Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bitter, Sweet Seoul

Eventually titled "Bitter, Sweet Seoul" ("고진감래"), the "Seoul, Our Movie" project launched last August (see focus) premiered yesterday in Seoul Cinema and in the presence of its 3 promoters - 'les trois Park': co-directors PARK Chan-wook and PARK Chan-kyong (PARKing CHANce), and Mayor PARK Won-soon, who commissioned the movie for Seoul.

Avant-premiere: press conference following the first screening
Premiere: same cast, second take, following the second screening

The PARK brothers scanned all 9,561 minutes of the 11,852 videos submitted by the public (44% by non-Koreans), ultimately selecting 141 in a one-hour-long final cut that probably owed editor YANG Jinmo a few sleepless nights.

All 141 international participants (film credits)

For his "Life in a day", Ridley Scott could work on 80,000 crowdsourced videos recorded on the same day all over the world but here, the focus wasn't on a moment in time but on the shape-shifter of a city, both modern and old. Contributors were given about 3 months, and could send old material if they fancied. The PARK brothers added TV and Daehan News archive footages, plus a few scenes featuring the Be-Being group on the Han River - most notably the prologue and epilogue.

Such delicate mosaics usually require the right music and soundtrack to at the same time cement them and prevent them from freezing, and this one respects so well the diverse rhythms and pulses of Seoul that I had to ask the PARK brothers the secret of their alchemy (beyond choosing JANG Young-gyu, a great composer for the soundtrack). They explained how the story of Simcheong (Simcheongga - 심청가) became self-evident and clicked naturally with key scenes, not to mention the fact that we're partly seeing Seoul through the eyes of a blind girl's dog, one of the main Ariadne's threads in this maze of a movie (in this traditional pansori - what a bewitching version by Be-Being! -, the daughter of Sim sacrifices herself to save her father, and ultimately helps all blind creatures recover eyesight).

More than a patchwork or a mosaic, PARK Chan-wook and PARK Chan-kyong considered their work as a symphony composed with a wide array of instruments. What makes the result powerful is its touching simplicity and truth. This isn't just a bibim of personal videos, short fictions, documentaries ("Nevada" on his rooftop), and heartbreaking moments in the city's history (war exodus and destruction, Sungnyemun's collapse...), but a fair tribute to life in Seoul, regardless of each Seoulite's origin, gender, age, or even species.

Seoul Metropolitan Government didn't want to commission yet another postcard video, and allowed full artistic license to the directors. As the title shows, both sides of the coin are exposed, the bitter struggles as well as the sweetest moments. Yes, you do see the embarrassing Floating Islands or Bampo Bridge Rainbow Fountain, but also a fair share of alleyways and dark spots. And even Gyonam-dong (merci Sebastien SIMON for making that dying neighborhood* survive in this portrait of Seoul)!

So here's this collaborative bitter, sweet take at Seoul's villages (300 views so far, but you can help PARK Chan-wook move closer to his 10 M+ record!):

Seoul Village 2014
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* see previous posts, including "Last Stand for 2013 and Gyonam-dong" and "In memoriam Samdong Samgeori, Gyonam-dong". The destruction is not totally over yet, but the end of the end is nigh.

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