Sunday, December 03, 2006

Korean movie director makes glorious return with romance comedy

By Kim HyunSEOUL, Dec. 2 (Yonhap)
-- When director Park Chan-wook, who has earned critical fame for his prize-winning revenge films, said a year ago that his next film will be a romance comedy, many fans and critics wondered whether his new attempt would make the grade.

They were still in doubt and some even suspected he was trying to use star power to push his film when he cast singer Rain, who has become a pop icon and a heartthrob among Asian women, as hero of the film in January.

Shrugging off their suspicions, however, the flick, "I'm a Cyborg But That's Okay," shows his captivating charm with experimental storytelling and stylish shooting that come with bright humor and a message about life. The romantic comedy marks a glorious return for the director, who won the Grand Prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival with "Old Boy" and the New Trend best film award in Venice last year with "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance."After a media preview on Friday, the 44-year-old South Korean director said he is satisfied with his latest work.

"I don't know about other directors, but I am much satisfied with the way my movie looks right after it is completed," Park said.

"That's probably because I want some compensation for the filmmaking process that is painful, laborious and challenging. I can say I'm quite satisfied about this one, too." Set in a mental hospital, "Cyborg" follows two young quixotic patients who dwell in their own worlds -- Yeong-gun (Lim Soo-jung) who believes she is a cyborg and Il-sun (Jeong Ji-hun, Rain's real name) who lives in fear of perishing from life. Their separate worlds start colliding when Il-sun gets to hear Yeong-gun's secret dialogue with machines.

Yeong-gun refuses to eat as a cyborg. Il-sun, a former electricity clerk, devices a machine that transforms food into electric energy so that the cyborg can have meals and live.

Defying the traditional frame of the kind where a doctor is the savior of a patient, "Cyborg" delves into the world of the patients and shows how they can save each other. The key is empathy."If he was a doctor or a normal person he would try to cure her illness. So his goal would be removing her illusion as being a cyborg. But Il-sun enters Yeong-gun's fantasy, which means he accepts her irreparable condition as it is. His love is to accept her condition and also do work to make her live," he said.

Their unlikely romance is so captivating that one can hear other audience members hold their breath at some points like when Il-sun plants the energy device into Yeong-gun's back or when he finally gets her to swallow a spoonful of rice. The emotional moments always follow with bright humor, such as Il-sun's comment meant to assure her that "After service is guaranteed for lifetime.

"The love story also shows animosity towards the power people, such as doctors or judges, like his previous works. Yeong-gun identifies herself with her schizophrenic grandmother rather than her pretentious mother. To revenge for her ill-treated grandmother, the girl air-strafes and guns down the "white men" in her illusion.Despite her quirky behavior, one comes to nod and identify with her when she asks a question that is relevant to every human being: "I still don't know. What use I'm for.

Why was I made?"With his acclaimed revenge trilogy -- "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance," "Old Boy" and "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" under his belt, Park said he wanted his first romance, or seventh feature, will be a low-budget, experimental one. Shot with the new generation of high-definition digital camera and made with 3 billion won (US$3 million), excluding marketing costs, the "Cyborg" presents lots of fantasy scenes, but is still easy to follow.The casting of Rain somewhat changed his direction, he said."I thought this as an in-between film (before the next project "Bat").

Not that I intended to make it fast and rough but make it more experimental. It would cost less and I would have less burden for its commerciality, which is rarely possible in usual cases. I wanted it to be very bold and experimental, even though the majority of the audience may not understand. But that idea was thrown out in the beginning, because Jeong Ji-hun was cast," he said with a smile."I'm a Cyborg But That's Okay" is to be released nationwide on Dec. 7.
source yonhapnews

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