Acclaimed Korean auteur Park Chul-soo died yesterday after being hit by a drunken driver as he crossed the street. The 64-year-old director was returning home after a day on the set of his latest film.
I won't pretend to be an expert on Park's body of work but there's no doubt that his eclectic and vibrant films will be sorely missed in Korea's independent filmmaking community. After starting out as a crew member, Park made his first film, Captain of the Alley, in 1978. Throughout the 80s he made a great number of melodramas before turning a new leaf with 301, 302 in 1995, one of the landmark Korean films of that decade.
Before female filmmakers had a chance to do it, Park was one of the few professionals in the Korean film industry using a feminist slant in his works such as 301, 302 and Push! Push! (1997). In the new millenium, Park continued to burn a path with his experimental and frequently explicit films like Green Chair (2005) and Red Vacance Black Wedding (2011).
I was particularly taken with Green Chair when I first saw it years ago and for me it remains one of the best independent films produced in the country. An erotic tale punctuated by both the prosaic and the surreal, there's nothing quite like it.
Known for his energy and enthusiasm, the last 24hrs have featured many fond remembrances from those that knew him. His premature death comes as a shock and is an unfortunate reminder of just how dangerous roads can be in Seoul. It's not for nothing that many of the Korean films you may have seen feature many traumatic traffic collisions.
I was very fortunate to meet Park for a few minutes last October at the Busan International Film Festival. It was early in the morning, on the street outside of an izakaya behind the Grand Hotel. He wore sunglasses and a big smile on his face, happy to shake my hand and full of life as he gesticulated throughout our short conversation. His last completed film, the erotic indie B.E.D, premiered at the festival and was released earlier this month on Korean screens.
A unique voice in the Korean film industry, Park Chul-soo will be sorely missed.
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