Park Chan-Wook Q & A session

"One of the most important living directors"
- praise for Park Chan-Wook from the director of the Melbourne International Film Festival.

This Q & A session was only announced on Wednesday (when the director was originally meant to introduce his movie at the festival, but couldn't make it at the time.) There was still a really good turn out though I thought for the last day of the festival.

My original idea of asking the director to sign a replica of the hammer used in Old Boy was abandoned as I thought of it after three days of too many films and not enough sleep. A quick visit to several DVD stores in Chinatown provided me with a copy of Joint Security Area on DVD that I had signed later instead.

For this session there was a translator which meant things were a little slower than usual, Park Chan-Wook did seem to give honest and detailed answers to all the questions though. I have seen his answers to similar questions in other interviews so there was not much surprise there.

His first films were 'B' movies, but he found there was not much of an audience for them so he moved on. With his next big movie he had a change in mindset which he said contributed to it's success (he didn't expect Joint Security Area to do so well outside of the Korean domestic market though.)

Out of his own movies Sympathy for Mr Vengeance is his favourite even though it didn't do very well at the box office. He also mentioned the criticism he received from people in his country for talking about social issues they don't want to deal with.

The questions dealing with his most recent film, Old Boy, were also revealing.
James Hewison (festival director) stole some of my question by asking about how he came about the "moral universe" for the film and name checking "A Clockwork Orange."

Park Chan-Wook replied that it had to do with Korean tradition where you are not meant to get back at people when they wrong you. Another theme examined in the movie was respecting your elders which it also went against.

He also continued that to prepare the actor Choi Ming Shik for the role of Oh Dae-su they worked together from the start of production (neither of them initially knew that they were working together as the producer took care of it.)

In pre-production for the movie they focussed on other areas such as getting the sets ready and left the acting until they needed to do it for real.

The first question from the audience was why he wanted to cover the theme of vengeance over three movies (Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Old Boy & the upcoming Sympathy for Lady Vengeance.)

Park Chan-Wook's response was that he wanted to show that vengeance breeds more vengeance and it never stops. Also he wanted to act as a release valve for his country as it is never discussed there.

A further comment he made was that the USA invaded Iraq as vengeance for 9/11, but do the American people really feel happy about it?

Another question from the audience was if he had any favourite Korean directors or movies apart from his own. I have forgotten the directors he mentioned, but he did say the director of "Save the Green Planet!" was a genius.

I had to change my question slightly as it was similar to what had already been asked. It was about how I thought the character of Oh Dae-Su had an intensity that similar to other characters in Stanley Kubrick's movies and did he have any opinion on that director.

Park Chan-Wook said the late Mr Kubrick was one of his favourite directors and the most influential film of his was the movie Lolita. For the actual depiction of violence he drew inspiration from Abel Farrare (Bad Lieutenant, Driller Killer.)

He said he wanted to show the pain of violence and the effect it has on the victims and also question the morality of violence as a means of using it to solve problems.

I expected more questions from the audience, but the session only went for an hour. I just managed to get my DVD signed by Mr Park Chan-Wook who was being mobbed by adoring Korean ladies (he had to run away), before having a talk to some people and going to get some dinner.