Director Hong Sang-soo [Beck Una/10Asia]
Beck Una: The characters in "Ha Ha Ha" write poems, read poems and give poems to others as gifts. I don't know if it's because I watched director Lee Chang-dong's new film "Poetry" yesterday but I rethought about poems. I mean, writing poems is actually an act which we are quite unaccustomed to other than having written them in school.
Hong Sang-soo: Is that so? Don't people write poems?
Beck: Do you write poems?
Hong: Yes, occasionally. It's not really a big deal. For example, first line, an ashtray is transparent. Second line, the table is yellow. Or the ashtray is standing up but the table is laying down. Doesn't even that make it seem strange?
Beck: Hm... It does seem to create some kind of meaning in between the lines.
Hong: Yes, I think that's why I like poetry. It's something that anybody can do without having to invest money in and without having to study. And you can also free yourself from the thought that you need to be logically and linguistically perfect which will further help you to reach that substantive point.
Beck: In your films, the main characters always go on trips -- to the Gangwon Province, to Gyeongju, to Jeju island, to Paris and this time, to Tongyoung. Do you like to travel?
Hong: My heart is always telling me that I want to go but I'm too lazy to. And I've used most of the places that I've been to in my movies. (laugh) Once in a while, when I'm free and the weather is nice, I'll spontaneously ask the people next to me if they would go travel with me, but that too hasn't happened that many times either. And all we do is maybe eat a plate of sashimi and come back.
Beck: So I'm guessing you're not the type that plans on going to a certain place because the food there may be good?
Hong: No, I'm not like that. It's not fun going somewhere after planning on it and how good could the food get? What's important is what the atmosphere is like with the people you're with.
Beck:Are you good at talking to strangers while travelling, like you do in the film?
Hong: Not when I'm sober but I do it well when after I've had a drink. Just recently, I was walking along the beach at night after visiting the Cinematheque in Busan when I saw some foreign kids playing the guitar and hanging out. So I mingled with them, playing the guitar and drinking.
Beck: So I guess that's why you keep drinking. So you can be more brave. (laugh)
Hong: Nah, how could you call that being brave? It's much more difficult to live your life as a brave person.
Beck: Then how do you live as a brave person?
Hong: There are things which are habits, that we cling to, that we think are wrong but can avoid, but rather than avoiding them, being able to own up to your own faults and survive through them, that's what it means to live as a brave person.
Beck: This might be a very big question, but what are films to do you?
Hong: I didn't like looking at the truth through other people's words. So I thought about how as close to the truth as possible I could materialize what I see through my own language. I would be happy even if it's similar [to the truth] by the slightest amount. In such a way, laying certain pieces on the screen through a process which is entirely illogical, arranging those pieces by intuition, watching that on the wall not just by yourself but with others, sharing the same thoughts as some of those people, and being able to laugh with them. That's what I like. About films.
Beck: About 10 years ago you said you would do independent films if Chungmuro doesn't accept you but you have ended up working under the same method. Do you think you'll keep working in the same way?
Hong: I've tried [making movies] so I know that not a lot of people watch movies that I make and accordingly, I feel that I should cut down on production costs. And it's not like I can't tell the stories that I want to just because I don't have money.
Beck: You've been a professor at Konkuk University's school of film since 2008.
Hong: I'm already into my fifth semester. I just compliment and encourage them on the stories they tell that I think are beautiful or could become something good. There is definitely something good but it's all mixed up. Of those, I help them realize for themselves which ones are good stories and encourage them to think it. That's all that is necessary. I'm not teaching anything.
Beck: I heard the title for the film starring Lee Sun-kyun and Jung Yoo-mi have yet to be set?
Hong: No, it's been decided on. "Oki's Movie". It means: a movie that film major Ok-hee makes. I shot it about twice every week during the ongoing semester. It was very difficult. (laugh) And it's done but I think something seems a bit strange. (laugh) Just watch it later. I don't know. Just watch it.
Beck: Are you planning on shooting any more films?
Hong: Yes, in August. Because I like summer. The winter was too long this year. It was tough. When I was younger, I liked winter because the weather wouldn't be great which would be great for drinking, then I liked summer and then winter again, but now I just like summer. It doesn't get as good as walking down a wide road in short sleeves on a breezy summer day.
Beck: What would you talk about this time, and with who and where?
Hong: There's nothing yet. Not the story, not the actor and not the title. I think around June, I'll go somewhere that catches my attention. I also plan on going to Yeosu which actors Ye Ji-won and Yoo Joon-sang head toward at the end of "Ha Ha Ha". A lot of regions have been featured in my films but never the South Jeolla Province.
Editor in Chief : Beck Una one@
Editor : Jessica Kim jesskim@, Jang Kyung-Jin three@, Lee Ji-Hye seven@
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