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Romantic comedy no laughing matter

Jung makes debut highlighting social problems through the ‘difficult’ genre


Film director Jung Woo-cheol does not take the romantic comedy genre lightly.

In fact he believes the genre is the most difficult to succeed in.

“Anything epoch-marking would make the genre rather cumbersome, but at the same time, unconventional items would make the film lose its focus too. Romantic comedy is probably the toughest genre for any film director to convey their message,” he told The Korea Herald.

Jung said that the nature of the genre prevents directors from using a film as a soapbox, as Korean audiences demand happy endings.

“It is really hard to get it your way with romantic comedy ― perhaps that is why most romantic comedies seem similar to each other.”

Not deterred by the challenges, Jung mustered up the courage to debut in the genre ― but with a twist.

Eschewing stereotypical cheap gags, Jung tried to explore societal attitudes toward single mothers and sexual minorities.

Jung’s debut “Shotgun love,” starring Kim Kyu-ri and Lim Chang-jung, is a raunchy romantic comedy about love between two home shopping models Sang-yeol (Lim Chang-jung) and So-yeon (Kim Kyu-ri).

Sang-yeol has an uneventful life until he meets So-yeon, a lingerie model with flawless looks.
Director Jung Woo-cheol says his debut film, “Shotgun Love,” aims to chase two hares at once ― laughter and addressing social problems. (Ahn Hoon/ The Korea Herald)
Director Jung Woo-cheol says his debut film, “Shotgun Love,” aims to chase two hares at once ― laughter and addressing social problems. (Ahn Hoon/ The Korea Herald)

In the film, Jung challenges the prevailing views of marriage and dating, where people choose their partners on the basis of education and looks.

Conscious of the genre, Jung had to “cartoonize” the characters, despite their rather heavy roles.

“Some say I completely made a joke of social minorities, but I didn’t. I only cartoonized the characters regarding the genre, not the subject itself,” he said.

Jung says that, unlike in other film genres, where critics and audiences sometimes recognize a film’s merits even if it fails at the box office, people judge romantic comedies harshly.

“This turned out to be not an easy game, I guess I spoke too soon,” he said.

Jung says that filming a difficult romantic comedy focused on social issues made him feel that he should be more modest.

“I bet every director, at some point, believes that he or she has a 100 percent control of the story line, but the selfish wall will break down eventually once they try out this particular genre,” he said.

Jung advised film directors to ponder the question, “Is the movie made for my satisfaction or is its purpose to send a message to the audience?”

Although he admits that some scenes of “Shotgun Love” do not deviate from his initial vision, he says that people could appreciate the film from different perspectives.

The director spent his youth in New Zealand, a place he calls his “hide-out.” He said that before attending film school there he had lived far from civilization, totally isolating himself in a primitive environment in which he “cooked on a bonfire and bathed in the mountains.”

Probably owing to the unique experiences of his early days, Jung first directed independent films in New Zealand, which were praised by many colleagues. His long years of living like an outcast from civilization seem to have given him a fresh and unique perspective in analyzing social issues.

In 2005, he got an offer from an industry official to sponsor his independent movie, which he entered at the Pusan International Film Festival. The entry led to his decision to settle down back in Korea.

Like “Shotgun Love,” his short motion picture “Ice Blossom” and his long feature film “To The Sea” deal with sensitive social problems.

“They are no ‘lightly-sought’ films, as they deal with death and isolation,” he said.

Jung is intent on telling his audience that they are not immune from becoming a social minority.

“My romantic comedy should not be viewed lightly. I want the audience to reflect on the core theme while laughing at the detailed wit on the other hand,” he said.

The director says that Korean moviegoers have got used to “raunchy” films so that they tend to look the other way when it comes to social issues. “I want us to become more honest to ourselves. This sort of purgation in our culture should really go away.”

“Shotgun Love” is showing on about 350 screens, with English subtitles at Lotte Cinemas in Hongdae, Kundae and Busan Seomyeon.

“The English subtitles will be a chance for expats here to understand the core of Korean culture and social issues. The foreign community may understand them better and accept the message I’m trying to convey than the Koreans, who can easily be blinded by our own problems.”

By Hwang Jurie  (jurie777@heraldcorp.com)
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