Tormented Film Director Laments Rejection at Home

Aug 8, 2006

"If this film also turns out to be a disaster, I won’t release my work domestically," Kim Ki-duk says, his voice shaking, his eyes concealed behind dark glasses. "Today feels like the day of Kim Ki-duk’s death. This could well be the last of my films that you will be able to see in Korea. And I won’t submit any more of my work to any of Korea’s festivals, including the Pusan International Film Festival." It was the press conference for the director’s thirteenth film "Time." It was originally not going to be released here at all, and Kim, who turned down all interviews last year, rarely left his home, so the day’s rare public appearance drew hordes of reporters.

"First of all, it would be great if people wouldn’t take my behavior as rude," he began before launching into an explanation of the controversy surrounding the release. After "The Bow" (2005 Cannes Un Certain Regard screening) and then "3-Iron" (2004 Venice, best director award) he says it seemed “like there was a change in my heart." The domestic run of "3-Iron" was far from successful, leaving the director in anguish, and his next film "The Bow" opened in just one theater as a result and didn’t even last a week. "3-iron" sold 94,928 tickets, while "The Bow" brought in a mere 1,398 viewers.

At the day’s emotional meeting with the press, Kim said "Time" has been "exported" to 30 different countries, Korea among them, but "if the numbers aren’t good, I won’t even export the film to Korea next time."

"’Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring’ was seen by 320,000 in the U.S., ‘3-Iron’ sold more than 200,000 tickets in France and more than 150,000 in Italy and Germany," Kim says. "Is it too much to ask that a similar number come to see my films in Korea?" At the last Pusan International Film Festival, the director was quoted as bemoaning the new era of the 10-million ticket Korean blockbusters. Asked about the record-breaking success of creature movie "The Host," which pulled 6 million viewers on 620 screens in 11 days, the director responded, "As the director who bleeds the most…" Then he broke off before continuing, "I think it ["The Host"] is the apex where the level of Korean movies meets the level of the audience." "Whether you interpret these remarks in a positive or negative way depends on the person," he adds ominously.

"Time" has been selected as the opening film at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic and deals with the way that love changes with time, and the lovers resorting to plastic surgery in desperate efforts to preserve that love. The couple is played by Sung Hyun-ah and Ha Jung-woo. The local distributor Sponge bought the rights to the film, which opens on Aug. 24.

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