(Seoul) Known for his ultra-violent thrillers that propelled South Korean cinema to the forefront of the world stage, Park Chan-wook returns with a completely different film, Decision to Leavea sober but deeply emotional love story.
Posted at 11:52
Leading the South Korean box office since its release last week, the film earned Park this year’s Best Director award at Cannes, where his cult thriller old boy had already received the Grand Prix in 2004.
Decision to Leave tells the story of a detective (South Korean actor Park Hae-il) investigating the death of a man who fell off a cliff and falls in love with the number one suspect, the victim’s mysterious wife , played by Chinese star Tang Wei.
Unlike Park Chan-wook’s previous works, “Decision to Leave” contains almost no scenes of violence or sex. IndieWire called it “the most romantic movie of the year (so far).” Most critics praised the elegance and restraint of this love story.
“I agree it’s a romantic movie and I wanted to make a movie like that,” Park said in an interview with reporters last month in Seoul.
The 58-year-old director explained that he started thinking about this project while working on his English language miniseries The Little Drummer Girl, whose plot is based on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He then wanted to do something different, away from politics and conflict.
“I wanted to make a film that was pure. Pure in the sense of being true to the basics of cinema as an art, and in which no element other than the theme of love would come into play,” he recounted.
The result is a poetic exploration of time, loss and nostalgia, combining Park’s signature lush cinematography with the simmering sexual tension between the well-mannered cop and the seductive murder suspect.
Both are a departure from Park’s previous more extreme characters, like the depressed Catholic priest turned vampire in the horror film. Third or the man held captive for 15 years of old boy.
For the director, love stories, like bloody revenge stories, reveal what “human beings are essentially”. Despite this, none of the characters in his film resemble him.
“I’m not at all the type of person who pursues such romantic ideals, or lives his life that way. I tend to be very realistic and pragmatic,” Park said softly. “I’m the kind of filmmaker who makes the big difference, between my life and the films I’ve made”.
Park Chan-wook is credited with inspiring an entire generation of filmmakers in the “black Korean” genre — films about bloody murders and brutal criminal revenge, presented with lavish cinematography.
One of these directors, Bong Joon-ho, became the first South Korean to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2019, for his black comedy Parasitealso the first non-English language work to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
While he maintains that his films are intended for the general public, Park admits that “South Korean, Asian and foreign films are still considered arthouse cinema” outside the region.
“It doesn’t matter how they are made, that’s how they are cataloged”, he regretted. “I don’t think it’s ideal. But Parasite broke that barrier.
Park also strives to work on non-Korean projects. Outraged The Little Drummer Girlin 2013 he produced Bong Joon-ho’s first work in the English language, the series Snowpiercer. The same year, he made his Hollywood debut with Stokerstarring Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska.
His next project, for HBO, is a seven-episode spy series starring Robert Downey Jr, based on the novel The sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2016 Pulitzer Prize).
For Park, the global entertainment industry needs more international collaborations.
“It’s important to know how your films are perceived today. But you also have to ask yourself if your films will survive and be remembered,” he said.
“It is impossible for me to know what the public will think in fifty or a hundred years. But the reactions of overseas viewers today are the only small clue you can get,” he added.
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Park Chan-wook returns with a love story