By Jake Howell jake.howell@utoronto.ca

Countdown To Cannes: Im Sang-soo, Hong Sang-soo

The fifth in a series of snapshots of the twenty-two filmmakers in Competition for the Palme d’Or at the sixty-fifth Festival de Cannes.

 

HONG SANG-SOO

 

Background: South Korean; born in Seoul, South Korea 1960.

Known for / style: Hahaha and The Day He Arrives; kitchen-sink / social realism; shoestring budgets; extremely dry, conversational humor; booze-soaked narratives that involve plenty of drinking and smoking

Film he’s bringing to CannesDa-reun na-ra-e-suh (In Another Country), a mostly English-language piece that looks at three different women named Anne, yet played by the same actress (Isabelle Huppert). Each Anne visits the same seaside town, meeting the same people. In Another Country also stars Jun-Sang Yu (Hahaha).

Notable accolades: The biggest honor Hong has under his belt is winning Cannes 2010’s Un Certain Regard program with Hahaha. Hong has also won Tokyo’s Special Jury Prize (2000’s Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors), Seattle’s 2003 Emerging Masters Showcase Award, and Asia-Pacific’s Best Director award (2002’s On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate), to name a few.

Previous Cannes appearances: Hong is a regular at this event. He has had numerous films in the Official Selection (In Another Country will be his seventh), including two in Competition (2004’s Woman is the Future of Man and 2005’s Tale of Cinema) and four in Un Certain Regard (1998’s The Power of Kangwon Province, 2000’s Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, 2010’s Hahaha, and 2011’s The Day He Arrives).

Hong Sang-soo.

Could it win the Palme? The plot of In Another Country sounds simultaneously intriguing and off-putting; a surreal experience that could result in a love/hate scenario. That’s because Hong’s films are typically constructed with avant-garde tendencies, and In Another Country looks to continue that trend: Isabelle Huppert will be portraying three different characters with the same name and narrative trajectory. Huh? The problem with Hong’s golden prospects is that he and Jury president Nanni Moretti approach filmmaking very differently, meaning Moretti could foreseeably be turned off by Hong’s atypical style (Hong’s 2010 win for Hahaha was given by a Claire Denis-led jury, an avant-garde filmmaker of her own). On the other hand, Moretti’s a straight shooter. Therefore, the odds of Moretti’s jury being wooed by a film with a greater focus on continuity editing and logical flow feel considerably greater than anything else. However, like every other film in this Competition, this remains to be seen.

Why you should care: South Korea has never won the Palme d’Or, despite a consistently strong, annual representation of Korean cinema at Cannes. In addition to In Another Country, Isabelle Huppert stars in Michael Haneke’s Amour, meaning Huppert has a solid shot at winning a third Best Actress prize in 2012. Given that In Another Country will primarily focus on Huppert exploring three different characters, it should showcase her ability and range as an actress. As a director and writer, Hong Sang-soo is critically-acclaimed in South Korea, and anyone interested in natural, conversational narratives with ironic humor should look into his career. Hong’s films are organic and original, and In Another Country’s premise seems to be a synthesis of everything the director is known for.

IM SANG-SOO

 

Background: South Korean; born in Seoul, South Korea 1962.

Known for / style: The Housemaid and The President’s Last Bang; controversial films that push the envelope in South Korea; sexually-charged dramas

Film he’s bringing to CannesDo-nui mat (The Taste of Money), an erotic thriller following an extremely wealthy family obsessed with greed and lust. Stars include Kim Kang-woo (Hong Sang-soo’s Hahaha), Yoon Yeo-jeong (The Housemaid, Hahaha), Kim Hyo-sin (Life is Peachy), and Baek Yoon-sik (The President’s Last Bang).

Notable accolades: Im Sang-soo has been mostly unsuccessful throughout the festival circuit, accumulating only a few honors here and there at smaller Asian events. However, Im did pick up a FIPRESCI Special Mention at Pusan for 2000’s Tears, and a Best Director award at Ghent (2003’s A Good Lawyer’s Wife).

Previous Cannes appearances: Im has only played Cannes once before, with 2010’s The Housemaid. It debuted in Competition.

Im Sang-soo.

Could it win the Palme? Judging from the trailer, The Taste of Money looks to be the South Korean equivalent of your standard Hollywood sex drama (think Unfaithful or something). Here’s the thing: the theatrical release date for The Taste of Money in South Korea is May 17, which is only the second day of the Festival. This means Im Sang-soo is hoping for good press and likely nothing more. In other words, a film releasing parallel to its Cannes screening is not a film hoping to win the Palme. Why? Because good art films need to snowball through the international festivals and gain as much attention as they can, not rush out to release with zero buzz. The Taste of Money doesn’t look very artsy (which isn’t a bad thing), but it should attract healthy audiences in Asia from the known talent in the film (in addition to Im’s pedigree of pot-stirring controversy). This is mainstream fare, folks.

Why you should care: Im Sang-soo is essentially a South Korean genre director. His films are exciting and risqué, which is normally more than enough to sell a movie ticket. In terms of his latest film, the cast of The Taste of Money is strong and well-known in South Korea, which should help box-office numbers over there. While Im Sang-soo’s Palme prospects are slim in 2012 (a novelty betting website lists Im’s film with odds of 33-1), odds are The Taste of Money will be entertaining and yes, titillating. Im’s no prude.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0P_J8IriN4

One Response to “Countdown To Cannes: Im Sang-soo, Hong Sang-soo”

  1. I’m very much looking forward to both films, but in particular, In Another Country. That trailer is charming, and it sounds like an interesting and unique role for Huppert.

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Julian Schnabel: Years ago, I was down there with my cousin’s wife Corky. She was wild — she wore makeup on her legs, and she had a streak in her hair like Yvonne De Carlo in “The Munsters.” She liked to paint. I had overalls on with just a T-shirt and looked like whatever. We were trying to buy a bunch of supplies with my cousin Jesse’s credit card. They looked at the credit card, and then they looked at us and thought maybe we stole the card, so they called Jesse up. He was a doctor who became the head of trauma at St. Vincent’s. They said, “There’s somebody here with this credit card and we want to know if it belongs to you.”

He said, “Well, does the woman have dyed blonde hair and fake eyelashes and look like she stepped out of the backstage of some kind of silent movie, and is she with some guy who has wild hair and is kind of dressed like a bum?”

“Yeah, that’s them.”

“Yeah, that’s my cousin and my wife. It’s okay, they can charge it on my card.”
~ Julian Schnabel Remembers NYC’s Now-Shuttered Pearl Paint

MB Cool. I was really interested in the aerial photography from Enter the Void and how one could understand that conceptually as a POV, while in fact it’s more of an objective view of the city where the story takes place. So it’s an objective and subjective camera at the same time. I know that you’re interested in Kubrick. We’ve talked about that in the past because it’s something that you and I have in common—

GN You’re obsessed with Kubrick, too.

MB Does he still occupy your mind or was he more of an early influence?

GN He was more of an early influence. Kubrick has been my idol my whole life, my own “god.” I was six or seven years old when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I never felt such cinematic ecstasy. Maybe that’s what brought me to direct movies, to try to compete with that “wizard of Oz” behind the film. So then, years later, I tried to do something in that direction, like many other directors tried to do their own, you know, homage or remake or parody or whatever of 2001. I don’t know if you ever had that movie in mind for your own projects. But in my case, I don’t think about 2001 anymore now. That film was my first “trip” ever. And then I tried my best to reproduce on screen what some drug trips are like. But it’s very hard. For sure, moving images are a better medium than words, but it’s still very far from the real experience. I read that Kubrick said about Lynch’s Eraserhead, that he wished he had made that movie because it was the film he had seen that came closest to the language of nightmares.

Matthew Barney and Gaspar Noé