Im Pil-Sung Returns with 악의 꽃 (The Flower of Evil)
I mean, only two films in the can, and look at what he's given us. First he melted metric tons of snow with 남극일기 (Antarctic Journal)'s disarming raw power, then showed Koreans what a real fairy tale is, with the lovely grotesque 헨젤과 그레텔 (Hansel & Gretel). I don't know when, or if we will ever see the omnibus 인류멸망보고서 (Doomsday Book), but reading the synopsis of his third feature film 악의 꽃 (The Flower of Evil), I get the impression this might be his calling card to stardom - at least overseas, since genre directors in Korea seem more or less doomed to fail. Still not much to reveal, not enough for a full preview anyway, but the HAF site - the film is part of their 2009 project lineup along with Ryu Seung-Wan's 내가 집행한다 (I Enforce) - reveals some juicy bits about the 5 billion won project produced by Barunson Film. Shall we take a look?
It is a male instinct to desire attractive women. Men divide women into two archetypes: healthy, young, and sexy women; or graceful, intelligent, and virtuous women. When a woman who seems to combine these two types is encountered by a man he will do anything in the pursuit of her. This film intends to go one step beyond a simple exploration of the attractions of the "femme fatale" who, after all, has been explored in countless movies before. As the world becomes more high tech, humans are more and more at the mercy of their primitive instincts and desires, and this film attempts to show the nightmarish journey of a man who is destroyed by them.
David WHITMAN looks like a classic American businessman: tall, blonde, mid-30's and from Iowa. He lives in Seoul where he's an executive at the Korean offices of a multinational corporation. His family is picture perfect - smiling wife, lovely kids - but deep down he's a virulent racist and a neo-Conservative, all-American Republican.
One day at a club he bumps into a beautiful, young Korean woman. He's always looked down on his colleagues, like this best friend Nathan, who relentlessly pursue Asian women, but despite himself he's instantly attracted to this graceful, sensuous Korean girl. The next day, flowers arrive in his office from a mysterious sender and later on that day he bumps into the woman, Inhwa, again. He's wracked with guilt, but he can't help it - he's falling for her. He loses interest in his job, his family, his work, but he's happier than he's ever been in his life. In-hwa refuses to have sex with David, and as their relationship deepens he becomes completely unbalanced, losing himself totally. On his birthday, In-hwa gives herself to him and they finally have very kinky sex.
David is obsessed, barely the man he used to be. Nathan asks what girl could do this to him, and when David tells him Nathan is shocked and he demands that David leave In-hwa immediately before he storms away. Upset, David goes to In-hwa's apartment. Finding the door unlocked he enters and catches In-hwa having a threeway with two young men. He attacks, beating the hell out of the men, completely out of control. Terrified at his own violent actions he runs off. Out of his mind, he feels as if he has accidentally opened the gates of hell. His whole life starts to fall apart, but what terrifies him most is learning who Inhwa really is. She is made of secrets, horrors and lies. She is a demon from hell, the Flower of Evil. As his conservative values and racial prejudices that are everything he is fall apart, he's unable to control his twisted obsession and he has to confront the disaster he's unleashed.
Word on the street is that Im will cast Jung Yoo-Mi of 차우 (Chaw) as Inhwa, but there's no word on the western actor's casting (I suppose it won't be a big name, considering the budget). Im recently was interviewed by the great webzine Extreme Movie (really the only remaining "oasis" in Korean cinematic journalism, now that Cine21 is the only real game in town), in what was probably one of the best reads of the year - I will translate parts of the interview down the line, but let's just say it covers plenty of issues that are plaguing the industry at the moment. Sure enough, he mentioned his upcoming project.
EXTREME MOVIE's Kim Jong-Cheol: You dealt with a huge budget in 남극일기 (Antarctic Journal) and spent a lot of effort and money for the art direction of 헨젤과 그레텔 (Hansel & Gretel), so how about your new project?
DIRECTOR IM PIL-SUNG: The new film will shoot a lot more on location than sets, and there isn't much in the way of CG. I plan to shoot 악의 꽃 (The Flower of Evil) as a quintessential "rated 18 and over" project, and I won't hold back when shooting the more intense scenes. On the other hand, I'll try a more flexible approach to storytelling. You know, something the viewers can watch comfortably, but at the same time sense that it is an Im Pil-Sung film first and foremost, making them realize all the effort I went through to make it. Spending a lot less at that, of course (laughs). If you think about it, I'm spending less and less as time goes on (laughs).
EM's Lee Yong-Cheol: "The Flower of Evil," isn't that an anthology's title (laughs)?
EM's Kim Jong-Cheol: It feels like you'll deal with the purest definition of evil.
IM: I was actually planning this as my follow up to Antarctic Journal, and it's about the "femmes fatales" so en vogue these days. It'll likely be the strongest femme fatale you've ever seen in a Korean film.
EM's Lee Yong-Cheol: So, what, will it be a noir?
IM: Not that. More like a combination of melodrama, horror, and an erotic drama.
EM's Lee Yong-Cheol: It would probably be a little touchy to mention a Korean example, but if you had to attach this character to an ideal western actress?
IM: Can't really think of any. If I had to explain this character, I'd describe her as a pure and innocent woman, someone with very little sexual experience (if any). Her image leads you to misunderstand her as someone who might be impressionable, easily swayed by men, but it's actually the other way around. And she's a rather frightful "psycho" at that. If I really had to compare her with any film character, Miike Takashi's オーディション (Audition) comes to mind, and as we're dealing with something as intense and provocative as that film, it's not an easy project to deal with. It is filled with unique and exotic narrative elements, so I'll have to make sure they gel well with the overarching story. With the current script, I'd probably end up being criticized even more than I am now, or have to take some rotten eggs coming my way (laughs), so I guess I'll have to work more on it. Also, before The Flower of Evil, I might even get the chance to shoot another film in between, something with similar vibes but with a smaller budget and slightly more commercial aspirations. It's peculiar how scripts keep coming my way even though I constantly flop at the box office (laughs), but I'd like for once to try something with a script I didn't completely or at least significantly alter.
EM's Lee Yong-Cheol: To really be effective and charming, a femme fatale should slowly envelop the main character, peeling off the external layer to reveal what's inside only later, but Korean films tend to uncover their personality right from the start, which only ends up making the men who fall for them look strange. I hope that won't be the case in your film (laugh).
EM's Kim Jong-Cheol: I like Audition myself, but the scary thing about the film is how this seemingly innocent woman suddenly changes. That truly gives you the chills.
IM: It certainly won't be easy, but I'd like viewers to leave the theaters with at least a sneaking temptation, the desire to meet that kind of woman, even if just for once. That's what I'm working hard to create, I'm not just throwing histrionics at the wall like some trainwreck TV drama, hoping they will stick. To put it bluntly, just imagine if Shim Eun-Ha from 8월의 크리스마스 (Christmas in August) turned out to be a femme fatale in reality. That's the kind of character I want to create.
So what we're dealing with, more or less, is something of a mix of Shim Eun-Ha's characters in 텔미썸딩 (Tell Me Something) and Christmas in August. Jung Yoo-Mi sounds about perfect for the role -- she hasn't really been tested when it comes to what the film's second half will have to deliver, but if you take a look at her role in Hong Sang-Soo's 잘 알지도 못하면서 (Like You Know it All), she has those moments of thinly-veiled insanity that would fit very well with this character. Of course no word on any release, considering Im is still fixing the script. But we'll continue talking about this, as it looks like one of the most promising Korean films in quite some time. Not much of a surprise, when Im Pil-Sung (who apparently is a ScreenAnarchy reader. 감독님, 나중에 인터뷰 좀 합시다~) is involved.
[Extreme Movie] [HAF]