The Rising Sun Sets in Pusan By Akiko Kobari
by Akiko Kobari
At the 2002 Cannes film festival, Strokes of Fire (Chihwaseon) won the best director award. Im Kwon-taek made an excellent speech, and I was felt that we were on the verge of a Korean new wave. At 10th Pusan film festival, my expectations were fulfilled. I heard an established theory that the cinematograph first came to Korea from Kobe, Japan about 100 years ago. April Snow (Oechul) is now playing in Japan, and Bae Yong-joon, the actor of the film, is one of the top screen idols in Japan.
The Pusan film festival screened 21 Japanese films. Big River was screened in the New Currents section. Although the title makes it sound like a western movie, Big River is Japanese, even though it was shot in the US with English dialogue. The production company is Office Kitano, Takeshi Kitano’s company in Tokyo. Director Atsushi Funahashi’s depiction of three characters from different nationalities, religions, cultural backgrounds, are well-rounded and profound. Telling a story of youth is easy, but juxtaposing different generations with different races is a big challenge. And the director doesn’t disappoint.
Sabu (Berlin FIPRESCI winner 2000), the director of Hold Up Down (Horudo appu daun), made two films this year. In Japan, few directors can make more than two films a year. Another Japanese film which screened, Dead Run, is an excellent piece full of his characteristic speedy taste. I have known him since the day he was still an actor and won the the new actor’s award for World Apartment Horror at Yokohama Film Festival in 1991. In Pusan he told me, “I hope to shoot a film outside of Japan once.” Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Loft (Shi no otome) is his first love story keeping to his own tastes. The heroine of Linda Linda Linda, smash hit in Japan, is Korean actress Bae Du-na, playing a foreign student in a small town in Japan, and speaking and singing in excellent Japanese. Princess Racoon (Operetta tanuki goten) is the fruit of a 45 year collaboration between 82 year old director Seijun Suzuki and 87 year old production designer Takeo Kimura.
Rikidozan (Yeokdosan) is an extraordinary hero in a Korean film in which the Japanese actors played very well. For example, Tatsuya Fuji who acted in Empire of Passion (Ai no borei) and Empire of the Senses (Ai no corrida), and Miki Nakatani who played in Ring (Ringu) . By the grace this film, I could know the big hero who had been at sumo 50 years ago. Annyoung Sayonara is a fine documentary piece reporting on present-day Japan.
Ten years ago, Kohei Oguri’s Sleeping Man (Nemuru otoko) was screening in Pusan. This film is a memorial film. There might be a sea between Japan and Korea, but in cinema we are already borderless. I admire Kim Dong-ho’s achievement.