Cin­e­matog­ra­pher re­mem­bered at Bu­san int’l film fes­ti­val

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Lee Gyu-lee [email protected]­re­

To honor the cen­ten­nial of Korean cin­ema this year, the Bu­san In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val has se­lected, the pi­o­neer and leg­endary cin­e­matog­ra­pher Jung Il-sung to fea­ture in the Korean Cin­ema Ret­ro­spec­tive to look back on his over 60 years of work.

BU­SAN — To honor the cen­ten­nial of Korean cin­ema this year, the Bu­san In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val has se­lected the pi­o­neer and leg­endary cin­e­matog­ra­pher Jung Il-sung to fea­ture in the Korean Cin­ema Ret­ro­spec­tive to look back on his over 60 years of work.

It’s rare for the film fes­ti­val to set aside a spe­cial sec­tion for a cin­e­matog­ra­pher, in­stead of di­rec­tors and ac­tors, to high­light their work.

Jung, 90, met re­porters, Fri­day, and shared his phi­los­o­phy and story be­hind the cin­e­matic mas­ter­pieces he took part in, dur­ing a me­dia con­fer­ence held in Hae­un­dae-gu, Bu­san.

The Ja­panese-born cin­e­matog­ra­pher made his de­but in his late 20s with di­rec­tor Jo Ke­ung-ha’s “Farewell Sor­row” (1957). Since then, he has worked with 38 di­rec­tors on 138 movies, us­ing his unique tech­nique.

His dis­tinc­tive flair for film­mak­ing was rec­og­nized in “Woman of Fire” (1971) di­rected by Kim Ki-young, which de­lib­er­ately used color aes­thet­ics and a unique an­gle to de­liver the grotesque sen­ti­ments of the story.

Born dur­ing the Ja­panese colo­nial era, cin­e­matog­ra­pher Jung said liv­ing in the tough times of Korea, which un­der­went mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ships af­ter the coun­try was freed from colo­nial rule and the en­su­ing pro-democ­racy protests, helped him to pro­duce mas­ter­pieces.

“Af­ter Korea gained in­de­pen­dence (from Ja­pan), the coun­try was left with­out a gov­ern­ment. In my col­lege years most schools shut down,” he said, men­tion­ing the dic­ta­tor­ships and Korean ci­ti­zen’s fight for democ­racy.

“This was the time you had to live in fear, so I had to chal­lenge my­self to make films that could heal (the so­ci­ety).”

“Korea’s un­for­tu­nate mod­ern his­tory and liv­ing through a time of pain, joy, and tragedy are the driv­ing force be­hind my works,” he said.

The cin­e­matog­ra­pher is well­known for his part­ner­ship with di­rec­tor Im Kwon-taek. The two first met through “Divine Bow” (1979), which led to “Man­dara” (1981) the first Korean film to be screened at the Ber­lin In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in 1982 in the Panorama Sec­tion. Since then, the two have worked to­gether for over 30 years mak­ing crit­i­cally-ac­claimed films, in­clud­ing the mu­si­cal “Seopy­eonje” (1993) with Korea’s most fa­mous long-take scene.

“He’s the one who got me through the time I suf­fered from rec­tal can­cer,” Jung said of Im, who pro­duced “Man­dara” while Jung was re­cov­er­ing. “We were al­ways on the same page when it comes to our thoughts on so­ci­ety, his­tory, and the fu­ture,” Jung added as the rea­son for their long-last­ing part­ner­ship.

“Man­dara” be­came one of Jung’s best works as it was rec­og­nized for the use of mise-en-scene and metic­u­lously cal­cu­lated an­gles Jung pro­vided through the cam­era.

He ex­plained that “Man­dara” was a work ex­press­ing the anger in so­ci­ety.

“It was time with in­tense cen­sor­ship. Movies dur­ing that time were mostly host­ess films, low-qual­ity com­edy or films that em­u­lated Chi­nese ones,” he noted, say­ing he was ex­tremely out­raged by such prac­tices. “So we chan­neled our anger by mak­ing movies. We con­fronted the dark era by mak­ing a dark-themed film which was Man­dara.”

Though many praised him for his beau­ti­fully cap­tured frames, he noted that he never tried to shoot scenes “beau­ti­fully.” “I put fo­cus mainly on de­pict­ing the pain peo­ple in this coun­try have, in or­der to show the au­di­ences that his­tory con­tin­ues.”

Re­al­ism is the guid­ing prin­ci­ple of his work. But the key in de­pict­ing re­al­ism is putting a dream into it, he said.

“Some might think re­al­ism is about film­ing things as it is. If we do that, how­ever, it would be noth­ing more than news or a record. I tried to cap­ture dreams in re­al­ism, and this is what has got­ten me this far.”

He also com­pli­mented the younger gen­er­a­tion di­rec­tors, in­clud­ing di­rec­tor Bong Joon-ho of “Par­a­site” and con­grat­u­lated him on the mean­ing­ful win­ning of the Cannes’ Palme d’Or in the cen­ten­nial year of Korean cin­ema.

But at the same time, he was crit­i­cal of Korean films. “Peo­ple in the film in­dus­try nowa­days are for­tu­nate to live in this era — an era where free­dom of ex­pres­sion is guar­an­teed.”

“I feel that more qual­ity films should be made — in suc­ces­sion — of our sen­ti­ments (those who have gone through tragic his­tory),” he said, and warned di­rec­tors against mak­ing films that im­i­tate the work of Hollywood. Jung Il-sung’s Korean Cin­ema Ret­ro­spec­tive will present seven films — “Born to kill”(1996), “Hwang Jin-ie”(1986), “Late Au­tumn”(1981), “Man­dara”(1981), “Son of a Man”(1980), “The Last Wit­ness”(1980) “Woman of Fire”(1971).

The films will be screened through Oct. 12.


Cin­e­matog­ra­pher Jung Il-sung speaks dur­ing a press con­fer­ence for this year’s Korean Cin­ema Ret­ro­spec­tive at the Bu­san In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val in Hae­un­dae-gu, Bu­san, Fri­day. Seven films of his work will be screened through­out the fes­ti­val.

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