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Director Looks at Turmoil of Life in the '70s

2003/11/23 | 118 views | Permalink | Source

By Joon Soh
Staff Reporter
In the films of veteran director Im Kwon-taek, there's a sense that he is not only telling a story but also preserving Korea's history and tradition on celluloid. His film "Chunhyang" in 2000 sumptuously retold a traditional Korean tale, while last year's "Chihwaseon" gave the audience a glimpse of a painter's life in the 19th century.

For his 99th film, currently in production, Im travels back to Korea's more recent past. "Low Life", which loosely translates to "A Life Downstream", takes place in the 1960s and `70s, when the nation was ruled by an authoritarian regime and corruption was rampant. Cho Seung-woo stars as a young man who decides that a life of crime is his only means for survival.

"I wanted to show how a man who by disposition is full of purity and integrity changes himself in order to fit in with the times", Im said during a press conference at the film's set in Puchon last week. "I showed how a life becomes ruined".

"Low Life" is being described as an action film with numerous fight scenes, which may surprise moviegoers who are only familiar with Im's recent films.

"It will be a good opportunity for me to compare this recent work with the action films I made in the 1960s", Im said, adding he wished to make the fight scenes as realistic as possible.

Im has dealt with gangster life in his films before, most notably in the early 1990s with "The General's Son", a three-film epic that detailed the life of the real-life crime boss, Kim Du-han.

But Im said the focus in his new film is less on showing the life of one man but rather on "telling the story of many who lived and experienced that era".

The 67-year-old filmmaker and many of those involved in "Low Life" have also lived through that tumultuous period in South Korean history. But while there were many difficult moments, not everything during that era was bad, according to cinematographer Jung Il-sung.

"We didn't have much back then, but in some ways it was more abundant than now", Jung, 74, said while showing reporters around the Puchon set. "The hope and expectation of everyone was great, but because of the wrongdoings of politicians, we had to give them up".

Included on the set is a recreation of a famous "tabang" (coffee shop) in Seoul's Myong-dong area in the 1970s, where writers, filmmakers and artists congregated to share their ideas.

Today, Jung said, the nation has grown economically "but the genuine meaning of culture has been lost. When I see how much people of culture have become involved in business, I sometimes long for those days". Jung believes "Low Life" will reflect some of these feelings.

"Low Life" is scheduled to complete filming in February.

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