2012 marks the International Year of Reading. Whilst the NFSA’s exhibition Great Adaptations: Words to Image commences in August, for the rest of 2012 Arc cinema will also listen into the oft-confused dialogue between literature and cinema – especially in the exchange between the two distinct art forms that occurs when a novel is ‘adapted to the screen.’ New and classic adaptations will screen. We’ll also look at the work of one of the few major contemporary writers to make a complete transition to screen directing: Korea’s Lee Chang-dong.
Later in 2012 we’ll also celebrate the work of one of cinema’s most inventive geniuses for transforming classic literature into cinema: the late Chilean filmmaker Raul Ruiz.
Many modern novelists imagine themselves as film directors. Quite a few have tried, but normally find the movie-making set frustrating, and cinematic expression (and audience reception) harder than they thought it would be. Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong (1954-) is arguably one of the most successful modern cases of writer turned filmmaker. Although most Korean directors come out of the nation’s boisterous film school culture, Lee was initially a novelist, essayist social critic and one of the key literary voices of the South Korean ‘Spring’ of the 1980s. It says much about his career and concerns that he was briefly a Minister for Culture in the early 2000s government of President Roh Moo Hyun – before finding cinema a better forum for speaking his mind. It says even more that he’s often argued in public for a return to a ‘literate’ Korean cinema: 'there are not many things that inspire filmmakers more than books. It would be even better if … (film students) saw plays and exhibitions … film students don’t watch many films. Not even the classics. Instead they watch things like Inception over and over again.’
Lee’s own work shows how cinema can be fluent whilst still cinematic. Compared to the more overtly flourished, idiosyncratic or genre-driven filmmaking of some of other names of Korean cinema of the 1990s and 2000s (Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, Hong Sang-soo), it’s been quieter in its achievement. Instead, from his first scripts in the early 1990s for director Park Kwang-su, and then since his own first feature, 1997’s Green Fish, Lee’s come to be seen as a great maker of world class art cinema less through a wild style than through craft, through novelistic (almost Dickensian) skills in building a complete, poignant gallery of characters, and though an acute dramatisation of national social themes. Lee’s films do have their own stylistic peculiarities; Oasis shifts between fantasy and coarse realism, for example. Many films are superficially rooted in popular Korean film genres. The often-too pervasive tone of violence and alpha-masculinity in Korean cinema is still present. But his work nuanced, interrogative, rather than fetishised and sensualised. The centrality of women characters is especially distinct – not as objects of desire or burlesque, but rather as central and strong protagonists in the social contradictions of a society that has shot rapidly from third to first world, from feudalism to hyper-consumerism.
Lee’s most recent film, the Cannes Film Festival-award-winner feature Poetry, was screened of our 2011 New Korean cinema survey season. So here we are concentrating on his earlier features, unseen in Australia beyond odd film festivals and occasional SBS-TV screenings. Also included will be Lee’s best-known work of screen-writing: the haunting To the Starry Island (1996) – one of the first films of the 1990s Korean cinema breakout to confront the ghosts of the Korean War.
Presented with the support of the Embassy of the Republic of Korea and the Korea Foundation. Presented with the assistance of the Korean Film Industry Council and the Korean Film Archive. Thanks to: CJ Entertainment; Finecut; Fortisimo Films.
Lee Chang-dong continues in September.
Showing only events for Lee Chang-dong (show all events).
- Sorry, no upcoming events were found