Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Thursday, April 27, time 1.20 PM

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Old Days

One can make a valid argument that Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy is what ushered Korean cinema, especially genre cinema, onto the global stage. Oldboy is the second film of Park’s ‘vengeance trilogy’ (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance bookending said trilogy). It is an iconic film, with an iconography like no other modern Korean film that is reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino, the Wachowskis, Tom Twyker, Miike Takashi, and Guillermo del Toro that helped shape what modern genre cinema is today. In fact, Tarantino was the head of the Cannes jury where the film was in main competition and would receive the Grand Prix award. Oldboy is an antecedent to this current genre cinema renaissance with the popularity of fantastic film festivals around the world, and of course, this very film festival as well.
Thirteen years later, Han Sun-hee’s Old Days is an extensive, insider’s trip down memory lane on the making of this seminal film and how a young director and his cohorts would unknowingly make a film that propelled South Korean cinema to unprecedented heights among international audiences. Interestingly, the film was originally commissioned as supplemental material for an upcoming Blu-Ray anniversary release, but with the wealth of information, including interviews from all the major players, and an ‘inside baseball’ take on the production of the film, the producers felt it was worth it to produce a feature length documentary.
One juicy morsel is an interview with Finecut sales agent Suh Young-joo, who revealed how the film had a market screening at the now defunct MIFED film market held in Milan, and was attended by a Cannes programmer who eventually invited the film for the Un Certain Regard section, but was soon bumped up to the main competition.
Of course the director and his main stars are interviewed extensively with Park and Oh Dae-su himself, Choi Min-sik, visiting old film locations in Busan, sometimes interacting with giddy fans, signing autographs and taking selfies with them. One particularly fascinating segment is the making of the famous hammer wielding one-take action sequence, where Choi was run ragged after 16+ takes, which apparently was the director’s intention to get the right performance from him, which was to be emotionally and physically spent. However, the best interviews are with the various ‘faceless’ below-the-line crew members and all their various personality quirks and creative input that helped shape Oldboy. But, perhaps the most fun interviews are with Director Park’s assistant directors, who could be characters right out of a Hong Sang-soo film, who come up with interesting and at many times, lo-fi solutions to key scenes in the film and at many times, guinea pigs themselves in testing out props or equipment (making sure it was even possible or Choi to be inside a suitcase, for example, but putting themselves in one first).
What Old Days does best, however, is highlight how mundane and sometimes ordinary the process is in filmmaking. But, this somewhat seemingly smooth production did go off the rails many times with cost overruns, more days added to the production schedule, and just sheer exhaustion on the cast and crew from countless night shoots. Oldboy could’ve went the way as just another inconsequential genre film that would have ended up in the DVD bargain bin. Instead, through the mundane and the many obstacles, there was also a perfect storm of determination and pride in their work, and it showed that the production was truly a team effort in producing one of the most seminal benchmarks of modern Korean cinema.
Anderson Le
Film director: 
Han Sunhee
Year: 
2016
Running time: 
111

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