By Jake Howell email@example.com
Countdown To Cannes: Im Sang-soo, 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 Cannes: Da-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).
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.
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 Cannes: Do-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.
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.