Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The meaning of Pusan West (Or, Kimchi westerns and the direction of Korean cinema)

Last week I posted about the first-ever Pusan West, the Pusan International Film Festival's (PIFF) attempt to go overseas, held in Orange County at Chapman University's Dodge College of Film & Media Arts. Now that it's over, the Los Angeles Times has a follow-up piece focusing on the direction Korean cinema is heading beyond the peninsula. An excerpt:
The Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon admires the oeuvre of Quentin Tarantino and readily acknowledges that "Kill Bill" influenced Kim's own recent film, the stylishly sanguine "A Bittersweet Life." Kim also cites Brian De Palma's gangster classic "Scarface" in shaping his film's frenzied final shoot-out.

But like many contemporary Korean directors who came of age while ingesting Hollywood genre films, Kim strives to maintain a degree of independence from the L.A. dream factory. Although Hollywood has courted him since the breakout success of “The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” his 2008 convention-tweaking "kimchi Western" set in 1930s Manchuria, the director shows a certain cautiousness toward the way the U.S. film industry does business.

"Hollywood films seem to solve every problem with money. That's why Hollywood is looking to international filmmakers for creativity," Kim said through an interpreter during an interview over the weekend at Chapman University’s inaugural Pusan West festival of Korean film.

"Korean people like to see their own stories," Kim continued. "But specifically I think Korean films are as good as Hollywood films, as well-made and commercially [viable]."
Indeed, they increasingly are. But I know I'm not the first to say that Hollywood should not necessarily be the entity that Chungmuro should be benchmarking, nor should it be success in America. Americans, for one, generally do not like to see movies with subtitles — not even good movies with subtitles. Sad, but true. Moreover, despite all the glitz and explosions, etc., a lot of what Hollywood produces is mindless claptrap. Is that really something to aspire to?

Okay, I'll grant that saying "Hollywood" may be shorthand for what the directors see as good products of Hollywood — of which there is a lot — but I guess I'm just warning that Hollywood-level box-office success should not be the sole or even primary measure of a job well done.


  1. I really wanted to go but I had a friend's wedding activities that I had to attend to.

  2. Man, why didn't I know about this?! I live pretty close to this place too. Coincidentally, I also had a wedding to go to this past weekend though.

  3. Well, it certainly wasn't because I didn't tell you. Seriously, I thought you read my blog like every morning or something, so I would have assumed you'd see the post last Thursday morning (California time).

    Edward, I still think you should have done a whole post on this over at The Marmot's Hole.

    Too bad, though. I know it's something I would have liked to have gone to. Maybe next year, especially if they have it at the same time (weekend before Thanksgiving) and in the same locale.

    Oh, and I would find it amusing if you two were at the same wedding.

  4. LNK,

    Was the wedding in Palos Verdes?


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