Hong Kong's Wong Kar-wai and Tony Leung hold the limelight at the 9th Pusan International Film Fest
Todd Thacker (internews)
Over 5,000 excited movie buffs, actors and VIPs flocked to a spacious outdoor cinema to watch "2046", the opener of the 9th Pusan International Film Festival Thursday night. The city's nine-day celebration of cinema is now in full swing with 264 features from 63 nations, running until Oct. 15.
Fans applauded and called out the names of their favorite Korean and international actors and directors as dozens of moviemakers walked down the red carpet to their seats under a massive movie screen at the front of the venue.
The opening ceremony was MC'd by A-list Korean actors Ahn Sung Ki and Lee Young Ae. Festival chairman and mayor of Busan, Hur Nam Sik, announced the official opening of PIFF -- declaring it the most "dynamic" film festival in the world -- followed by a short performance by pianist Yang Bang Ean and Won Il.
But the biggest round of applause came for the guests of honor, "2046" leading man Tony Leung and director Wong Kar-wai, who earlier in the day fielded questions from reporters from all over Asia and the world at a press conference headed by longtime PIFF director Kim Dong Ho.
"I'm delighted to be here. I feel very much at home, maybe because it is by the sea. I feel like I'm on vacation", said Leung, through a translator.
Wong told dozens of domestic and international journalists that he was very glad to be back in Busan for one of the best film festivals in Asia. The Cannes Best Director winner in 1997 added that every year the festival gets stronger and stronger.
"2046", which had 3,800 tickets available for the public, broke a PIFF box office record when it sold out in less than five minutes when the Internet ticket sales went online last month.
Asked how he felt about "2046" selling out in such a short time, Wong remarked that he well aware of the enthusiasm of Korean audiences.
"PIFF has a good tradition. People take trains from all over the country to watch films so I'm surprised and yet not surprised", said the Hong Kong director, who wore a black leather jacket, dark sunglasses and chain smoked during the press conference.
He added that he thought the "great cast" and Korean's passion for film led to the selling out of the opener.
"2046", which was presented in competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, is a continuation of Wong's eye-catching "In the Mood for Love" (2000) and features the same main character called Chow Mo-wan, a role reprised by Leung.
Chow is an amoral writer and playboy who gets his inspiration to write science fiction stories while engaging in a debauched lifestyle and love affairs with three different women.
"It was challenging. The director told me I'm the same Chow as in 'In the Mood for Love' but that I had to be different", Leung said, referring to his previous roles as the "jilted lover" which in this film is turned on its head as Leung depicts a playboy.
The recurring theme of Wong's work plays out as a subject of Chow's SF, a surreal futuristic train that moves people to the year 2046 to recover their lost memories.
"Tony (Leung)'s performance reminds the audience of the other characters he played in my previous films. Like when I run across someone in the street who reminds me of someone, this is what I want to get across to the audience in the film", said Wong.
"2046" was specifically reedited for PIFF, having first appeared at Cannes earlier this year. "The Cannes copy of the film was rushed", he explained, saying the shots that were not ready at the time of his first entry were added, along with a final mix of sound and music.
"We had no festivals after Cannes because of our PIFF invitation", Wong said. He explained that PIFF has long supported his films so the reedit and holding out for this October was intentional.
PIFF director Kim said that "2046" was selected as the opener based on the criteria of quality, popular appeal and an Asian film that is showing for the first time. The reedit, he said, made a "2046" opener possible.
As Asia's largest film event, PIFF 2004 has on offer a wide-ranging selection of new and established directors, along with a tantalizing 40 films having their world premieres, on top of 16 international and 48 Asian premieres. Korea will showcase 58 films.
Since 1999, Korea has seen a "renaissance" in its domestic productions, prospering with rave reviews, awards and record-breaking box office sales at home and abroad.
PIFF was established in 1996 to kick-start the film industries of Korea and Asia. Overcoming the economic doldrums of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, PIFF's reputation has solidified into a noteworthy autumn destination for filmmakers and movie-buffs alike. Last year over 165,000 people viewed 243 films from 61 countries.