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Ko - production in Busan
  • The Day He Arrives (Korean Films at Cannes 2011)
  • by Jean Noh /  May 06, 2011
    Un Certain Regard Directed by HONG Sangsoo Cast YU Junsang, SONG Sunmi, KIM Sangjoong, KIM Bokyung

    One of the most anticipated Korean films of the year is director HONG Sangsoo’s latest work <The Day He Arrives>. Characteristic of the auteur’s dramas, the film follows a regional college professor and occasional filmmaker on a trip to Seoul, and proceeds to show versions of what could have been a day or perhaps several different days. <The Day He Arrives> has been invited to this year’s Cannes film festival’s Un Certain Regard section where last year, HONG’s film <Hahaha> was the Closing Film and won the top prize.
    As with most of his other idiosyncratic works, the film has a very Korean setting for almost subtle character interaction that makes for interesting viewing as well. <The Day He Arrives> takes place mostly in the Bukchon district of Seoul, which is known for its traditional Korean-style houses and artistic atmosphere which is filled with cafés, galleries and a public library. Near this district is the traditional antiques and gallery neighborhood of Insa-dong. The film’s Korean title <BukchonBanghyang> roughly translates to ‘in the direction of Bukchon’ or ‘Bukchon-bound’.
    In the lead role of Sung-joon, the film stars YU Jun-sang, who first started working with HONG on the 2008 film <Like You Know It All> and most notably also starred in HONG’s <Hahaha>.
    With the face of an ultimately self-centered man who easily smiles to please others and get his way, Sung-joon arrives in Seoul to see an old friend of his, Young-ho (KIM Sang-joong). While he waits to see him, he wanders around Bukchon, running into an actress he used to know and having a short conversation with the eager woman. He walks down to Insa-dong and has a drink by himself when he is invited to join a trio of film students who recognize him as a film director. They are kind and respectful, but eventually he ditches them in a paranoid fashion and heads to an old flame’s apartment.
    The next day, or maybe another – we can’t be sure – Sung-joon is still wandering around Bukchon and again he runs into the actress he used to know. They talk again and part. Sung-joon finally meets up with his friend Young-ho, who has a previous engagement to see Boram (SONG Sun-mee), an attractive professor whom he insists is just a good friend he cares about a lot. They go to a bar called Novel. She is obviously very interested in Sung-joon. The owner of the bar looks very much like Sung-joon’s old flame Kyung-jin (KIM Bo-kyung), and he plays the piano for her.
    And then the next day, or perhaps another day altogether, Sung-joon goes to Jungdok Library with Young-ho. He tells the story of how he once followed a girl home from there for the first time. In the evening, the two meet with a former actor who has returned from doing business in Vietnam. There is tension between the former actor and the former director, but it is dispelled for the time being and Boram joins them. The four of them go to “a bar called Novel,” as Sung-joon once again narrates in a voiceover. After a few drinks, he kisses the bar owner.
    It now seems like Sung-joon may have been in Seoul with his friend Young-ho for a few days now, or just one day so far. He might have learned something from the meeting with his old flame, or it might be that he has to meet again with this woman who looks like the old flame. As if he had only the one day, Sung-joon is left to face the day in spite of everything.
    Proust Questionnaire for director HONG Sangsoo
    Known as a director whose films appear ordinary on the surface but reveal complex and often uncomfortable truths about relationships between people, HONG Sangsoo was born in 1960 in Seoul. He studied film at Chungang Univervisty and later received a BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts and an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, and spent a few months studying at the Cinematheque Francaise in Paris.
    It was with <The Day The Pig Fell In The Well> that he made an award-winning debut in 1996. He returned two years later with <The Power Of Kangwon Province>, another film with characters traveling and going over relationships, and established himself as one of the most solid and notable Korean filmmakers of his time.
    Despite low domestic attendance, his arthouse films have always travelled and sold well abroad. With his own production company Jeonwonsa, HONG has been making films with great regularity – at least one every two years and sometimes even twice a year. In 2010, which was such a year, <Hahaha> closed the Cannes Un Certain Regard section while <Oki’s Movie>, was the Closing Film for the Venice film festival’s Orrizonti section.
    At time of press a few weeks before Cannes, the quote-sensitive director HONG Sangsoo prefers not to talk about <The Day He Arrives> before its premiere. But for those interested to hear from the director of so many seemingly personal films, he was not averse to replying candidly to a “Proust Questionnaire” that Korean Cinema Today put to him.
    Q. What is happiness to you?
    - Carelessness of heart.
    Q. What are you most afraid of?
    - When my mind is going crazy, being enveloped by darkness.
    Q. What are your most marked traits?
    - Many. 
    Q. What are the traits you most hate in others?
    - A few.
    Q. What is your greatest extravagance?
    - Maguro sashimi once a week when I can.
    Q. What is your greatest regret?
    - Not having travelled enough with my daughter.
    Q. What is your favorite trip?
    1) A compulsive one without any preparation period prior to
    2) Shooting period
    Q. What are the traits in a man you most like?
     - Many.
    Q. What are the traits in a woman you most like?
    - Many.
    Q. What do you most dislike?
    - A few [things]
    Q. How would you describe your current state of mind?
    - Been clear for many days, today and yesterday a little foggy, but will be clear soon again.
    Q. What is the most miserable thing to you?
    - Going alone, being crazy inside, not being able to talk about it.
    Q. What do you think is the best thing you have ever done?
    - All the important things in my life (if I can ever pinpoint them), they're all brought to me by chance. (I reacted to all of them with my best at the time, like anybody else.)
    Q. If you hadn’t become a director, what would you have done?
    - Don't know.
    Q. How do you feel about returning to Cannes?
    - Hope it will be a pleasant trip.  
    Korean Films at Cannes Film Festival
    The Day He Arrives
    Dir. HONG Sangsoo
    Un Certain Regard
    Director HONG Sangsoo’s latest work <The Day He Arrives> follows a regional college professor and occasional filmmaker on a trip to Seoul, taking place mostly in the Bukchon district of Seoul, which is known for its traditional Korean-style houses.
    The Yellow Sea
    Dir. NA Hong-jin
    Un Certain Regard
    Director NA Hong-jin’s second feature <The Yellow Sea> seems to complete a trend and flow of thriller genre films in the industry at peak done by NA Hong-jin himself, who started the trend since his previous film <The Chaser>.
    Dir. KIM Ki-duk
    Un Certain Regard
    Director KIM Ki-duk returns with his first documentary <ARIRANG> after his latest feature <Dream>(2008). Through <Arirang> he can understand human beings, be thankful of nature, and acknowledge his life as it is now.
    Dir. Dahci Ma
    Short Film in Competition
    LEE Jeong-jin (aka Dahci MA)’s <Ghost> talks about slums that are about to be re-developed where a rape murder case occurs, featuring grotesque looks, mixing up foreign factors that refuse to be put together.
    Fly by Night
    Dir. SON Tae Gyum
    SON Tae-gyum questions the true meaning of sexual identity through the eyes of a young boy experiencing a difficult adolescence.
    Finis Operis
    Dir. MOON Byoung-Gon
    International Critics' Week
    "If you are willing to survive, you will die. But if you're willing to die, you will survive." As captured in this Korean saying spoken by Admiral...
    In Front of the House
    Dir. Lee Tae-Ho
    International Critics' Week
    The film starts off like any other romantic movie about two inseparable love birds in their twenties...
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