Korea. History and present day. Films by Lee Jun-Ik

The Republic of Korea today presents its films in all three competition programs. Director Lee Jun-Ik’s personal retrospective adds a multidimensional touch to the outlook of the world’s leading cinema school. Curiously, this director’s career has never developed smoothly. He started as a producer and distributor in the 90s, helping to diversify the cinematographic spectrum and enabling Korean cinema to reach the world screens. His directing career can be compared to a ride on a roller coaster:  mediocre, commonplace films alternate with national commercial hits, super productions and sophisticated festival movies. Our program comprises the works which characterize best different sides of the director’s talent. 
 
He burst on the international scene with his last but one movie “Throne”. Its original title is “Sado”, which is the name of the main character, Crown Prince Sado (1735-1762) who dared to defy his father. One of the film’s main themes is the heavy burden of being a ruler. A philosophical drama on a par with ancient tragedies unfolds on the background of a national and family crisis. 
 
Lee Jun-Ik won national recognition in 2005 when his movie “King and the Clown” became one of the highest-grossing films in South Korea. It depicted historical environment with outstanding precision, while the actors ingeniously navigated between comedy and melodrama. 
 
Two years later Lee won the hearts of young audience with the story of shabby men in their forties who tried to live out their teenage dream of creating a rock group. “The Happy Life” doesn’t come out as all that happy on screen. The idea of his “Hope”, the cruel melodrama of returning hope to the family of a nine-year-old girl who experienced rape, offered a paradox as it centred on the power of compassion instead of rape scenes, and turned out to be impressively successful. 
 
The director’s latest work, “Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet”, as if to pique high-budget “Sado”, is demurely black-and white, creating an illusion of a newsreel depicting the events from the recent past when, just like in our country, a poet was more than just a poet and epitomized the dream of national independence and social justice. 
 
Lee Jun-Ik is not going to rest on his laurels and continues his experiments.
 
Kirill Razlogov