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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Im Kwon-taek's "Beyond the Years" opens on April 12

Beyond the Years (Chônnyônhak, "thousand years' crane") Im Kwon-taek's sequel to Sopyonje (1993), in production for several years, opens on April 12. It is Im's 100th movie, and it is told that Chungmuro (a street in Seoul where many of the movie companies are located) is full of good vibes now that the film is finally finished despite initial difficulties, and Im's younger colleagues have been giving tributes to him, such as the film trailer above, which was edited by director Chông Yun-ch'ôl.

The female lead doing the role of Song-hwa is none else than Oh Jeong-hae (O Jông-hae) - how could it be otherwise when it's a Sopyonje sequel, and the male lead (role of Tong-ho) is Cho Chae-hyôn (Jo Jae-hyun), who has been prominent in earlier Kim Ki-duk films and was also eaten up for dinner in Ch'ônyûdûrûi chônyôksiksa ("girl's dinner", original English title "Girls' Night Out").

Cho Chae-hyeon as Tong-ho and Oh Jeong-hae as Song-hwa

The original cast for the role of Tong-ho was Kim Yông-min, a stage rather than movie actor. With the news that the lead would not be a top name, the main investor balked, and so did the production company. When this became known in Chungmuro it created a lot of movement to raise finances for Im's movie, but another new company had already picked the tab, and Im could resume his work. The new male lead was Cho, who was given the role when he offered to do any role in the movie when hearing that the production was having difficulties. And yes, also Kim Myeong-gon, who did the adoptive father's role in Sopyonje, was also cast for Beyond the Years, but Kim become meanwhile the minister of culture, so that part had to be recast as well.

• Interview in Twitch: Im Kwon-Taek Talks 천년학 (Thousand Year Crane).

The Korean title of the movie, Ch'ônnyônhak (thousand years' crane) is the name of the Sopyonje main theme, conducted by Kim Ki-ch'ôl. Can't tell if that title for the new film was chosen to emphasize the continuity from Sopyonje; the story line of "Beyond the Years" depicts the time of the events in the end of Sopyonje, when Tong-ho, who had earlier had escaped the miserable conditions of wandering performers that their adoptive father inflicted upon them, and, returning to the Jeolla (Chôlla) province as a buyer of medicinal herbs, also goes around asking about Song-hwa, whom he grew up with calling her "older sister" (nuna). This time, their relation evolves into a love story. Tong-ho follows the tracks of Song-hwa and finds her, but in the manner of good melodrama, things don't go so easily.

(The scene at the end of Sopyonje, when Tong-ho has found Song-hwa, who had been blinded by her adoptive father so that she wouldn't lost the "sadness" (wônhan) of her voice, and asks her to sing a song, is a guaranteed tear-jerker. Tong-ho plays the puk drum and Song-hwa sings; their voices fade off and the Ch'ônnyônhak theme comes instead, screen showing only the teary-eyed faces of the two performers. (The scene in Sopyonje soundtrack; mp3, 7:44, 10.9 mb) We watched the dvd with my wife late last year; I knew I wouldn't be able to watch the scene unemotionially, so I pretended I needed to do something else, like doing the dishes, so I ended up hearing my wife's sobbing to the kitchen.)

Update, April 20, 2007
Review of "Beyond the Years" in Ohmynews (Korean)

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