Screen 2007: Return of Master Directors

By Kim Tae-jong
Staff Reporter

The number of films produced last year was 108, the most ever in Korean cinematic history, and many of them were feature debut works by emerging directors. But more familiar names will be seen at the box office this year as many renowned directors are preparing to return to the big screen.

After Long Break

After a long break, Im Kwon-taek is back with his 100th movie, "Chonnyonhak" ("Beyond the Years").

With the movie, 61-year-old Im will have made the greatest number of films ever in Korea. It wasn't all smooth sailing, as the film's production was almost cancelled because the original investor and production company suddenly pulled out.

The film is a sequel to the successful 1993 film "Seopyeonje", a story about singers of pansori, or Korean traditional music. The new film is a story of the characters 30 years after the story of "Seopyeonje" ended.

Another anticipated work is "Secret Sunshine" by director Lee Chang-dong, who is returning after five-year break following his 2002 film "Oasis".

Lee's last film won him the best director's prize at the Venice Film Festival that year, but he stopped making films after being appointed culture and tourism minister in 2003.

His new melodrama, starring Song Kang-ho and Jeon Do-yeon, revolves around a widow with three children who goes to her dead husband's hometown Milyang in South Kyongsang Province, and meets the owner of a car repair shop.

Comedy & Melodrama Veterans

Everyone has their own specialty, and directors are no exception.

Director Youn J. K. (JK Youn) will release soon another wacky comedy similar to his previous works "My Boss, My Hero" (2002), "Sex Is Zero" (2003) and "Crazy Assassins" (2003),

His new film, "Miracle on 1st Street", is a love story between a female boxer and a gangster slacker.

Director Jang Gyu-sung teamed up again with Cha Seung-won for a new comedy, "Ijanggwa Kunsu", following their first work together, "Teacher Mr.Kim" (2003). In their second project, they are looking to produce another heart-warming comedy revolving around ordinary people in countryside.

If you are more into melodrama, the new projects by director Heo Jin-ho and Kim Dae-seung will be worth waiting for.

Hur, who was acclaimed for "Christmas in August" (1997), "One Fine Spring Day" (2001) and "April Snow" (2005), especially in Japan, will make another melodrama in his own signature style starring Hwang Jung-min and Lim Soo-jung.

Kim, whose "Trace of Love" opened the 2006 Pusan International Film Festival, is also preparing for another melodrama about a couple in their 50s.

Controversial Issues

The upcoming thriller "Voice of a Murderer", directed by Park Jin-pyo and starring Sol Kyung-gu and Kim Nam-joo, is based on a real kidnapping in 1991.

The main reason the film has drawn attention is because of the director's previous films _ Park is known to be attracted to controversial issues or true stories regardless of their box office performance.

In "Too Young To Die" (2002), he realistically portrayed a love between a couple in their 70s, and because of the film's graphic sex scenes, the film was initially banned from theaters. In "You are my Sunshine" (2005), the melodrama based on a true story revolves around a man who falls in love with a woman who later finds out she has AIDS.

Following a Hit

It is obviously true that directors work under a lot of pressure after they have had a hit film, but the high expectations for their new films also seems to work as strong motivation for them to explore new areas.

Lee Joon-ik, director of the second most viewed film in Korea, "The King and the Clown" (2005), and another moderate success, "Radio Star", last year, is now filming a tragic love story between a man in his 40s and a woman in her 20s.

After the success of the trilogy on the theme of revenge, director Park Chan-wook made an experimental film with last year's romantic comedy "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK", starring K-pop singer Rain and actress Lim Soo-jung.

In his next film, he will take another peculiar turn with a film about vampires titled "Thirst".
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