Im Sang-Soo

Un petit problème d’organisation lors du Festival de Deauville 2004 nous conduit à rencontrer Im Sang-Soo à proximité de WC pour le moins fréquentés... qu’importe, comme le prouve A Good Lawyer’s Wife, le réalisateur de Tears est un homme (très) souriant et généreux, capable d’humour dans toutes les situations !

Sancho : We had the opportunity to see A Good Lawyer’s Wife last night. The first thing I wanted to talk about with you is why you presented your film in such a funny way, saying "this is a movie about family, and hopefully you’ll enjoy the sex in it". It’s kind of a provocative introduction, because it’s actually not that funny...

Im Sang-Soo : Oh, don’t you find anything funny in my film [laughs] ?

Yes, there are some funny things, but on the whole it is not a funny movie, it’s very dark.

Maybe it is a dark, sad story, but I just wanted to present such a story in a funny way. It’s ethical to me : I don’t want to torture the audience, I want people to be able to enjoy the story.

You do indeed try to present very dark situations - like the grandfather coughing blood or the infamous death of the child - in a way that is terrifying yet funny. It’s very perverse...

Yes. I think life is such a thing. In many ways we can find our lives to be very funny, but people also live dark moments. I think that is the way I see our lives.

Is that why you show Bong Taek-Yu [the adolescent] laughing while watching the scene from your previous movie - Tears - in which he gets maced ?

[Laughs] Tears - my second film - is a very dark film, but many teenagers actually enjoyed it. Even though it’s dark, they liked in a way that’s very adolescent [imitates teenage enthusiasm] !

A Good Lawyer’s Wife could be said to be a feminist movie. You seem to think that men cheat by essence - they just do - whereas women tend to be sort of forced to cheat along the way if they want to find some happiness. Is this a particularly Korean trait, or do you think it’s this way all over the world ?

It is so all over the world, I think. But in Korean - and more widely, Asian - society, I don’t think there’s much hope in men. I believe they have some kind of trauma, deep in their minds. Maybe it’s historical, or perhaps it has something to do with an inferiority complex over the western world. And the Asian women do not have this kind of complex. I think I see hope only in women.

Moreover, children seem to be the only thing that holds couples together ; it doesn’t matter whose they even are. At the end of A Good Lawyer’s Wife, we see the "hero" try to come back to his wife, just because she’s bearing a child, as if it could tie them together again - even though he never cared about his child. Are children really just a fake bond to hold parents together ?

I don’t think so, no. Children are probably the only hope we have. But the way they are educated is very important. I think the trauma in Korean males is transmitted from grandfather to son and grandson through education. The child that Hojung is bearing will be educated in a female way - not his father’s way -, so he will be very different from the other male characters of the movie. The adolescent too ; he will probably leave his father and go to America to be with his mother. He learns a big lesson from Hojung, so he will be different too.

What’s amusing is that Hojung has a completely different relation with her stepfather. And the relation between the grandfather and the grandmother may seem very harsh ("It doesn’t matter, just kill yourself") [laughs at this remark], but in fact it’s a much more caring relationship than the one Youngjak and Hojung share. They talk but don’t actually communicate. Is this a generational issue ?

Actually, I don’t think this character of the grandmother really exists in Korean society. It came from my hope, my wish that my mother could live this way - but she couldn’t, not in Korea. All generation of males have problems with their own families. They care for them - or at least they think they do, but it’s actually just financial care. There is no intimacy, no intimate relationships with wife or children, no contact. I think this male crisis should be taken care of.

There are quite a few sex scenes in the movie. You film then in a very raw fashion, very different from American films. We can easily relate to them.

I actually shot many sex scenes in my films - this one and previous ones. Think about how many sex films exist on film, throughout the world. As a director, I believe my sex scenes should be shot in a manner very different from the others.

We can appreciate their sensibility : they seem real.

Yes, that is my tactic. I do not do anything special ; I just try to make it real. Because maybe we do these things every day, but when we see the real thing we are shocked.

Is it also the reason behind the photography of the film - the use of natural lighting and handheld camera ?

I shot handheld in small, narrow places, interiors. I wanted these scenes to look like home video. For exteriors I shot using telephoto lenses, because I wanted those scenes to have a documentary feel about them. The mix of documentary and home video images makes for a realistic look. A Good Lawyer’s Wife is not a Hollywood film you can go on a date with a girlfriend to. I want people to see it like a mirror, which reflects their own, not funny lives. That is my intention.

Did you also insist on a particular color scheme ?

Actually my DP did it. I told him I wanted to have a home video feel, so when he shot on video perhaps he forgot the white balance and influenced the color that way. The most important color work is on the scene where the boy falls from the building, this green look. My DP wanted it to be different, so he needed to tone down the rest of the film before that. And after that scene, colors go back to normal. These are very intentional things ; I hope you enjoyed them !

Did Korean audiences feel cheated with the sense of scandal issued by the promotional campaign - and particularly the film’s poster ?

[Laughs] Yes, they did feel cheated.

Did they still like the movie ?

It was very controversial. I think most women liked it, but many men felt cheated as they expected something else [laughs again].

Why did you cast Moon So-Ri as Hojung ?

For the casting of the main characters, there is always a business point of view - and there should be -, but the fact is I simply cannot imagine another actress who seems as real as Moon So-Ri can be. I’m very fortunate to have worked with her !

Interview réalisée à Deauville le 14 mars 2004 par l’équipe de SdA en association avec Elan-Films.

"I don’t think there’s much hope in men."
Désirs volés
The Bodyguard
Dernier train pour Busan
Hôtel Singapura
A la verticale de l’été
Shaolin Soccer
Running Wild
The King of Jail Breakers
Ecstasy Girls
Vampire Hunter D - Bloodlust
Love Talk
Mother of Tears
The Tracey Fragments
Magnificent Warriors
A Girl at My Door
Keeping Watch
People Mountain People Sea
Slap Shot 2 : Breaking the Ice
Minisuka Tokusôtai - L.E.G.S
Sleepless Night
He is My Enemy, Partner & Father-in-Law
XX : Beautiful Weapon + XX : Beautiful Victim
Metropolitan Police Branch 82
Lady Snowblood