[K-FILM REVIEWS] 박수칠 때 떠나라 (Murder, Take One)
박수칠 때 떠나라
Murder, Take One (a.k.a. The Big Scene) - KOREA 2005)
Baksu-Chil Dde Ddeonara (lit. Leave When They're Applauding)
115 Minutes - 35mm Panoramic 1.85:1 - Colour
Produced by: 어나더선데이 (Another Sunday), 필름있수다 (Film It Suda)
Distributed By: 시네마 서비스 (Cinema Service)
International Sales: CJ 엔터테인먼트 (CJ Entertainment)
Opening Day: 08/11/2005
Box Office: 2,475,291 admissions nationwide (815,497 Seoul)
Note: The review contains (minor) spoilers.
Director/Writer - 감독/각본: 장진 (Jang Jin)
[거룩한 계보 (Divine Lineage) - 2006, 다섯 개의 시선 (If You Were Me 2) - 2006 OMNIBUS, 아는 여자 (Someone Special) - 2004, 킬러들의 수다 (Guns & Talks) - 2001, 간첩 리철진 (The Spy) - 1999, 기막힌 사내들 (The Happenings) - 1998]
Executive Producer - 제작: 이택동 (Lee Taek-Dong)
Producer - 프로듀서: 김운호 (Kim Woon-Ho)
Cinematography - 촬영: 김준영 (Kim Joon-Young)
Lighting - 조명: 정영민 (Jung Young-Min)
Music - 음악: 한재권 (Han Jae-Kwon)
Editor - 편집: 김상범 (Kim Sang-Beom) and 김재범 (Kim Jae-Beom)
Art Director - 미술: 김효신 (Kim Hyo-Shin)
차승원 (Cha Seung-Won), 신하균 (Shin Ha-Gyun), 신구 (Shin Goo), 정동환 (Jung Dong-Hwan), 김진태 (Kim Jin-Tae), 공호석 (Gong Ho-Seok), 정규수 (Jung Gyu-Soo), 이한위 (Lee Han-Hwi), 이용이 (Lee Yong-In), 류승용 (Ryu Seung-Yong), 임승대 (Im Seung-Dae), 장영남 (Jang Young-Nam), 박정아 (Park Jung-Ah), 황정민 (Hwang Jung-Min), 이해영 (Lee Hae-Young), 박선우 (Park Seon-Woo), 김지선 (Kim Ji-Seon), 김지경 (Kim Ji-Kyung), 이철민 (Lee Cheol-Min), 윤진호 (Yoo Jin-Ho), 이재용 (Lee Jae-Yong)
김지수 (Kim Ji-Soo), 정재영 (Jung Jae-Young)
Yoo Hwa-Yi: 첫눈 오면... 뭐하니? (If the first snow comes... what do you usually do?)
Jang Deok-Bae: 뭐하긴... 눈 쓸지 (What do you think.... I shovel)
- from the play 서툰 사람들 (Wretched People) - Jang Jin
A lot of people go to the movies to find something exciting, something which will take them somewhere different than the reality they're living in; others look for a challenge, thought provoking films which question their preconceptions about society, politics, history, everything. Because we are animals addicted to brand, classify and dissect just about everything we come into contact with, from books to music and inevitably even films, words like 'genre' were born. And the primal, the first real distinction many people tend to make when discussing films is between what is considered art, and what's just mass entertainment.
But, just like superficial ways of classifying ideology ('left wing', 'right wing') can make politics become a mere slugfest between rival tribes, one risks becoming a victim of this labeling game when watching films. What if something doesn't exactly fall into the boundaries of what is considered art, nor is an empty exercise in mass entertainment? Then you have two ways to deal with the problem: you exclude this 'third choice' for being a half-breed, neither black nor white; or, maybe, you consider the possibility there might be a center, a gray area, a kind of 'nongenre' where films are just films; neither pretentious and pseudo-intellectual 'art', nor dumbed-down and superficial 'mainstream' fare. Korean Cinema is a bit like that: often misunderstood because it doesn't offer clear-cut genre cinema (horrors that don't feel like horrors, comedies which turn into melodramas, action films not solely concerned with spinkicks and punches), difficult to get into because it spreads all over the spectrum, covering just about every 'genre' that's available, while at the same time deviating -- frustratingly, for some people -- from such formulae with reckless abandon.
While you can easily categorize people like Kim Ki-Duk and Hong Sang-Soo as auteurs, and Kwak Jae-Yong and Kang Woo-Suk as producers of mass entertainment, things become a little harder to pinpoint when you talk about people like Park Chan-Wook, Bong Joon-Ho, Ryu Seung-Wan, or Kim Jee-woon. Some of the best directors the country has to offer, but are they black or white, populist filmmakers or auteurs? The fact Park's films can travel overseas and either be considered substance-less 'stylish pulp' for fanboys, or masterfully orchestrated trips into our subconscious, just shows how getting rid of those labels from the beginning would pretty much solve the problem. Take Jang Jin for example: his films are much smarter and wittier than most commercial films out there, but he's never showed even a hint of pretentiousness. Just for the sake of contradicting what I just wrote, let's give him a label. Would 'populist auteur' do the job? He led a very intense life, but it's hard to understand why his films operate the way they do without looking at his personality, and at his past.
Someone who rarely watches films, who spends entire nights writing scripts, sleeping just a couple of hours a day, constantly thinking about his next step, Jang Jin's life has always moved fast. When he was in middle school, he kept dreaming of becoming a skilled musician, one with the ability to move from one instrument to the other effortlessly. But fate led him somewhere else, when he saw his first theater play in his freshman year of High School. Beginning his acting career, it looked like he would become an actor after all, as many of the 40+ plays he acted in received good reviews, and he himself collected a few awards for his performances. But after majoring in theater he started writing, and another chapter of his professional life opened. He was part of the writing team for a SBS variety show in the mid 90s, and created his own corner, 헐리웃통신 (Hollywood Message). What was so special about it?
Jang, who wrote and edited this part of the show alone, would take famous scenes from some of the most popular Hollywood films showing in theaters, and make parodies, add silly popups, mix scenes from different films together to form a bizarre, unique collage of images. Apparently he wasn't the only one enjoying that, as ratings for the show, called 좋은 친구들 (Good Friends), surged to unexpected heights. Jang was already working in Yeouido (the area of Seoul where two of the three main TV stations in the country house their headquarters), and the other two big roads -- Chungmuro (Movies) and Daehakro (the Broadway of Korea) -- were just behind the corner.
The country's most popular daily Chosun Ilbo was running its annual literary contest, and Jang entered with 천호동 구사거리 (Cheonho-Dong Crossroad), his first full fledged script. Using three characters which would feature in most of his theater plays and early films (Hwa-Yi, Dal-Soo and Deok-Bae), his new and creative brand of storytelling won over the judges, who awarded him the top prize. It was January 1995, and the film industry was already showing sign of the recovery which would bring it to today's splendor. Jang quickly seized his chance, and wrote 서툰 사람들 (Wretched People), which not only granted him lots of praise, but was also a big success, and allowed actress Song Chae-Hwan to win the Best Actress Award at the Seoul Theater Festival. But theater wasn't the only thing keeping Jang occupied, as he helped Director Lee Min-Yong, Jo Min-Ho and Lee Kyung-Shik adapt Song Jae-Hee's original into what became 개같은 날의 오후 (A Hot Roof). A glorious 'feminist' comedy and one of my all time favorites, the film sees a group of women from all walks of life (normal ajumma's, rich wives, single room salon girls, and even a transsexual) protest their position in society from the roof of a building, while their husbands and the rest of the city try to cope with all that in the midst of one of the hottest summers Korea had ever seen.
It would take another few years before Jang could start working full time in Chungmuro, but during that time, he build a reputation as one of the most brilliant theater directors in the country, with unique scripts and characters who had that 사람 냄새, that realistic 'smell of people' which came through even in the most surreal of situations. His masterpiece is probably 택시드리벌 (Taxi Driver) (nothing to do with Scorsese's film), in which he displayed all his wit and talent for snappy dialogue. The play was a huge success, so much that it was later repeated in 2000 and 2004. The original 1997 version starred Choi Min-Shik as Deok-Bae, a taxi driver from the countryside who decides to come to the city, buys a 개인택시 (Private Taxi) after his mother sold some land, and hopes to finally make an U-Turn in his miserable life.
He's trying to forget the past, change himself, and starts studying English (the English title should be 'Taxi Drivel', as Deok-Bae only learned so much English, and can't pronounce 'Driver' yet). What follows is basically one day in the life of a Korean taxi driver. He meets an ajumma who starts talking about vegetables with him, a bunch of crazy women, gangsters who swear a storm, and then two old men from two different parts of the country, who start fighting over then President Kim Dae-Joong (a scene which, if turned into film, could be incredibly funny, as it manages to talk about regionalism, Korean politics, society and more). Later versions would be played by Kwon Hae-Hyo, Jung Jae-Young and Kang Sung-Jin, and if Jang ever decides to make this into a film, it could become one of the funniest black comedies Korean Cinema has ever seen, a sort of new age 넘버 3 (No. 3) with taxi drivers instead of gangsters.
The success of his theater plays alerted some big suits in the industry, but he had a hard time starting. While Kim Jong-Hak's 쿠데타 (Coup D'Etat) was proceeding at snail pace, the veteran TV Drama producer called Jang, and he quickly wrote the script for 기막힌 사내들 (The Happenings). But as 'Coup D'Etat' kept getting postponed, went through several re-writing sessions and faced more problems, Jang decided to shop around to see if anyone was willing to get his first film started. He finally landed a contract with Hyunjin Cinema, but at the end of the day, only half of what he shot for the 1998 comedy ended up in the final cut. Still too much focused on the elements which made his theater plays great, but didn't necessarily translate well on the big screen, 'The Happenings' was a potboiler of various uneven elements, and even though it had some fantastic little moments -- the interrogation scenes with the dictionary, the commentary on TV about the murderer, and of course the telephone pole killers, speaking in dialect while hilarious subtitles in normal Korean try to make light of what they're saying -- as a whole it still wasn't a good film. But it showed promise, and it definitely brought something new to the table, in an era when commercial Cinema was still trying to find its identity.
Jang returned to theater, working on 매직타임 (Magic Time) for the first three months of 1999, while he was shooting his second film. The North/South divide was ready to be exploited for tremendous success by a certain film called 쉬리 (Shiri), but in the midst of Korean Cinema's revolution, Jang's wonderful little gem 간첩 리철진 (The Spy) was sort of forgotten, even though it did OK at the box office. Starring Yoo Oh-Sung as a North Korean spy trying to steal the magic formula of the South's 'super pig' to combat the famine, the comedy featured Jang's regulars (Jung Gyu-Soo, Shin Ha-Gyun, Jung Jae-Young) and brought back some of the elements which made his theater plays major successes, like the inspired dialogue, creating hilarious moments without even a hint of slapstick, and just using the surreal situations to develop high octane humour.
The rest of Jang's career brought him to the top of Chungmuro's A-list directors, with the same brand of 'Jang Jin style' crowd pleasers, like 킬러들의 수다 (Guns & Talks) and the lovely 아는 여자 (Someone Special). But multitasker Jang had another card to play, that of his new film company 'Film It Suda', which he used to take care of his 'family' of fellow writers, producers and directors -- some of whom were colleagues from his theater days, like the Park Gwang-Hyun who went on to direct this year's monster hit 웰컴 투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol). The omnibus comedy 묻지마 패밀리 (No Comment) was the first fruit of their hard work, a wild three-part comedy which reminds of Four Rooms (at least in structure), but also featured the great little short 내 나이키 (My Nike), by none other than Park Gwang-Hyun.
All seemed to go well, with big successes in theater, the 'Suda Family' doing well in Chungmuro, and Jang finally able to move on to producing and his real passion, writing. But the huge flop of the 2003 melodrama 화성으로 간 사나이 (A Letter From Mars) (which Jang wrote) brought the company's future to a serious crossroad: either focus on hot items or risk losing everything. The aftermath of the film's failure was felt even in 2004, as Jang wrapped up 'Someone Special' quicker than any other film he ever directed. But the results were encouraging, with a pretty decent box office performance despite the film's low budget, and top notch acting from Lee Na-Young and someone who had been silently rising up the ranks of the Chungmuro totem pole under Jang's eyes, Jung Jae-Young. Things became a little easier to handle, and Jang could finally focus on a project which had been under planning for a while, even before 'Someone Special': adapting his successful theater play 박수칠 때 떠나라 (Leave When They're Applauding) from 2000 on the big screen.
It wasn't easy. Jang had always dealt with small scale projects, but this film cost much more, and he couldn't just take the bizarre episodes of the play and put them straight back in the film. Also, the play lacked drama, as most of the fun was based on the actors' interaction and how surreal those incidents were, mood which is well reproduced in the film. All the regulars who worked in 'Suda Family' films or plays would be there: Jung Gyu-Soo, Shin Ha-Gyun, Jung Jae-Young (in a hilarious cameo), Jang Young-Nam, Ryu Seung-Yong and more. Veteran Shin Goo came on board, as well as Kim Ji-Soo and singer and sometimes actress Park Jung-Ah... now all they needed was the big star, Prosecutor Choi Yeon-Gi. The role was played by Choi Min-Shik in the theater version, and Jang needed someone who could carry the charismatic character, but also have an effect on the box office. After all, he wasn't sure 'Welcome To Dongmakgol' (which he produced, and went almost 1 Billion Won over budget) would be a success, and even though 박수칠 때 떠나라 (Murder, Take One) was produced by the Cinema Service of his good friend Kang Woo-Suk, it was still a big risk.
The script was sent to heavyweights Seol Kyung-Gu and Han Suk-Gyu, who both refused for different reasons -- Han was working with Im Sang-Soo on 그때 그사람들 (The President's Last Bang), and Seol didn't want to play a prosecutor once again after 공공의 적 2 (Another Public Enemy) -- so the final choice went to Cha Seung-Won. Jang wasn't completely sure Cha could handle a role like this, but he couldn't ignore the drawing power of the talented actor, who was close to reaching the 20 Million tickets sold with all his films. But he effectively transformed in 혈의 누 (Blood Rain) and responded instantly to Jang's filming style, more focused on rehearsals and direct interaction than storyboards and camera tricks.
The main reason why the film works, outside of Jang's usual creativity, is that Cha was able to quickly absorb the working style of the director, so he didn't feel out of place. But out of place might be the reaction of many of the viewers who approach this film as a simple mystery thriller, especially those not familiar with Jang Jin's style. The secret, as I said at the beginning, is abandoning any expectations genre tropes cause on viewers. Just go into the film expecting the usual dose of snappy dialogue, bizarre and almost surreal situations which still give that pleasant, familiar feeling of realism, even though the way Jang used to convey those sentiments might not be as flashy as other directors.
A good looking, young copywriter called Jung Yoo-Jung is killed in her hotel room, and the investigation team led by Choi Yeon-Gi and Chief Yoon (Shin Goo) seem to have the culprit on their hands already: it's Kim Young-Hoon, who was caught running from the scene. What's different this time is that the investigation will be recorded live 24/7 for a TV show, complete with recaps of the major events of the day, like an interrogation, or inspectors discussing clues together. What this causes is not only headaches for the prosecutors, who have to deal with producers and TV viewers' sensibilities, but also the manifestation of mass media's power itself, often changing how truth and justice is perceived. Remember the accident months ago when a beautiful young thief was pardoned, some argue because she was too pretty to be a criminal? Similar forces are at play here, with popular mood swinging depending on the new clues the prosecutors find.
Through their investigation, they question the daughter of the man who was having an affair with the victim, a bizarre Japanese couple who mostly keeps asking themselves why there's no 4 on Korean elevators (if you really wanted to know, it's because 4, 사 in Korean, sounds exactly like the 사 of 'death', so Koreans consider it bad luck, and just write F for 'four'), a blind woman who mistakenly entered the victim's room before she died, and more. But what's interesting is that the audience doesn't really care about the development these clues bring to the table, no, they just want excitement. They want new things, something which will make their viewing interesting. So new things have to be introduced, even if they tarnish the reputation of inspectors all over the country, like a shamanic ritual (굿 in Korean).
Without a doubt, this is the most 'theater-like' of Jang's films since his debut. If you treat it as a simple mystery thriller, the drama might fall flat, as it lacks intensity and you're never really given any reason to care about who killed Jung Yoo-Jung. But, just like 'Someone Special' was Jang Jin's idea of melodrama, this is his idea of the mystery thriller. It's his way of adding thinly veiled criticism about the craze for reality TV which is permeating our society (although thankfully it has not invaded Korea to the extent you see in the West, at least on network TV). It might feel strange I'm praising a film which lacks power and intensity, when it's always the first thing I look for in films. But after all those years I think I'm getting used to Jang Jin, to the pleasant familiarity of his films. Despite adding some new tricks to the body language of his films, the ingredients are always the same: hilarious episodes, realistic characters in surreal situations, and especially sophisticated comedy without the need to resort to toilet or physical humour. The biggest problem, like in Hong Sang-Soo's films, is that a lot of the peculiarities of Jang's wonderful use of dialogue will be lost on foreign audiences, and if you have the tendency to fall into the traps genre expectations create, this film is bound to bore you to death. Or possibly even irritate you.
It's for that reason I hesitate to recommend this film if you've never seen a Jang Jin work. Your best choice would be starting with 'Someone Special', his most accessible to date, then maybe moving to 'Guns & Talks', which already starts to show in which direction Jang's comedy goes, and finally landing with 'Murder, Take One'. As a longtime fan of Jang, not only as a director but of his way of dealing with certain facets of the business (always using a backbone of regulars used to his style, never forcing over the top comedy on the viewer, always coming up with fresh new things), I enjoyed this film quite a bit. But, even though you don't necessarily need to go through all his previous works to enjoy it, like for Lee Myung-Se's films a little background would certainly help. Because, even though he might be a 'populist auteur', offering the best of both worlds to the average viewer, that doesn't mean everyone will consider him as such. So pick you colour: will it be black, white... or the Jang Jin one?
AUDIO, VIDEO, SUBTITLES
The usual good presentation by Cinema Service, although it's far from impressive. Contrasts are nice, colour saturation and details satisfactory, and there's no major problems in terms of edge enhancement or compression. Audio is not good, but much responsive, although that's always been a feature of Jang Jin films, mostly confined to the front channels, to give a more theater-like feeling. The subtitles are quite disappointing. This film doesn't have the amount of comedy of past Jang Jin works, but it's still an extremely important aspect of the film, and something which will surely fly over people's heads, if they need subtitles to follow the film. The subtitles lack the verve and quirky wit of Jang's dialogue, there's excessive cursing even when there's none, and the usual cultural appropriation -- 수사반장 (Inspector Chief), a hugely popular police procedural TV Series which lasted for almost 20 years on TV, and was also mentioned in Bong Joon-Ho's 살인의 추억 (Memories of Murder), suddenly becomes C.S.I. A lot of the more colourful comedy, like Jung Jae-Young's 'Six Party' joke, some more dialogue between the Japanese couple and the translator, it's all missing. Sure, you'll understand the film more or less (and there's no major spelling mistakes, or timing issues), but when half the fun lies in the little details, the playful theater-like dialogue, speech patterns and the like, if the subtitles don't deliver you're essentially robbing the audience of the ability to fully enjoy the film.
DISC 1 - EXTRA FEATURES
Audio Commentary with Director Jang Jin, Cha Seung-Won and Shin Ha-Gyun
Considering how entertaining Jang's commentaries usually are, I can't help but feel disappointed about this one. It's not bad, especially for the film's first half. But it seems the three either got tired or bored, and just degrades into a 'oh... we did this, and this guy came out, and that was the first day of shooting' and so on. For once, Shin talks quite a bit, compared to his other commentaries, and Cha is entertaining as always. Wish this could be a little more informative, but it's a decent listen, at least for an hour. Here's some of what was discussed:
- They start discussing the very impressive first scene. After a closeup of the victim's feet, the scene moves to an overhead shot of the victim on her death bed, slowly panning out, revealing not only the forensic officers working around the area, but also the hallways, and all the other apartments of that building. Think of as a 'Sims 2' like angle, all in one shot. Director Jang was thinking about how to start the film, introducing the theme and the victim, and this was what they decided on. They shot all the different apartments separated, and put them back together for one fluid shot via CG. He commented the CG Team worked really hard, since they started this shot around the beginning of the shoot, and completed it near the end.
- Cha and Jang comment that the interrogation room scene was quite comfortable to act (and direct) because they rehearsed it so much before, so it was much more realistic and flew better. They discussed about the first interview the press has with a convicted killer (played by Lee Moon-Soo), asking him what he felt when he first committed a murder. Jang commented that, rather than forcing a kind of style on the actors, he discusses a lot with them about the content, and lets them find their own flow. Cha said the scene was really funny when he read the script, but it had a different feeling in the film, as Jang didn't really want to create any comedy on purpose out of this. They also discuss the scene at the Busan Grand Hotel, where the crew received a lot of help, and Jang takes the opportunity to talk about the different approaches to handheld shooting, and how they helped the film.
- They talked about one of my favorite scenes in the film, the one with the Japanese couple. The two, Hayashi Chieko and Shima Hideyoshi (I'm sure I've seen them somewhere, anyone else recognizes them?), are longtime theater actors from Japan. They flew to Korea together, practiced the entire night, shot their scene, and flew back to Japan on the same day. Jang also talks about the translator, a producer he knew from his theater days, who came back to Korea after studying in Japan (and starred in several Jang films, even his first one). They praise Shin Goo for his vitality (despite the image he carried over the years, of a very gentle and quiet person), and Shin Ha-Gyun recounts a few anecdotes he learned from acting with people who knew and worked with him. They talked about his early days as an Art Director, how talented he was, and about his love for smoking and drinking. Seemed like a pretty interesting youth.
- During the polygraph scene, Cha joked that probably nobody knew where to look at, and asked if those machines existed at all (Jang said it was a real polygraph, but the various switches and buttons were made up). The three really liked the scene when Shin Ha-Gyun and Cha Seung-Won look at each other, separated by the mirror, even though they can only see themselves. Jang just trusted the DP for this, and let the actors go at it, but he really liked the final result, and is thankful to both, for showing such energy.
- The three discuss what's probably the funniest scene in the film, Jung Jae-Young's cameo as a drug dealer. It was actually the very first scene they shot, and even though it was the end of March, it was still very cold. The people around him were really foreigners (and since they were six, with one American and one Chinese, Cha Seung-Won made the joke: "니네 무슨 6자회담하러 가냐? Are you going to the Six Party Talks or something?" even though the subtitles completely ruin the scene). They note how the scene where Jung Gyu-Soo appears behind Cha's back is a classic Jang Jin shot (he also uses it in Guns & Talks), and that the atmosphere of the whole scene gives a certain 70s vibe.
- Kim Ji-Soo shoot her scenes over 3 days, but she did well, especially considering she was really busy back then, with a cameo in 러브토크 (Love Talk) and the shoot for her latest film 로망스 (Romance) with Jo Jae-Hyun. They also talked about the Hwang Jung-Min cameo -- this is not the Hwang Jung-Min (male) of 너는 내 운명 (You Are My Sunshine), but the theater actress who appeared in Jang Joon-Hwan's 지구를 지겨라 (Save The Green Planet). The haircut she had was right from her latest theater play, but they decided to keep it as it were, as it fit well with the character. Shin talks about working with her in the past (Save The Green Planet), and praises not only the way she acts, but also how she communicates with her fellow actors. He, Hwang and Jang Young-Nam (the female prosecutor) actually worked twice for the same theater company.
- They note that since they rehearsed a lot, any scene which had to showcase their feelings wasn't really that hard, and they didn't feel the pressure usually associated with such scenes, which made everything much more comfortable and natural. This has always been Jang's style, ever since his first film, perhaps because of his theater background, or his own personality in directing actors. They talk about the various supporting characters who appear in very small roles. One of them is Han Seung-Hee, who plays one of the employees at the management agency (actually Cinema Service's offices!). She was in Ryu Seung-Wan's 다찌마와 리 (Dajjimawa Lee), and played the thief's wife in Jang's own 아는 여자 (Someone Special). Jang actually felt sorry for her, as he couldn't find an actress for the role, and they called her in a rush, offering her a role with only a scene. They also talk about Jang Young-Nam, and how she was so interested in her career as a theater actor that she doesn't appear in movies too often.
- Shin comments that the scene in the forest (the flashback with the girl) was not only Cha Seung-Won's last day of shooting, but also Shin's first day of shooting for 웰컴 투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol), which shot near the same forest in Haenam. They closed talking about the final scene, where Jang decided to just use the music, shooting angles and actors' facial expressions without a single line of dialogue.
DISC 2 - EXTRA FEATURES
PART 1 - 증거 (證據, Evidence)
- 현장감식 (現場鑑識, Scene Investigation) [22:34]
A rather straightforward Behind the scene featurette, mostly dialogueless, with a few small interviews where the actors talk for a few seconds about their characters. Covers the polygraph scene, the Jung Jae-Young cameo -- the 6 Cha Seung-Won going at him were actually his 6 sidekicks -- Cha's scene with Kim Ji-Soo, and more. Not really illuminating or exciting, but it's decent fun and shows some of the major scenes and how they were shot. Should be enjoyable even without subs.
- 재현 (再現, Reconstruction) [16:23]
The first part of the clip shows Jang at work doing rehearsals with Cha Seung-Won and Shin Ha-Gyun. This would be for the interrogation scene. It's quite interesting how Jang never really tells the actors how to react, he just shows them a basic mood he wants from the scene, and then lets them act it out. Once the mood is not what he wants, he just tells them 'do this faster', or similar things. Again, this is the big difference between Jang and other major directors in Chungmuro, other than the fact he rarely uses storyboards to the extent a Park Chan-Wook or Bong Joon-Ho would. He focuses on interaction between the actors, practicing enough to make them comfortable. Which, after all, is just like what you do in theater. The second scene is the pre-polygraph one with Shin Ha-Gyun and Ryu Seung-Yong. Third part shows Hwang Jung-Min and Cha Seung-Won's scene. The three discuss the best way to create comedy out of their meeting, and Cha also gets involved in her scene quite a bit, helping out. Fourth part deals with Jung Jae-Young's cameo scene. Jang shows Jung Gyu-Soo how to hide behind Cha's figure, and later come out in a familiar Jang Jin-style shot. The same routine happens for several other scenes: the questioning inside the hotel, Shin Ha-Gyun walking in the hotel's hallway before entering the room, and finally Cha Seung-Won's scene in the bathroom with the shaman's daughter. It's not your usual behind the scene featurette, it just effectively shows the way Jang Jin works on the set.
- 조망 (眺望, Outlook) [6:39]
DP Kim Joon-Young starts introducing the film, and explaining the kind of style he used. Since it was a crime thriller pairing a suspect and an investigator playing psychological games with each other, he focused more on closeups to bring out their psychological state. While films of this genre are usually very dark and with strong contrasts, they emphasized brighter, more 'modern' looking tones because of the effects of the Media in the investigation. He adds that, to shoot that great looking first scene, they used a new camera called Spydercam (cable camera). This would be for the fast shot which goes from the overhead view quickly to the street with the suspect and all the reporters around him. Directors Jang adds that the major benefit of this camera is you can do those surprising, very quick shots without the use of computer graphics, which adds a layer of style to the shot, without excessive effort. Lee Sang-Hyung, the operator of the 'Rollvision' (the cable camera) explains that, since they discussed with the directors what could be done and what couldn't right from the pre-production stage, they didn't need to waste time going through trial and error on the set. He says this was crucial in working with this camera, because it has a clear limitation: that of not being able to move freely (since it uses a cable, it only can move where the cable allows it to, I suppose). We're shown the remote control for the camera, and the various pieces of equipment making up the cable camera, and those that make it move. This is much more convenient than doing expensive Helicopter shots.
- 미제 (未濟, Pending Issues) [7:08]
Deleted Scene No. 1 (2:24)
I bet Jang agonized over this, because it's one of those scenes you often find in older Jang Jin films, especially his debut 기막힌 사내들 (The Happenings). Basically the Variety Show panel reviews the interrogation between Cha Seung-Won and Shin Ha-Gyun via CCTV. While the action goes on, three small PIP on the bottom of the screen show the three commentators analyzing Inspector Choi's modus operandi. A sort of 주요장면 (Main Highlights) like you see on several TV shows recapping TV Dramas. Has some great little moments, like when Choi gets angry and swears, and the panel comment that it's because he's playing a psychological game on the suspect. I'm ambivalent on this. On one hand, it's classic Jang Jin to add scenes like this, but viewers have already seen the scene before, and a lot of the comedy might slow down the pace of the film, which is probably why it was deleted (commentary would help here, but alas it's not available).
Deleted Scene No. 2 (1:47)
This is priceless, but perhaps too weird for its own good. You know the guard who looked at the CCTV? He's shown here looking at various cameras, and when the culprit (with the cap on) flashes by, he can't notice him because he's slowly falling asleep. But, as he regains consciousness, here's our capped culprit once again... only this time, the camera suddenly zooms on him (wasn't it supposed to zoom only in the movies?), and it's not our culprit, but a bald headed trot singer, who starts dancing. Later a group of backdancers join him, and it all looks like your average Music Show on TV, except this is kind of crazy. As Jang Young-Nam (the female inspector) enters the room, the music goes off, everyone runs away while she questions the guard, and with a dorky face he just says: "I think I've seen something strange." Indeed.
Deleted Scene No. 3/4 (1:02)
Boy, I love this scene, more of the Japanese couple! In Japanese with Korean subs. This is right after the interrogation. There's a middle shot on the couple sitting, while in the background the translator is reading something, walking around (such a theater setup!). Here's their dialogue:
WOMAN: But, why did that woman have to die?
MAN: Ahhh... so it's true that beautiful women die earlier...
WOMAN: Uhhh... was there ever a saying like that?
MAN: What are you talking about? It's even in schoolbooks...
Now the translator butts in, and says:
TRANSLATOR: Don't believe everything you read in schoolbooks. (Obvious reference to the Japan-Korea schoolbook controversy)
WOMAN: BTW, did they say we were the last people she met?
MAN: Yeah... the last caught on camera.
WOMAN: But technically speaking, we weren't...
Now the scene moves to an overhead, b&w shot of the elevator. While the Japanese couple is arguing, you can see the victim standing behind them. This would be the moment when they started asking themselves about the F instead of the 4 in the elevator, just like they tell the prosecutors later. Only difference, this time it's sped up so we don't have to watch it all over again. Don't know if they took this off for time constraints, because the joke was too obvious (still, it's pretty funny, and totally theater-like in its delivery), or because of plot issues, but it's a lovely little scene, displaying the great comic timing of the couple.
Deleted Scene No. 5 (1:53)
Another funny scene. This is right after Cha Seung-Won beats up Jung Jae-Young in that hilarious cameo. They're sitting while Choi is writing on his laptop:
JUNG JAE-YOUNG: Can I ask you something?
CHA SEUNG-WON: Your ID...
JUNG JAE-YOUNG: Actually we were supposed to do this yesterday, but if you got the information right, you should have known it would take place on the 28th, uhh? Why did you come today? While getting beat up, I was curious...
CHA SEUNG-WON: Uhh?
JUNG JAE-YOUNG: I mean, the one who informed you, he must have said it was the 28th, I can't really understand why...
CHA SEUNG-WON: Today is the 28th.
JUNG JAE-YOUNG: What?
CHA SEUNG-WON: Yeah... [turns to Jung Gyu-Soo] Today's the 28th, right?
JUNG GYU-SOO: 27th...
Jung Jae-Young starts moving, swearing a storm....
CHA SEUNG-WON: Oh... wait a moment [runs to the door]
JUNG JAE-YOUNG: Wait what, it's the 27th... see, I did nothing wrong, take these off... ahhh shit...
Perhaps they took this off for time constraints, but it's not bad. Actually, it's only 7 Minutes of deleted scenes, so they're probably all because of time. Add 7 to 115 Minutes of the main feature and you pass the magic number (120), which would mean less screenings per day.
PART 2 - 증인 (證人, Witness)
- 취조 (取調, Questioning) [21:15]
You're not going to get an interview like this on Hollywood DVDs... ever. Why? Because it's like eavesdropping a conversation between friends at a bar, talking about whatever they want in a very honest and upfront manner. There's none of that forced glamour, that 'we're stars granting you the privilege of hearing what we have to say' aura. It's just three good friends sharing a few words about the film and other things. It's not really informative or anything, but I'm really glad they added it, as it brings people like Cha and Shin down to earth for people who think they're these iconic superstar figures with all the baggage that comes with those labels. In short, I liked it a lot, although if you go in expecting a long and meticulous discussion about the film, you'll leave disappointed. The three start slowly, fooling around. Cha says they haven't met together for about 2 months, and then starts talking about Jang's latest theater play. Then they start commenting about the film itself. Cha notes that Jang is one of the most active people in the business, as the moment he finishes a film, he's instantly right back into writing another script -- his new film Divine Lineage, producing -- 웰컴 투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol) -- and even theater, he wonders how he can do all that. Jang's answer? When you have a debt to pay, things flow much quicker than you could possibly expect.
Jang talks of how actors are often like family for directors, when they shoot films. You share a lot of moments together, you spend months seeing each other every day, but then when the film is over, you feel both relieved you're done with it, and also a little sad. It's like sending your daughter away after a wedding, a similar feeling. But he still cares a lot about the two's future in films, and continues talking about his next projects with Shin, who Jang has seen grow up as an actor right under his eyes. Again, talking about Shin, Jang thinks he's at his best when working with someone next to him. Even Cha says that he knew he was a good actor, but he realized how he can improve just by working next to people like him. Jang talks about how nervous he was about the film itself, for costing 5 Billion Won, and having to deal with the pressure associated with the two big stars he had cast. But while he had known Shin for a long time, the biggest stress was with Cha, who ended up helping him a lot, taking of all the pressure by making everything really comfortable.
So in conclusion, did I learn much about the film? No. Did I learn about the three's working style? Not really. But I think this 20 Minutes clip is something we should get a chance to see more often on DVDs. It just shows the real face behind the camera, instead of feeding off someone's questions.
- 대질심문 對質審問 (Cross-Examination) [10:24]
Director Jang talks about the major differences about the theater play and the film, adding a lot more details. He starts commenting that there wasn't really any major change between the two, if not for adapting the story to fit the format. The theater play was much more focused on the single episodes, which were more unique and striking, whereas the film focuses more on realism, the psychology of the characters and the message itself. The story was a little weak in the play, sustained by the kind of interaction only theater can give you, and by the originality of the accidents. But through the film he was able to give a little more weight to the story, by toning down a bit the uniqueness of the various episodes, without losing that characteristically bizarre Jang Jin colour. About the music, at first he wanted something to distance the story from the play, something movie-like, but when the Music Director got involved, and decided to just adapt the original theme, he found out it fit pretty well with the storyline and the rhythm of the film, so he eventually was satisfied by his choices. The characters in the film maintained that 'smell of theater' from the play, and he never really intended to change anything about that on purpose. About the shooting style, since the story wasn't traditional, he wanted to use something not traditional to express it in a visual sense, which is why the film looks more expertly shot and sophisticated in its cinematography than his previous films.
In talking about his relationship with actors, he comments that more than trying to dictate the way they have to play their characters, he gives them a basic feeling of what he wants from them during rehearsals. Then, depending of the actors' style, he lets them develop that feeling using their own imagination and expression. He thinks the two leads had a nice chemistry together, and more than anything accepted and understood what they were getting into: the fact this wasn't a really straightforward commercial film, and that if the kind of unusual feeling which permeates Jang's film wasn't well interpreted, the film could have started feeling like a B-Movie. During casting, he needed a very stylish prosecutor, so choosing Cha was a good idea, as he not only had the image, but also the skills to understand what the director wanted. He comments that his style of comedy is not something that's necessarily unique to himself, it's just the kind of comedy he enjoys, just like lots of other people do. So if he had to give the colour in his comedy a name, he'd call it something really comfortable and familiar, but still funny. He concludes the interview talking honestly about his feelings about the film. He feels he hasn't done enough, and wants to do much better next time. He simply wanted to do more, add more style, stranger episodes, just more. Because of the pressure and time constraints, he had to give up a lot, so there were things he didn't like, and feels even a little embarrassed about. A very honest and interesting interview.
- 수사본부 (搜査本部, Investigation Headquarters) [8:33]
Director Jang introduces an interview with Art Director Kim Hyo-Shin, saying that since he respected her and knew how she worked, he didn't really need to ask her anything in particular, when designing the set. He just wanted to use the set (the investigation HQ) as a sort of 'small world', just like the society we live in, and show how the mass media society we live in affects the way the prosecutors deal with the case. He wanted a very structural and sophisticated place. Kim first talks about the set in general and its basic design: more than worrying about size, or where cameras would go, they went for realism, trying to build the kind of set which would be functional in real life. As for the questioning room, they decided to give it a different feeling, a lot bigger and brighter than what you see in other films (generally dark, with just a small light focusing on the suspect and the questioner, and almost always very small, to emphasize tension), emphasizing white to focus on the questioning itself, and the relationship between the two. The room with the polygraph was also a little different from what you'd expect: since Jang works without storyboards, she built it like a set for a theater play, without worrying about where cameras would go, or which angle they'd use. Finally, she talks about the larger set they had built in Gwangju, but which caught fire by accident. They had to be quick in rebuilding, and ended up making one which was smaller. She jokes that since the set caught fire, the film was going to be a success. The clip closes with a look at the prosthetics (the victim's body), and she's sorry about getting so little out of it in the finished product, since they worked really hard to make it.
- 녹취 (錄取, Recording Choices) [12:40]
A really fascinating interview with Music Director Han Jae-Kwon. He's worked with Jang Jin for a long time, even directing the music for some of his theater plays, including the one which was adapted for this film. He begins by introducing the main tone of his work in the film. It's been 5 years since the play, and he had a longtime to think about the direction he wanted to follow in writing the score for the film. Even when they were working with the play, people felt it had a very 'movie-like' feeling, not necessarily because of its scale, and the two felt the same thing. Han had a lot of ambition for this project, and tried to find the right style, keeping in mind how Jang does things usually. He kept the main theme of the play more or less in line with the final main theme for the film, even though he made some cosmetic changes, to adapt to the new format. Han doesn't really think he's found a particular style so far, but compared to other music directors, he likes to use repetition, to a certain extent, to highlight the mood of the scene. He compares the role of music in films as that of actors. Using Sylvester Stallone's role in Rocky (!) as an example, in the film the actor shows different faces of the same character: his past, the moments with his wife, his feelings in the ring, and so on.
Those are just small but significant changes to an overall tone which repeats itself. So, in the same exact way, he repeats nuances of the main theme in a lot of other scenes, sometimes just hinting at it while going in another direction. That, in short, is the major difference between him and other directors, along with the 'live' feeling his music conveys, and how familiar it sounds (in fact you can instantly recognize one of his scores, at least when it comes to Jang Jin films). More than going for wild and spectacular sounds, he rather tries to create a more comfortable, familiar mood. He also talks about his little fights with the director, about the tone of the music in the film. He thinks, since a Music Director spends 5-6 months on a film, he should be able to be rewarded for that, and using his own instincts to make the music he wants in the end credits is a reward in itself. He sees end credits as a sort of presentation music directors make to their fans, so that's why he fought to have carte blanche, at least when it came to the ending credits music. The most difficult and unique scenes for him were the opening, and especially the 굿 (the exorcism by the shaman), which had more traditional instruments.
- 예고편 (豫告篇, Trailer) [2:49]
As always with Trailers for Jang's films, you can never quite figure out what you're going to see. This trailer pushes the whodunit/investigation elements of the film, with all the gadgets and technical trickery employed in the film. It also effectively conveys the chemistry between Cha Seung-Won and Shin Ha-Gyun, but I would have liked a little more emphasis on the comic aspects. Extremely well edited, but lacks power.
A big, sturdy keepcase in line with Cinema Service's recent big releases holds two digipacks, and a booklet. It's very stylish and informative, with a creative design. Nothing compared to this year's big enterOne releases, or even some other Cinema Service ones -- 혈의 누 (Blood Rain) or 썸 (Some) -- but does its job quite well.
Have to say I expected a little more as far as extra features. This was one of the biggest films of the year (still in the box office Top 10 as I write this, but will likely pushed off in a couple of weeks), and Jang Jin DVDs have always been interesting. What we get is good material, and enough to satisfy the casual viewer who wants to know more about how the man works, but it all seems a little... low key? I don't know, there's really no passion in all these extra features with a few exceptions (interview with the Music Director is probably the highlight of the DVD, along with the honest talk Jang, Cha and Shin have), and a little more attention to detail, like adding a commentary to the deleted scenes, a more involving audio commentary for the main feature, some NGs, and perhaps a look at the Theater play itself. Still, it's around 90 Minutes of extras, and the commentary is decent fun if you don't go in expecting something really informative. Presentation is good, with subtitles the only (predictable) letdown.
The film will have its share of detractors and big fans, and I'd advise to look for other Jang Jin films before you see this. The wild mix of genres, the dry black comedy, the snappy theater-influenced dialogue and characters might not be to everyone's taste, and the lack of intensity compared to other Korean films of a similar genre might let you down. But, for Jang Jin fans, this is a return to his theater roots, much more so than in any other Jang film since his debut in 1998. What I love about the film are the small details, like the usual array of Jang regulars (Jung Gyu-Soo on top, and Jung Jae-Young does wonders with the few minutes he's given), the Japanese couple, the pungent little 'psychological wars' between Jang Young-Nam and Park Jung-Ah -- who does well again in another small role on the big screen. Why do her TV Dramas suck so bad, then? -- and Shin Goo's slick and quick tempered chief. The film's a bit uneven, and a few things feel a little out of place (I liked the shaman and her ritual, but the scene when Im Seung-Dae gets 'possessed' goes overboard). A little more comedy and this could have been one of the biggest surprises of the year. But, as it is, still a very good film, and another sign that Jang Jin is one of the most talented directors in the country at the top of his game.
EXTRA FEATURES: 7.5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 7.5
AVERAGE (Film Rating is counted twice): 7.29
Next: 친절한 금자씨 (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance), Park Chan-Wook 2005
OTHER DVD REVIEWS:
그때 그사람들 (The President's Last Bang)
달콤한 인생 (A Bittersweet Life)
남극일기 (Antarctic Journal)
주먹이 운다 (Crying Fist)
여자, 정혜 (This Charming Girl)
혈의 누 (Blood Rain)
분홍신 (The Red Shoes)
Korean DVD Roundup (July~October 2005)