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Korean audiences’ feedbacks are more important than winning Cannes: Park Chan-wook

From left: Park Chan-wook, Tang Wei and Park Hye-il attend a press conference for “Decision to Leave” at JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)
From left: Park Chan-wook, Tang Wei and Park Hye-il attend a press conference for “Decision to Leave” at JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Feedback from Korean audiences for his new thriller-romance film “Decision to Leave” is more important than winning a trophy at Cannes Film Festival, director Park Chan-wook said during a press conference held at JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul on Thursday.

Park won the best director award for his new film on May 28 at the 75th Cannes Film Festival in southern France.

“This film, in particular, is different from my previous work in that it has many elements that only Koreans can understand. In particular, I think Tang Wei’s Korean lines are special,” Park said. “It is more important than winning an award at a foreign film fest. I am more curious and nervous about Korean audiences’ feedback.”

Park’s new movie centers on a polite, honest detective named Hye-jun (Park Hye-il). Hye-jun looks into a suspicious death on a mountain and comes to suspect the dead man’s wife, the mysterious Seo-rae (Tang Wei). At the same time, Hye-jun also becomes attracted to her.

The director explained that the character Hye-jun was inspired by the Swedish “Martin Beck” novels written by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo.

“I thought about creating a movie with a detective who is similar to the one from the novel, who cares about others and has gentle manners,” he said.

After creating the protagonist of the film, Park said two different versions of the Korean love song “Mist,” sung by Jung Hoon-hee and Song Chang-sik, came to mind.

“If we were to use the song ‘Mist,’ the movie had to be a romance film,” Park said. “So the writer, Jung Seo-kyung, and I decided to make a romance movie with a detective character. This format was naturally created.”

The new movie is both a romance and a detective story, according to the director.

“During an interview at Cannes, I was asked if the new movie could be described as 50 percent romance film and 50 percent investigation film, and I answered that it is 100 percent romance film and 100 percent detective film. I am not trying to play with words here. I am trying to say that the key point is that you cannot separate the two,” Park said. “All the work that the protagonist does as a detective is also the process of how he develops love, so they cannot be separated.”

During the press conference, Chinese actor Tang Wei talked about her first meeting with the accomplished director.

“Director Park told me the story for 1 1/2 hours and I was so nervous listening to it. I listened to it while drinking a lot of water and also having some snacks,” Tang said.

Park Hye-il also talked about his meeting with the director for the new film.

“I was very curious to hear that the director would be telling a romance story in a detective movie. After reading the script, I realized that it is different from the works that Park had been doing,” the actor said.

The director elaborated on how his new film is different from his previous work that are more provocative and violent.

“Decision to Leave” (CJ ENM)
“Decision to Leave” (CJ ENM)

“I wanted to do it differently this time. It is a story of a woman who hides her feelings so I wanted to make the audience want a closer look into her mind. It had to be done carefully to show the subtle changes in her feelings. To do that, I had to limit any provocative elements,” he said. “If my film is music, it is a song with a singer who sings with a delicate and soft voice, so I thought that the sound of loud drums or guitar should be lowered.”

Chinese actor Tang also agreed that the tone of “Decision to Leave” is different from previous films by the director.

“The director’s previous work felt like kimchi with a strong taste. But this movie has a fresh vibe of Xi Lake in Hangzhou, where I grew up. If I were to describe it as a taste, it would be a little sweet and fresh,” she said.

“Decision to Leave” hits local theaters June 29.

By Song Seung-hyun (