고 다니는 스칼렛 요한슨의 클로즈업된 하얗고 검고 빨간 얼굴은 그 어떤 영화에서 보다 그녀를 더욱 돋보이게 하며 외계인의 얼굴 그 자체로 읽혀 집니다. 대사가 많지 않고, 아무 생각이나 감정 없이 보이는 그의 표정 연기가 오히려 감독 조나단 글레이져(Jonathan Glazer)가 끌어낸 수확중 하나라고 볼 수 있겠습니다.

정체를 알 수영화 <언더 더 스킨>에서 외계인이 여성의 몸을 빌어서 지구를 경험한 것은 무척 유감스러운 일입니다. 외계인 로라가 정체성 분열을 경험한 그 이후 로라가 펼치는 행동들이 지구에서 어떻게 여성으로써 살아갈 것인가, 혹은 서바이벌 할 것인가를 보여주고 있어 두가지 효과를 극대화 합니다. 외계인이 겪는 인간의 경험이 더욱 소외되고 한정적이라는 것과, 지구상에서 사실상 여자의 육체는 외계인 만큼이나 이질적이며 소수자적이고 변두리적이라는 것을 말이지요.
만약 영화 초반에 외계인이 여성의 몸을 입는 장면을 보이지 않았더라면, 마지막 여성의 몸을 이탈하는 장면 자체가 더욱 극적 효과를 낳았을 것이라는 생각도 듭니다. 어차피 설명을 필요로 하지 않는 영화에서 영화 초반에서 조차 외계인의 정체를 굳이 명확히 설명할 필요가 있었을까 하는 아쉬움 정도이겠지요. <언더 더 스킨>은 불편하고 불친절하지만, 매력적이고 신비한 영화입니다.

This year’s Cannes Film Festival has an interesting asian selection, with several attracting genre films, and as usual, the Cannes-regular directors presenting their unexpected films. Many surprises here, but no real unknown asian directors promoted (just few cult names *finally* considered).

# IN COMPETITION

 

Cannes 2011: The Asian Lineup
Naomi Kawase’s Hanezu no Tsuki (1h31)

Depicts the evolution through time of the ancient capital of Japan, Nara (also Kawase’s hometown). The city has been once the political, economical & cultural center of the country (unesco). According to Thierry Frémaux (Cannes festival director), the film is said to deal with ecological and philosophical questions, that should be more relevant than ever in the post-3.11 Japan.
// Stills gallery

Cannes 2011: The Asian Lineup
Takashi Miike’s Ichimei (Hara-kiri: Death of a samurai) (2h06)

It was presented as the 3D remake of Masaki Kobayashi classic Harakiri, this was awarded at Cannes 1963. If it means anything, Miike’s version is using the novel as the source. Nevertheless, Harakiri is mainly an intense & talkative tragedy resulting on short but incredible fights (believe the original US poster on that point), nothing as bloody as in 13 Assassins. Starring Hikari Mitsushima (Love Exposure) & Koji Yakusho (13 Assassins), and score composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto!

While the project announcement provoked many reactions, it seems though, that seeing the remake of such a classic (watch this) being in competition for the Palme d’Or doesn’t surprise (yet?)… Miike is going to Cannes, that’s all that matters?
// Official website

# UN CERTAIN REGARD

 

Cannes 2011: The Asian Lineup
Hong Sang-soo’s The day he arrives (1h19)

Not so much details on this one. Is it safe to assume that like most of Hong Sang-soo films, it could be about a director/professor/film critic connecting/drinking with some (old) friends, with some sort of film-within a film construction.

Cannes 2011: The Asian Lineup
Eric Khoo’s Tatsumi (1h34)

An animated film inspired by “A Drifting Life”, an autobiographical work of Yoshihiro Tatsumi. A japanese artist, best known as the creator of the gekiga style. Which is a more mature and adult approach to manga. It must be said that before directing films, Eric Khoo draw comics for The Sunday Times. Still, it’s his first venture into animation.
// Khoo about the project

Cannes 2011: The Asian Lineup
Kim Ki-duk’s Arirang (1h40)

Said to be a simple movie where the korean director explains what happened to him these past 3 years. To say precisely why suddenly he stopped making films. Knowing his sudden “disappearance” generated a number of rumors about his possible death, or illness. In other words, this should be a very personal film.

Cannes 2011: The Asian Lineup
Na Hong-jin’s Yellow Sea (2h20)

The new thriller from young acclaimed director of The Chaser. You can directly watch the trailer with more details. For your information, the film will come out on english-subtitled DVD/BR sometimes during the festival. Also, the version to be screen at Cannes might very well be the director’s cut (140min), as the korean theatrical cut is 156min long.

# MIDNIGHT & SPECIAL SCREENINGS

 

Cannes 2011: The Asian Lineup
Peter Chan’s Wu Xia (2h)

Along with Miike’s film, that’s the other unexpected guest! Peter Chan’s attempt to reboot the chinese sword-fighing film, through the story of a detective hunting down a former-assassin. Starring Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro.

Cannes 2011: The Asian Lineup
Rithy Panh’s Master of the Forges of Hell (1h45)

The new documentary from the director of “S21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine”. In more or less the same vein, Panh went interviewing an ex-warden of a Khmer Rouge jail, who was only recently judged. The man talks freely about his experience and his beliefs.
// More details

# PARALLEL SECTION: CRITICS’ WEEK

 

Cannes 2011: The Asian Lineup
Zou Peng’s Sauna on Moon (1h35)

A socially oriented docu-film coming from China, with a little touch of weirdness? About the boss of a sauna, trying to construct a “pornographic kindgom” in Guangdong, “the fore front of China’s reform and opening-up”. By the director of A North Chinese Girl, whose main influences are Imamura & Jia Zhangke!

# PARALLEL SECTION: DIRECTOR’S FORTNIGHT

 

Cannes 2011: The Asian Lineup
Sion Sono’s Guilty of Romance (2h23)

And another cult japanese director finally coming to Cannes… Sion Sono is one of the most interesting director in Japan. Guilty of Romance is said to be “a dramatic account of three women and their lives, seen through the looking glass of sex, words, madness, death and family. Bombarding the audience with graphic images and assaulting the emotions with classical music, this is a movie that provokes all your senses”. The version to be screened is the director’s cut (143min vs 149min). Will it help Sion Sono to attract wider attention?

Expect more news from Sono during Cannes, 2 new projects will be unveiled: the samurai flick Blood of Wolves (co-directed with Tak Sakaguchi), and “a self-remake project of his internationally acclaimed work” (seems to be Suicide Club)
// More details & Press release

# FILM MARKET

 

As for the Cannes Film Market, several worthwhile project will be there; Tsui Hark’s Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, Jang Hun’s war film The Front Line, the first commercial project from “Anti Gas Skin’s directors… And more surprises to come!

source: http://wildgrounds.com/index.php/2011/04/19/cannes-2011-the-asian-lineup/

“ONE FANTASTICALLY HYPNOTIC MOVIE. I Saw the Devil cements KIM Jee-woon’s place among the (young) modern masters. It may be the most hypnotic serial killer story since The Silence of the Lambs, and it’s CERTAINLY ONE OF THE BEST THRILLERS I’VE SEEN IN A FEW YEARS.”
— Scott Weinberg, Fearnet


“An unflinching gaze into the heart of pure evil and a perverse genre entertainment par excellence. It takes the serial-killer thriller as far into the realm of pulse-pounding mayhem as it has ever gone. Fans of hardcore Asian action and horror will simply eat it up.”
— Rob Nelson, Variety
“9.5 out of 10. A hugely entertaining thriller. This is filmmaking on a whole new level. A masterpiece.”
— Jacob Hall, CHUD
“9 out of 10. Nothing short of staggering. A cool, confident, and sometimes stunningly beautiful film.”
— Jeremy Kirk, Firstshowing.net
“ABSOLUTELY ASTOUNDING. Shockingly violent and stunningly accomplished, it transcends the police procedural, pushing the boundaries of extreme Asian cinema in ways that will surprise and thrill fans of the genre.”
— Mr. Disgusting, BloodyDisgusting.com
“Damned if it isn’t riveting from the word ‘go’.”
— Noel Murray, The Onion

Synopsis: I SAW THE DEVIL is a shockingly violent and stunningly accomplished tale of murder and revenge from Korean genre master KIM Jee-woon (The Good, The Bad, The Weird and A Tale of Two Sisters). Oldboy’s CHOI Min-sik plays Kyung-chul, a dangerous psychopath who kills for pleasure. The embodiment of pure evil, he has committed horrifying and senselessly cruel serial murders on defenseless victims, successfully eluding capture by the police.

On a freezing, snowy night, his latest victim is the beautiful Ju-yeon, daughter of a retired police chief and pregnant fiancee of elite special agent Dae-hoon (The Good, The Bad, The Weird’s LEE Byung-hyun). Obsessed with revenge, Dae-hoon decides to track down the murderer, even if doing so means becoming a monster himself. And when he finds Kyung-chul, turning him in to the authorities is the last thing on his mind.

The lines between good and evil fall away in this diabolically twisted game of cat and mouse. Pushing the concept of revenge to its most extreme limits, KIM Jee-woon brilliantly transcends the police procedural and serial killer genres in surprising and thrilling new ways.

‘A Good Husband’ is in Los Angeles one more week! Please do not miss a chance to meet A Good Husband.

“This movie upholds the rich humanist tradition of Japanese cinema.” – Kevin Thomas, LA Times

“It is a great joy and excitement to have my film ‘ A Good Husband’ open in the United States. When the film opened in Japan, the audience shed their tears after finding out the speical secret the couple, who has been married for 10 years, shares in the story. Make sure to find out what this special secret is at the theater. You will be surprised. I am sure that this film brings comedy and mystery to American audience. I am looking forward to seeing you on the screen.” – Director Isao Yukisada

Movie review: ‘A Good Husband’

The cast is a formidable ensemble, with Toyokawa, as a man grappling with regret and longing, and the veteran Ishibashi, expressing Bunta’s inner strength.

Isao Yukisada’s bittersweet love story “A Good Husband” upholds the rich humanist tradition of Japanese cinema. Adapted for the screen by Chihiro Ito from Mayumi Nakatani’s novel, it employs a daring sleight of hand in its storytelling and allows some acclaimed actors to soar in complex roles.

Kitami (Etushi Toyokawa) is a gifted photographer who has fallen into a querulous relationship with his wife, Sakura (Hiroko Yakushimaru), who is desperate to have a child. Last year, Sakura persuaded Kitami to vacation in Okinawa over Christmas, but this year he flatly refuses to go.

We then meet aspiring actress Ranko (Asami Mizukawa), who will do anything to get Kitami to shoot the picture that will help make her a movie star; Kitami’s assistant, Makoto (Gaku Hamada), who tries to find him work; Bunta (Renji Ishibashi), a dignified sixtysomething transvestite and a devoted family retainer; and Nishida (Yu Shirota), one of Sakura’s students.

Time spent with these characters threatens to become tedious and digressive — until, in a surprising flashback, Yukisada reveals what happened in Okinawa the year before. The audience then sees Kitami and the people in his life from an entirely different perspective.

The cast becomes a formidable ensemble, with Toyokawa, as a man grappling with regret and longing, and the veteran Ishibashi, expressing Bunta’s inner strength, emerging as highly impressive and resourceful actors.

“A Good Husband.” No MPAA rating. In Japanese with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 11 minutes. At the MPark 4, Los Angeles.

// //

A GOOD HUSBAND  by director Isao Yukisada will be screened at Mpark 4 first in the US.  For Valentine’s Day, FuzzyCalifornia presents  a surprisingly touching sweet love fantasy.

A GOOD HUSBAND is a story of a couple who has been married 10 years. The husband is no good cheat but his wife keeps on loving him. One day, out of the blue, an incident befalls them, and their everyday life for last 10 years changed and reveiled what they left behind them.

Director  Isao Yukisada, who made his youthful cinematic reputation with GO and CRYING OUT LOVE , IN THE CENTER OF THE WORLD, has directed a fantasy for adults. THe mricle that befalls this couple at the end will make you weep… He says, “This is my attmept to encourage more films teaturing people like us, in our 40s. I wanted to direct a film in which two great veteran actors could simply show off how great they are, also wanted to prove that adults know how to have fun, too.”

A GOOD HUSBAND is the first play by Mayumi Nakatani, whose works are staged internationally, to be adapted into a film. The leads are a couple in their 40s. Etsushi Toyokawa, who first achieved international accalim in LOVE LETTER and many other Shunji Iwai films, plays the husband, Shunsuke. As Toyokawa’s popularity at home and abroad soars, he has recently performed in SINKING OF JAPAN, HULA GIRLS, and 20th CENTURY BOYS. His wife, Sakura, is performed by Hiroko Yakushimaru, best known recently for her performance as the gentle mother in ALWAYS-SUNSET ON THIRD STREET. After making her riveting debut in PROOF OF THE WILD as a teenager, her brilliant lead performances in a string of Kadokawa idol films established her as an iconic actress still widely adored today.

Joining them is the powerful young actress, Asami Mizukawa, who starred in CHAMELEON by Junji Sakamoto and TV series NODAME CANTABILE, and GAKU HAMADA who starred in THE FOREIGN DUCK, THE NATIVE DUCK and FISH STORY, directed by Yoshihiro Nakamura. The Veteran actor Renji Ishibashi, who has played everything from a yakuza boss to a corporate raider, delivers a memorable perfomance as a drag queen.

The past year saw Taiwanese cinema continue to scale new heights as directors, both young and established, produced new works with polished production quality and fluid storytelling. Though lighthearted romance flicks starring pop idols made up the bulk of this year’s movies, a considerable amount of diversity was shown in the directors’ choices of subject matter.

The year started with Doze Niu’s (鈕承澤) Monga (艋舺), a gangster movie that looks at the underworld through rose-tinted glasses. Friendship, loyalty and the loss of innocence take precedence over violence in the story of five young friends. With box-office receipts reaching NT$258 million (US$8.8 million), the movie was this year’s third-highest grossing film in Taiwan, falling slightly behind Iron Man 2 (NT$260 million) and Inception (NT$288 million). Despite its uneven narrative, the film succeeded as a Made-in-Taiwan blockbuster because of effective publicity, the appeal of its pop star cast and its local subject matter.

Seven Days in Heaven (父後七日), on the other hand, was a surprise box-office success starring largely theatrical and nonprofessional actors. Directed by veteran television director Wang Yu-lin (王育麟) and novelist Essay Liu (劉梓潔), the absurd comedy focuses on traditional Taiwanese mourning rituals and examines death and how we cope with it. The culturally rooted production made it into the top five highest grossing Chinese-language movies of the year in Taiwan, with box-office receipts totaling more than NT$34 million, a success hard-earned through word of mouth rather than fancy marketing gimmicks.

Far from the Changhua countryside where Seven Days in Heaven takes place, Taipei is given a sweet, romantic treatment in Taiwanese American director Arvin Chen’s (陳駿霖) feature debut Au Revoir Taipei (一頁台北), a romantic comedy set mostly during the young protagonist’s final night in the capital.

In Taipei Exchanges (第36個故事), also set in the capital, television commercial director Hsiao Ya-chuan (蕭雅全) evokes a fairy-tale city, in which memory and relationships are more valuable than commerce, through the story of a young woman who opens a business. Both Seven Days and Taipei Exchanges are blessed with vivacious cinematography, opulent art direction and delightful soundtracks, but the directors should have paid more attention to the narrative if they had hoped to tell realistic stories that conveyed genuine emotions.

Made up of three shorts, Juliets (茱麗葉) demonstrates an admirable amount of creativity and imagination compared with the year’s other works of youthful romance, which are mostly dull and pallid. All three directors — up-and-coming filmmaker Hou Chi-jan (侯季然), documentary director Shen Ko-shang (沈可尚) and veteran commercial director Chen Yu-hsun (陳玉勳) — are each working on eagerly anticipated new feature films.

Stories of Taiwan’s foreign migrant workers are rarely presented to mainstream audiences. But in Malaysia-born director Ho Wi-ding’s (何蔚庭) feature debut Pinoy Sunday (台北星期天), the leading men are two Filipino workers who try to carry a discarded sofa across town, out of Taipei and back to their drab factory dormitory on the city’s fringe. The well-executed film lyrically renders discrimination and injustice inflicted on the workers with comic absurdity, establishing Ho as a new talent in Taiwanese cinema and a name to watch closely.

In his atmospheric and exquisitely crafted second feature, The Fourth Portrait (第四張畫), emerging auteur Chung Mong-hong (鍾孟宏) takes a poignant look at the issue of domestic violence through the tale of a boy haunted by loss. Weaving rich color, elegant composition and fluid camera work into expressive cinematography that gives the narrative a dreamlike feel, Chung once again achieved a distinguished style and unique aesthetic that none of his peers are able to match.

Not to be outdone, established directors also released new works deserving of kudos. For his fifth feature, Tears (眼淚), Cheng Wen-tang (鄭文堂) paints a dark, pensive portrait of a police officer living with a tortured past. Billed as the first part of a trilogy that addresses transitional justice, the film neatly focuses on its characters and carefully examines how an individual’s actions, though condoned by the state apparatus, can have devastating consequences for others.

Noted for creating cinematic worlds populated by social underdogs, gangsters and men trapped in vicious cycles of violence, veteran director Chang Tso-chi (張作驥) broke many of his filmmaking habits with When Love Comes (當愛來的時候), a melodramatic tale that follows an extended family’s road to reconciliation and understanding. The female characters take center stage, and Chang’s trademark fatalism mellows when toward the end of the film tragedy strikes and the women band together, offering each other solace and strength.

As for documentaries, the award-winning Let the Wind Carry Me (乘著光影旅行) delivered an intimate portrayal of cinematographer Mark Lee (李屏賓) as a loving son and an accomplished artist. Directed by Taiwan’s Chiang Hsiu-chiung (姜秀瓊) and Kwan Pun-leung (關本良) from Hong Kong, the film can be seen as a valuable record of the words and wisdoms of Lee, as well as other greats in Taiwanese cinema, such as Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢). Meanwhile, 28-year-old filmmaker Su Che-hsien (蘇哲賢) carried on the country’s tradition of narrative-driven, crowd-pleasing documentaries with Hip-Hop Storm (街舞狂潮), a lively, playful take on Taipei’s street dancers.

Park Chan-wook: The South Korean director gets dialed in

Park Chan-wook tested the bounds of new technology by using an iPhone 4 to film “Paranmanjang” (“Ups and Downs”). The smart phone brought many changes to the set, including some surprises.

Park Chan-wook likes the way blood looks through the camera lens of his iPhone – that rich texture and shock-effect red.

But Park’s no techno-savvy killer. He’s an award-winning South Korean filmmaker whose graphic horror-and-humor style has been likened to Quentin Tarantino‘s. His latest project is remarkable not for its gore but for its camerawork that could prove a populist breakthrough in the highfalutin art of filmmaking.

Park’s 30-minute fantasy film, “Paranmanjang” (“Ups and Downs”), which will have its theatrical premiere in Seoul on Jan. 27, was shot entirely with the latest version of Apple Inc.‘s iconic smart phone, the iPhone 4.

For years, new technology such as digital cameras and off-the-shelf editing software has been turning filmmaking into a cheaper and easier venture. But few high-profile commercial directors have embraced mass-market hardware, gravitating instead toward bells and whistles like 3-D and other costly special effects.

But Park rolled the everyman’s dice. And he liked what he saw.

With the stodgy traditional cameras that often block a director from the actors replaced by the palm-sized mobile phone, Park said his eyes were opened to new possibilities in moviemaking.

“Everything seemed more alive, more real,” he said. “There was a certain coarseness, like making a documentary.”

With his goatee and slicked-back Michael Douglas mane of black hair, Park, 47, has a reputation for risk-taking in celluloid style and substance. His films employ lush cinematography to portray such disturbing images as petrified children, dentistry by hammer, and underwater surgery on an Achilles tendon.

Among his nation’s most acclaimed filmmakers, Park first achieved fame in 2000 with “Joint Security Area,” telling the tale of the Korean peninsula divided by war. Four years later, he won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival for “Old Boy,” the second installment of his so-called revenge trilogy and now a Korean cult classic. In 2009, his movie “Thirst” won the Jury Prize at Cannes.

Always on the hunt for new challenges, Park found a big one in the iPhone. The idea arose last fall just as he and his brother (and fellow director) Park Chan-kyong were set to begin filming a fantasy about a middle-aged fisherman who one day hauls a woman out of the water’s depths.

That’s when South Korea’s exclusive iPhone distributor offered to finance the $130,000 project if the pair agreed to use the device to make a theater-quality film.

Park’s initial plan was straightforward: He would use an average iPhone for the job, but add a series of more sophisticated cameras for the scope and close-ups he sought. And he would not use the device for any trick photography, such as attaching it to actors or miniature vehicles for point-of-view shots. “I wanted to use it just like I would any other camera,” he said.

But the five days of on-location shooting brought instant surprises. First off, the tiny smart phone looked oddly out of place attached to the huge dolly used to maneuver traditional cameras.

The device also introduced a new sense of freedom. “The actors said that using something almost invisible meant that they didn’t feel overwhelmed like they would by a regular camera,” Park said. “And for once, they said they could actually see the director,” who is usually huddled behind the oversized camera.

The iPhone even influenced camera angles. Park, usually meticulous with a normal single camera, was more freewheeling, employing as many as eight iPhones at once.

“We encouraged others to use their own iPhones during a shoot, people like the associate director, producer and even the actors’ manager,” Park said.

In the end, they had hours of extra footage. They compiled that, and some impromptu shots were used in the final version.

Even though his project used professional cameramen who were able to add sophisticated lenses to the iPhone, Park quickly came to what he considers a profound realization: With this device, anyone can make a professional-quality movie.

“People are familiar with the iPhone,” he said. “Many are obsessed with it. This is another way to use it.”

He hopes the smart phone will encourage the general public to play filmmaker. “Find a location, you don’t even need sophisticated lighting – just go out and make movies,” he said. “These days, if you can afford to feed yourself, you can afford to make a film.”

Through such Internet sites as YouTube, the results can be promoted by word of mouth. “The time is gone when you can only see films in theaters,” Park said. “It’s absolutely passed.”

Park is looking for an international distributor for “Paranmanjang,” which has already received positive reviews here. He may even use the device again for certain scenes or an entire low-budget project.

“But the technology changes so fast,” he said. “Who knows what’s going to be available next year?”

source: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-korea-iphone-movie-20110115,0,3179181.story

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