Kwak Kyung-taek’s next film a lower-budget romance

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At last night’s Q&A following a packed showing of Typhoon (queue above), director Kwak Kyung-taek confirmed that his next film will have a slightly smaller budget than his last, which had disappointing box office result despite its large budget. It will be a romance, and Kwak is talking to Lee Jung-jae, the hero of Typhoon, as the prospective star. And the budget will be a mere 4 billion won.

Kwak Kyung-taek

Kwak (above, answering last night’s questions) talked about some of the disasters and near-misses which plagued his shooting of his big-budget film. He was filming in Thailand, and it was only by chance that he had decided not to film the day the tsunami hit the beach. But the costs of the film increased when there was a fire in the hold of the ship where the “radioactive waste” was stored.

Kwak was more guarded when it came to some of the more controversial questions from the audience. He refused to be drawn when asked his views on Kim Ki-duk’s statements on the Host and the domestic film audiences; he was very diplomatic when asked about his views on the screen quota. I think he said that the quota didn’t guarantee the quality of Korean film, but that the market needed some protection.

And when asked about whether he was trying to express any views on US-ROK relations in the film, and on the need to transfer operational control, he preferred to duck the question as a very complicated issue and instead focus on the plight of North Korean refugees1.

Given that there was extensive coverage from the Korean press, maybe Director Kwak thought he ought to watch what he said. Still, it was an interesting session, after a film which to me was more interesting for its topicality (asylum-seekers, operational control, and, if the subtitles can be relied upon2, the fact that the North Korean nuclear issue is seen as an American problem as opposed to a Korean problem) than for its exhausting Bond-like set-piece spectacles and its plot which relied rather too much on the suspension of disbelief3.

  1. When I asked him the operational control question, Director Kwak chose instead to talk about the need to relieve North Korean poverty and famine. When Roger Clark, who was chairing, pressed him again, he similarly started talking about refugees and cannibalism in the North. It was only when the question was re-interpreted by a native Korean speaker in the audience that Kwak addressed the question by saying that it was a complex issue. []
  2. The subtitles referred to the resolution of the “US/North Korea issue”. However, the subtitles were not flawless. In a blooper which had me looking forward to some topless mud-wrestling, the hero was introduced as being “an expert in underwear combat”. The image was not dispelled by the immediate cut to a well-sculpted Lee Jung-jae frolicking by the seaside with his military buddies []
  3. Spoilers. I was particularly amused by the final climax: the helicopters fly into the eye of the typhoon, and ditch the agents and their inflatable dinghies into the mountainous seas. The agents storm aboard the freighter and slaughter the heavily-armed terrorists. The US sub launches its torpedoes (boo hiss). The hero and anti-hero have a gunfight, a fist fight, a knife fight, while proclaiming that in another life they could be friends (Yuk). They open the hatches to release the dirty bombs and then close them. There’s fire and mayhem. A hundred-foot high wave crashes across the ship. The anti-hero gasps his last. Oh, and finally the torpedoes hit. As the freighter sinks with all hands and the storm gets even fiercer, the rescue planes fly in. Hurrah. Cut forward two months, and an unscarred Lee Jung-jae in his hunky navy uniform stands on board his frigate, somehow having been plucked from inside a sinking hulk in the middle of a storm. What a hero. []

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