DVD Limited Edition
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Review of King and the Clown DVD Limited Edition
- by X @ TwitchFilm
[Reproduced herein with kind permission from X and Twitchfilm]
PACKAGING AND SPECS
왕의 남자 (The King and The Clown)
Released by Art Service on June 23, 2006
3-Disc + OST
1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dts, Dolby Digital 5.1
NTSC Region 3 - DVD9
120 (128 International Version) Minutes - Colour
3-Disc + OST DVD (English,
3-Disc DVD (English, Korean Subs)
When I started writing for Twitch, 왕의 남자 (The King and The Clown) was still shooting, and although I expected a quality work given Lee Joon-Ik's past film and productions, I certainly never expected it'd become the issue of the year, and that Lee would go on to become a sort of example to follow for the rest of the industry. When 태극기 휘날리며 (Taegukgi) broke the record in 2004 I wasn't particularly interested -- I was just happy when it passed the break even mark, but after that I stopped caring. But it was different for this film, as more than anything I respect Director Lee and his working style. So it was even more fun reporting day in and day out all the small and big successes which led the film to the top of the mountain. So, just in case you started reading Twitch recently, you don't remember, or just want to revisit those moments, here's a list of all the major coverage we dedicated to the film, starting nearly two months before release, and continuing until it became Korea's biggest hit of all time. From just a bunch of clowns to Kings...
November 5] Production Meeting
- [2005, November 22] Theatrical Trailer
- [2005, December 13] Press Screening
- [2005, December 30] Lee Joon-Ik Interview
- [2005, December 31] Box Office - Opening Day
- [2006, January 2] Box Office - 1,000,000 Mark
- [2006, January 10] Box Office - 2,000,000 Mark
- [2006, January 12] Box Office - Nearing 4 Million
- [2006, January 17] Box Office - Nearly 5 Million
- [2006, January 23] 쉬리 (Shiri) is Beaten
- [2006, January 24] Box Office - All Time Top 10
- [2006, January 27] Box Office - 7,000,000 Mark
- [2006, January 31] Box Office - 8,000,000 Mark
- [2006, February 10] Box Office - 10,000,000 Mark
- [2006, March 3] Lee Joon-Ik, Jung Jin-Young Interview
- [2006, March 5] All Time No. 1
Fantastic colours, and that's something you can't always say for Cinema Service DVDs. Then again, since they created Art Service most of the DVDs they released have shown a marked improvement in terms of transfer quality. No grain or compression artifacts whatsoever, with extremely natural skin tones. Some slight sharpness related problems might pop up on higher end systems, but they are very minor ones. Although we're not dealing with enterOne's higher end releases in terms of transfer quality, you can safely say this is one of the best jobs of the year. Audio is also excellent, with Lee Byung-Woo's great little score and the various Samulnori performances putting to work the surround speakers, in particular during the Beijing Opera performance. An excellent presentation.
One thing which always leaves foreign viewers at bay when dealing with Sageuk is the language. I don't mean the translation itself, as that can create many problems in a modern setting too -- just look at the 야수 (Running Wild) Director's Cut DVD for a perfect example. No, it's something else. While deferential/polite/plain tones are still an essential part of today's Korean, the differences aren't as marked as what you saw in 조선말 (Old Korean). That's always been one of the most appealing factors of Sageuk for me personally, as language plays a much more important part in Sageuk than in contemporary Dramas -- which is probably why people were shocked when someone like Kim Min-Joon was cast in a (Fusion) Sageuk, with his pronunciation. Doing subtitles for a Sageuk in languages like French wouldn't be that hard, since they have deferential tones to a degree. But when it comes to English... how do you show the difference?
Which is why these subtitles are simply brilliant on one hand... and not too much so on the other. To crack the barrier between deferential and plain Old Korean, a simple solution was found: using Shakespearean, old English for the deferential tone, and normal English for the plain one. This gives a very strange feeling while watching the film, a mix of romanticism and gravity which I've never seen before on any other English Subtitled Korean DVD. And it works, just see how many people on message boards talked about the subtitles. It works in showing the barrier, in creating a divide, showing why there's always something lost in translation. Certainly non-native speakers could have a few problems with that kind of English, but if you've read classics of English literature it shouldn't be much of a problem.
Then there's the other side of the coin, which is why I only gave these subtitles 9.5. They might look great, but the problem is still there. They distract just like using Tennessee and Minnesota inflections for 황산벌 (Once Upon a Time in the Battlefield) would. I've seen many people spare no compliments for the subs and their Shakespearean ways, but very little about the film's real dialogue itself (which in many ways is exquisite). Subtitles take quite a few liberties (sure, the overall meaning is similar) and often get too cute for their own good, and at the end there'll be people staring at the Subs thinking they're reading Macbeth, not watching Lee Joon-Ik's film. The reason why I liked so much the subs on the 나의 결혼원정기 (Wedding Campaign) is that they were almost scary in sticking to a literal translation, but also made it understandable in a non-Korean context. These? I don't know. They're nearly perfect, incredibly well made, and probably among the finest work ever done on a Korean DVD. But they still give me a strange feeling. Like something self-important, and not at the service of the film, and that's as far as this film's (and the company who made it) philosophy as it can get.
Audio Commentary with Director Lee Joon-Ik, Producer Jung Jin-Wan, Assistant Director Ahn Tae-Jin, Marketing Director Jang Won-Seok
= A good listen. The four keep the atmosphere lively and joke quite often. If anything I would have liked to hear a commentary with the director alone, as he doesn't talk as much as I'd like. But this is full of interesting anecdotes from the shoot, and it always mixes Lee's dry humour with the feeling of bonding which the four conveyed through this production. Fun. =
The first performance was actually over ten minutes long, but it was one of the many scenes they had to shorten for time constraints. This is when the 노름 마치 (Noreum Machi, literally hitting, completing a gamble) team really showed their talent, especially as they had only one day to shoot there, so no time wasting was allowed. Gam Woo-Sung instantly accustomed himself to the role, as he did his first performance without wires, and got everything right on the first take. The four also praise his dedication, even just for the many ideas and suggestions he gave them on the set. He actually wanted to do the most dangerous parts of his performance himself, and even though they were forced to use Gam's teacher instead (more than anything because they had no time to waste), they believe Gam could have actually done it himself.
Another location which worried them a lot was the shoot at 민속촌 (The National Folk Village used by countless Sageuk), as once again there was really no time, and they had to work really hard to set up those scenes and do everything effectively. In contrast, the famous 'You're there, I'm here' scene on the hill took a mere hour to shoot, and the weather helped a lot. There was actually a great scenery to see behind the two actors, but because of the time of the day (they shot this scene right at the end of a shooting day) you could barely see it. Color correction and DI helped a little on that regard, but they still were a little sad all that beauty couldn't translate on the screen. In addition, this was actually one of the scenes Lee Joon-Gi played at his audition.
The scene featuring the first meeting between Jang-Saeng, Gong-Gil and the other three Clowns-in-the-making was actually added in the adaptation process, and the assistant director paid special attention to the extras for this scene, although they were only around 150. One of the things they discussed a lot about was finding a way to introduce the period without making it too obvious, so that's when Jang-Saeng's ignorance about palace issues comes into play. His not knowing about famous concubine Jang Nok-Soo was perfectly acceptable for a commoner back in those days, as people like him pretty much lived isolated from Hanyang. But then again, the way that is introduced is not exactly obvious, as Jang-Saeng learns about it while looking at Yook-Gab gamble with the others.
One thing which surprised the four was how well the audience reacted to the little bits of comedy in those scenes, but it's no surprise considering how good someone like Yoo Hae-Jin is at ad-libs. The next scene not only introduces Cheo-Seon but also shows how the Clowns were getting noticed in Hanyang by many people. Lee Joon-Gi was so into the role that he pretty much lived like Gong-Gil, after Gam Woo-Sung suggested him the idea. He rarely joked, and he always had a strange, ambiguous aura around him, which perhaps ended up helping him with the role.
Setting up the shoot inside the palace (set) was really hard, as they only had 3 days to organize everything and shoot, and then even the weather made its unwelcome appearance. With rain coming and going, at times it felt like a baseball game, with constant pauses. And of course when it wasn't raining the actors had to endure very high temperatures, especially the Subjects, as they couldn't move for the entire scene. The four note how the performance of the Clowns in front of Yeonsan was much funnier in the script, but despite the nervousness of the moment, viewers kept laughing. Lee says the actors (Lee Seung-Hoon and Jung Seok-Yong) were like a treasure to him, and Yoo Hae-Jin was a genius when it came to quickly adapting to different situations while shooting.
They comment how Gam and Jung Jin-Young instantly connected, even though the former joined the cast at the last moment, but the moment Gam started reading the script, the character fit him like a glove. Concerning Kang Sung-Yeon's first scene, the initial idea was to go a little more risque in terms of nudity, but the director wanted a little less -- and besides, female viewers received those little scenes really well, as it showed a more human side of Jang Nok-Soo previous Sageuk on TV and the big screen almost never bothered with. They were also satisfied with the camerawork outside the palace, as any important discussion between King and Subjects in Korean Sageuk usually takes place inside, but despite not having a lot of space to deal with, they did everything effectively.
There were scenes that the writers thought would elicit laughter, like the 말을... 해라! 이년...들아! (Say something, you wenches) during the Beijing Opera performance, but they were surprised at how many scenes they didn't particularly expect to generate much reaction ended up being loved by the audience. People really responded well to Yeonsan playing along with Jang-Saeng, and that's once again proof of how good their chemistry was. Jung was really nervous for the more serious scene after the performance, as he was shaking and nervously smoking while looking at the monitor. He immersed himself into the character so much that those scenes always brought out a sense of nervousness which was inside him. They also talk about the dolls finally making their appearance in the film, and how effective the marketing was in that sense -- they sold a total of 2 Million dolls!!
They talk a little about the relationship between Jang-Saeng and Gong-Gil, which raised quite a few issues among critics. The director comments that... he doesn't know, jokingly. Many people (mostly in Korea) saw it as extreme bonding, others saw it as even love, considering the way it was portrayed. But Lee says that the 동성애 (homoerotic) code so many people brought up sort of labeled the film, as a kind of Brokeback Mountain of the East, although that certainly wasn't his point -- as he explained on various interviews before the film, although their relationship crosses the simple boundaries of friendship, it's not homosexuality the way the West intends it as.
They comment that it was a little sad the film carried that label despite not being the focus of what they wanted to tell. Assistant Director Ahn then comments on one of the most precious lessons he learned on the set, and that's creating a film on the set, even changing the script and adapting it to the actors, as they weren't simple puppets of the director. Lee didn't use simple exposition or voiceovers to convey the character's state of mind, he talked to the audience through the characters' emotional state. So to explain what brings Yeonsan to that level of madness, he uses the little puppet show he does in front of Gong-Gil, to subtly underline the relationship he had with his father, vis-a-vis the way his mother was treated.
As far as the 'Beijing Opera' scene was concerned, the initial project wasn't so visually striking, but they decided to make it wild and have a little fun with it. Journalists who came to the set that day were really surprised, and although that part of the film was criticized by historians -- Beijing Opera was born in the mid 19th Century, over 200 years after Yeonsan's rule -- it became one of the most memorable parts of the film. This entire scene took a long time to prepare, so much that the last moments with Yeonsan going crazy were shot around Midnight, just moments before going home. Once again Director Lee used restraint, as they thought about going full monty and showing a cut with the sword penetrating the two concubines, blood included, but Lee opted for what we see in the film. At the end of the day it worked even better, as the important thing isn't blood or gore, but seeing Yeonsan and his madness.
The four agree that the scene they regretted using (or better, editing it this way) was the one when Nok-Soo shows her jealousy and strips Gong-Gil in front of Yeonsan. In this script this actually happened a lot earlier, but watching this scene in the final version during monitoring, many people reacted negatively. Director Lee actually tried to edit it back where it should have been, but he couldn't anymore. This was only a one take insert, but they think Kang Sung-Yeon showed all her charisma, conveying all of Nok-Soo's pent up jealousy. The scene with Gong-Gil and Yeonsan after the hunting turns bad for the clowns had a peculiar anecdote: Lee Joon-Gi might look perfect there, with a sad look on his face, but it was actually because he was barely conscious after suffering that famous accident on the set. His illness in this case helped the film even more, as when you see him collapse on his bed, it wasn't too far from the truth. As far as the famous kiss scene goes, the crew just had confidence and wanted to try it, even though the marketing was negative about it.
They joke a little about the lack of flashy camera tricks, saying they would have liked to use steady cams and the like, but then again looking at the final product, the director was right. Then Lee stops them saying that's all money anyway, why waste it on flashy tricks? If there was any scene the director didn't feel too confident about, that was Jang-Saeng taking the blame for spreading palace affairs through his writing. This was a big highlight of the film in their mind while writing the script, but it didn't turn exactly as they wanted at the end. Still, without that scene the rest of the film couldn't stand, so they had to trust the actors to carry this moment. And that's when little details, like Gam Woo-Sung's hand shaking before Jang-Saeng starts writing, were created on the set. There were more scenes dealing with Cheo-Seon's suicide, but during monitoring some people didn't even notice he was dead, so they decided to cut to the chase and show the most explicit way of conveying it was suicide.
Audio Commentary with Gam Woo-Sung, Jung Jin-Young, Kang Sung-Yeon, Lee Joon-Gi, Yoo Hae-Jin, Jung Seok-Yong, Lee Seung-Hoon
= A little disappointing. You'd think the more people participate, the more fun it would be, but this is just an average commentary. There's a few anecdotes, and few funny moments, silent pauses here and there, and some solid commentary. Nothing out of the ordinary though, which is a shame as this is the film that changed many of these people's careers. Maybe that's why they didn't have much to say. =
They start talking about the first scene, which they started shooting right after the 고사 (opening ceremony) for four days. Gam remembers how that shoot, just like the rest of the film, went really well, without any major problem. And the surprising thing was that they actually would always end shooting ahead of schedule, which is something really rare in Korea, used to insane shoots of sometimes 15 to 20 hours. Compared to rehearsal, when everything felt a little awkward and they were constantly fooling around, the fact everyone was focused and had confidence in the director always helped -- this goes back to Lee's '3 takes' theory, always keeping the staff nervous enough to care about the little details.
One scene in particular made Gam accept the offer to play Jang-Saeng: it's the one right after the first performance, when Jang-Saeng gets angry with their 'boss' for always letting Gong-Gil sell himself to any village's yangban. In Gam's opinion this scene was crucial to show the kind of relationship Gong-Gil and Jang-Saeng shared, so when he saw the first rough editing -- with this scene up to the two running out of the yangban's mansion completely deleted -- he was shocked the director took it out. Convinced it was essential for the rest of the film, he called Director Lee, and explained to him what he thought for about an hour before he could convince him.
They joke but also feel a little sorry that, to have a little fun during the shoot, the actors would often mimic Jang Hang-Seon's speech pattern as Cheo-Seon. Regarding the performance in front of the King, the part where Jang-Saeng brings the 'child' in front of the King might feel a little out of place, but he actually did the same at the village before, bit which was cut in the final version. In his original performance at the village, his tone is much higher than the one he uses in front of Yeonsan, which shows he's just as nervous as the other Clowns, the only difference being that he hides it a little better. This scene was really awkward during the rehearsal process, but they pulled it off well while shooting.
Gam speaks of his respect for veteran Jang Hang-Seon, and how nervous he was acting one of his few scenes with him. Cheo-Seon wasn't that big a role, but it had its importance in the overall picture, and perhaps that was why Gam was so excited and scared by the opportunity of acting with him. The first time he met him at the script rehearsal he showered Gam with compliments, so hearing good things from veterans like him always helps boosting your confidence. He liked the script, but thinks the passion shown by the staff and cast improved the film considerably. You cannot possibly know beforehand how the cast will mesh with each other, but Lee was really successful in combining good actors and people who fit their characters perfectly.
International Version - 128 Minutes
I expected some substantial additions for this new version, but we're more or less dealing with little touches which strengthen the narrative a bit, now that the film doesn't need to stick to the 120 Minutes format. There's an extra game involving the clowns at the beginning, a little more satire regarding Nok-Soo, more salad dressing better fleshing out the relationship between Gong-Gil and Jang-Saeng vis-a-vis Yeonsan's attitude. Does it improve things dramatically? Not really, as the film can stand on its own already. It's not, in other words, a huge change like what the Director's Cut of 야수 (Running Wild) and the DVD Version of 분홍신 (The Red Shoes) brought to the table. Like 원더풀 데이즈 (Wonderful Days)'s Director's Cut, we're dealing with cosmetic changes, some of which are effective, some others not really adding much. But if I had to choose between the two versions, I'd say this one is a tiny little bit better. This version includes the same quality subtitles of the original, along with no changes in audio and video.
~205 Minutes Total.
첫째 마당 (The First Yard)
조선, 어느 광대와 왕 (Joseon, a King and a Clown) [22:26]
We begin with Director Lee and all the actors behind the scenes on 2006/03/03 (this was, I think, when they broke the record to become No. 1), all very nervous. Then after a few beautiful stills from the shoot, an interview with the Director and major staff members starts.
Director Lee Joon-Ik: "I didn't watch the theater play [爾 (Yi)], but I read the script. As I started reading, it looked quite difficult. I usually have very little interest for things I know well already, you know, there's no energy, no impulse. Still, I kept reading, and not knowing anything about it itself created a certain curiosity, that's probably a complex I have. A very mean desire which builds inside me, to try to learn about things I didn't know. Then I just looked at it again and went... it looks difficult... ehh, let's just do this (laughs)."
Clips from Gam Woo-Sung starting his performance on the rope. If you thought it was all low angle shoots and body doubles, no sir. He did almost all of it himself -- save for the dangerous part where he hangs with one arm from the rope, and the choreography where Jang-Saeng jumps around the rope while the rest of the Clowns do their thing. Gam Woo-Sung's trainer talks of how good Gam looked, even with a mere two months of training. Then we move to the trainer himself trying those aforementioned difficult scenes. No mistakes, OK on the first take, in perfect Lee Joon-Ik style. Gam Woo-Sung then gets filmed jumping to later do the CG composite, and it's time for Lee and Gam to start fooling around. As Lee said, there might have been nervousness during the shoot, but right after that there's a great atmosphere.
DP Ji Gil-Yong: "I really had no ambitions about visuals. Still, I always tried to let the actors find their voice, try to express their sentiments through the camera. And, ever since I got the script, my modus operandi was essentially not to let the viewers notice the camera at all [as in CGI you don't notice, but do their job silently, in the background]. Unlike other films, the actors' eyes and how they communicated through that was really important, as essentially the Clowns' only way of giving each other signals was with their eyes. If I could get those things right, I thought everyone would be satisfied."
Producer Jung Jin-Wan: "The Director always talked of how while there's been films portraying Clowns in Europe, Japan or China, there was no such thing in Korea. So Yeonsan wasn't necessarily the focus of the film, as any Korean King of any period would have been just as effective."
The Clowns perform outside, and we see part of their first play about Nok-Soo and Yeonsan.
Assistant Director Ahn Tae-Jin: "The thing we were worried about the most was that the film might not have been popular enough, so thinking about it now, we worried for nothing. It was the opposite of what we thought, actually."
Director Lee Joon-Ik: "The focus here was on people, and not the accidents. Perhaps compared to 황산벌 (Once Upon a Time in the Battlefield), when the events were more important [at least structurally], this was the biggest change. And personally, as a director, I thought a good way to mature was to change the cards, do something completely different this time. So even on my next film [라디오 스타 (Radio Star), which just wrapped up shooting], I'll try to change everything once again."
Clips of Gong-Gil dancing inside the Palace yard.
Producer Jung Jin-Wan: "One thing we were really worried about was whether we could shoot at a [real] Palace or not. That's because we had a tight schedule, and didn't have time to waste. The problem with not being able to shoot at a Palace was that we'd have to build it from scratch on an open set, and that would have been too expensive given our budget. That would certainly take close to 10 Billion Won, and of course we couldn't spend that much [they ended up using the set of KBS' Sageuk 불멸의 이순신 (The Immortal Lee Soon-Shin)]."
More clips of the Clowns practicing their performance on the set. Gam discusses a few details about the 꽹과리 (Ggwaengwari, his instrument), then he starts his performance. Some of the other actors, including Lee Joon-Gi, take a nap while the staff is preparing for the next scene.
Director Lee Joon-Ik: "This idea of combining Yeonsan's story with the Clowns was quite unusual. But instead of focusing on Yeonsan's story which was too conventional, we tried to show how these Clowns, not fitting with the Palace atmosphere just like Yeonsan, inevitably changed the King, and eventually even Nok-Soo. So more than the Clowns and what they did, the important thing was this new element coming into Yeonsan's world, and two things that looked completely alien one from the other clashing. That was a pretty simple and effective way to get a good result: combine a story everyone knows (Yeonsan's) and something most people don't know about (Korean Clown culture)."
Clips of Yeonsan kissing Gong-Gil. Jung Ji-Wan jokes that it was 'powerful', and asked if they shot a French Kiss version.
DP Ji Gil-Yong: "My work in the film essentially followed the movement of the actors. If the character was standing still, I wasn't moving the camera, when he moved I'd move as well. I never forced camera movements on purpose, or use tricks that would distract from what the character was doing."
Producer Jung Jin-Wan: "Even just 5 Million [tickets sold] would have been great, as that would have meant a huge success, but even thinking about 10 Million... to be honest all we wanted was beating 스캔들 (Untold Scandal)'s record around the 3 Million, which was the most successful Sageuk at the box office. But this kind of success, I still haven't come to terms with it, honestly. I kind of feel like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show... it's still hard to believe."
Production Manager Jang Won-Shik: "I still can't believe it. I just looked at a site, noting how we passed the 12 Million mark, I'm really thankful so many people watched our film."
Gam Woo-Sung gets ready for his final performance while blindfolded, and he plays with the camera a little. This time he had a mattress under (obviously). Then we move to Gong-Gil doing his part on the rope.
Producer Jung Jin-Wan: "We never really worried about box office, what we tried to do was a good film, and that's all. Then when you do that, people might start spreading word of mouth, they might bring their grandparents to the theater, or even go back to watch the film a second time. We never even once worried what would happen if this film didn't work, so there really was no burden regarding its success at the box office. We always thought this was a good film, and were confident enough to let people do the rest."
We close with the actors (this is the premiere at the beginning) bowing Korean style to the public.
Director Lee Joon-Ik:
"Removed from all the criticism and acclaim we received,
this was a really happy experience, and it showed how varied
the concept of being 'popular' can be, as the film gave
different things to different people. And that's really the
thing which made me happiest, more than the good reviews or
anything else. I really want to thank everyone for
supporting the film, not just as a director, but also for
the countless actors and staff members who were encouraged
by your support."
COMMENT: A really nice intro, discussing a few important themes from the film, combined with footage from the shoot. As always with Lee, he's very sincere and speaks his mind without the usual back-patting atmosphere of certain DVD supplements. A good start.
궁, 안과 밖 (Palace, In and Out) [19:21]
We open with beautiful sketches of costumes, the masks and other props, along with set decorations.
Art Director Kang Seung-Yong: "Because of the period we were covering, I always had the hope I could have a lot of freedom in designing the sets, and it was a really fun project. If anything, budget limitations were a burden to a degree, but keeping the budget low was a good idea realistically, and all considered I'm satisfied with my work. It was a difficult job for that and many other reasons, but since we couldn't use other Palaces, this was our only chance, and we decided to go at it anyway. The first things we changed were colours, patterns and writing, to fit the tone of the film."
Director Lee and Kang look at the sets and props.
Costume Designer Shim Hyeon-Seop: "In Films like this, be it a Sageuk or a 무협 (muhyeop, wuxia), there's always a tendency to look at the costumes with a Chinese style in mind, so the moment I got the script, my main focus was making the costumes look as Korean as possible, and that's what I was most concerned about. There were a few problems during the pre-production stages, so we had to deal with a few delays, but it was an interesting experience. Since we were dealing with mid-Joseon and not late Joseon, while researching we noticed that colours used back then weren't as wild as we expected, and that was the time when colours started becoming a little bit muted. The fact after watching the film not too many people were reminded of anything resembling Chinese costumes means in a way we succeeded in creating what we wanted.
We tried to express an humble yet natural look on many of the costumes, by focusing more on softer colours (similar to pastel tones) instead of primary colours, which was the focus of Mongol costumes or other cultures. The Hanbok has always had a softer image, but people don't realize that colours don't change completely once a Dynasty is over. Not only costumes had a gradual chance before and after the 임진왜란 (Imjin War), but if you consider the changes between Goguryeo, Goryeo and Joseon, then you don't see a sudden break in the style used for costumes. Those were small changes, trials and errors which brought to the Hanbok we know today. But people tend to have this fixed idea of what an Hanbok is, looking only at what was used 100 years ago, whereas the idea of Hanbok developed throughout the entire Joseon Dynasty, and of course was influenced by the Dynasties before that. So some say this is more of a Fusion Drama than a Sageuk, which is a misunderstanding I hope people will not fall into."
We see designs of the King's room, from rough sketches to 3d drawings. Director Kang talks a little about the set designs for the Clown performances, as we see the staff prepare the Beijing Opera set. Shim also talks a little about their decision to go for this Beijing Opera 'drama within the drama', which in a sense emphasized the Koreanness of the rest of the film in terms of production values, as it highlighted this strong difference by presenting traditional Chinese art. Shim had experienced in this type of performance before, so he was confident they'd be able to do it well.
Director Lee and all the Production Design-related people discuss a few issues about the film in a roundtable discussion. Kang says something important, that a pro shows his true colours when he has to work in conditions that don't completely fit what he wanted. So even though the budget for costumes was small -- at least in a Sageuk setting, people might look at it and think otherwise, but recent exploits by shows like 주몽 (Jumong) and its 3.5 Billion in costumes are probably convincing people that shooting these films is quite expensive -- he tried his best to do well with what he was given.
Director Kang talks a little about
Gong-Gil's design, highlighting particular features beyond
his pretty face. Shim comments more than being satisfied
with his work, he feels sad that he couldn't work harder and
do better, but he'll continue to try to improve in his line
of work He admits that after this film, which was his first
as Costume Designer, a few contract offers came in but it
wasn't easy choosing, not because he was trying to play
smart, but because really doing what you want and finding
something that will pose a challenge to you and your
profession is really the hard thing.
COMMENT: Really interesting, particularly because it doesn't just throw jargon at us or shows designers at work on their costumes. The thought process behind their choices is explained, along with the biggest problems they faced in working on this film (a big one being the limited budget, but that added to the challenge). Particularly fascinating is Shim's working approach, a mix of very ambitious vigour of youth with the kind of intelligence only a few veterans can show. Judging by the costumes we see in the film, certainly not as flashy or flamboyant as recent Sageuk on TV but possessing a certain distinctive charm, this guy is going to go far.
연산의 사람들 (Yeonsan's People) [17:12]
We start with a few stills from the films, and then move straight into the interviews, alternating between actors.
Kang Sung-Yeon: "When I chose the film, the weight this role had in the overall picture was something I couldn't ignore. Yet after reading the script, just like after watching the film, I felt a certain anxiety about the role, I fell right into it."
Jung Jin-Young: "It was a serious theme, but the film treated it in a fun way, while at the same time celebrating our culture. In a way, looking at the big picture I never expected this kind of success at the box office. Better yet, when Director Lee showed me the script in the pre-production process, I thought while it looked like a nice film, it didn't sound like it would do good business. Still, just taking part in a nice film like this would have been a positive experience in itself, removed from any box office result."
Gam Woo-Sung: "Every time I start a new project, there's always a mix of fear and burden, no matter if it's a Sageuk or not. Actually I always had this preconception, that I wouldn't fit a Sageuk setting, so I kept trying to avoid films of the genre. But then ironically I found myself playing the lead in a Sageuk, something I never expected. Actually at first my reaction was the same as many other actors who refused the role: the film looks great, but the role is too difficult, too burdensome. So my first reaction, the first thing I told Director Lee was that I wasn't confident enough to play this kind of role. It looked like an interesting challenge to take, but even with six months of preparation it would have been difficult, and I barely had half that long to prepare. But then I don't know if it was just bold confidence or I just approached it lightly, but I ended up accepting anyway."
Lee Joon-Gi: "Growing up as a man, the thing I was most interested about in dealing with this character was how they'd treat the homosexual undertones, as men and women are always portrayed in a certain way on TV, and even if those undertones are used it's only in the same way [think pre-coming out Hong Seok-Cheon's stock characters]. More than focusing on particular actions or reactions, I gained confidence by looking at other actors play Gong-Gil [in the theater version]."
Jung Jin-Young: "Yeonsan's dramatic life has been introduced before on many films or Dramas, but I wasn't really influenced by any of them in preparing for the character. And even if there were plenty of historical sources I could read to learn more about him, I didn't not to be confused, as the important thing was focusing on the kind of image Yeonsan had in this film, not historically. Despite being a very complicated person, I never tried to seek an explanation on his deeds, or give him a label."
Kang Sung-Yeon: "Despite being a small role and never really getting a chance to show her voice, I wanted to give a soul to this character, even if only people who focused on Nok-Soo's struggle would have noticed it. So instead of just playing along, wrapping myself around Yeonsan's emotions, I tried to show what Nok-Soo was really feeling, especially in that last scene, the only scene that really gives a chance to Nok-Soo. Even though the focus was certainly on Yeonsan, I tried my best to show Nok-Soo's side of the story through her jealousy and anger for being 'dumped' by Yeonsan."
Gam Woo-Sung: "This wasn't the kind of role you just approach bringing your experience to the table and that's it. Sageuk being a very demanding genre, I and all the other actors worked hard for two months to be as realistic as possible, when dealing with the Clowns' performances, be it pansori, walking on the rope or all the rest."
Lee Joon-Gi: "At the beginning of those two months of practice and training I really was worried I wouldn't be able to do anything. You know, I worried the director would have to resort to using someone else, so the first thing I focused on was trying my best to improve, that was it. As I started learning, I noticed something. I'm pretty much used to modern ballet and similar things [one of his previous films, Byun Young-Joo's 발레교습소 (Flying Boys) involved ballet dancers], but when it comes to that distinctive rhythm which comes from our traditional culture, my body just wouldn't listen. All the other actors were a little older, and they could understand, immerse themselves in that kind of rhythm, but all I tried was to look as good as possible within the world shown by the camera."
Jung Jin-Young: "The director wanted to approach the chemistry between us actors working along the same lines as the characters, so we focused on the interaction of the moment more than building chemistry over time. Since these are all very dramatic personalities, and people you don't know what to expect from, focusing on that aspect was the best way to make their interaction feel more vibrant."
Lee Joon-Gi: "At first I was really worried about the interaction with the characters and the performances themselves, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to do anything. But they just told me to do it, to relax and just do it. Nothing else. I was a little uncomfortable as not having a structure to follow is always hard for me, and I was dealing with senior actors, but I followed their advice to the best of my abilities."
We see Lee nervously smoking after playing his part in the Beijing Opera scene, with everyone around him reassuring him he was really good, particularly Jung Jin-Young.
Kang Sung-Yeon: "In a way we're all clowns, what changes is just what we do to entertain the other, and who that person turns out to be. That kind of feeling is one of the things which will remain in my mind regarding this film, along with that sense of uneasiness and anxiety. I hope people will remember this film for a long time, watching it many times to unfold all its layers."
Lee Joon-Gi: "I gained immensely through this film, most importantly confidence. Whatever people felt through my performance bringing them to give me so much support, be it because of acting or anything else, I think I'll remember this film for a long time."
Jin-Young: "I've seen the film many times already,
and another for the press screening and premiere in
theaters. Acting a character like Yeonsan, someone who
wasn't easy to label or define, I think one thing that was
left was the same kind of depressed mood Yeonsan was
feeling, so I hope to strip myself of that character soon.
The Yeonsan we see in the film was pretty unfamiliar to me
and many viewers, so it was a very difficult role. Even
though we were able to break such a record at the box
office, bringing over 12 Million people to see the film, I
didn't really feel anything in particular in regards to
that. If there's anything I was confident about, it was that
we made a good film. Removed from box office records and the
like, people in the business often have that desire to make
an important film, something they'll be able to watch ten
years from now and feel proud about, and I think this was
one of those cases."
COMMENT: A really nice collection of interviews, and I much prefer this style (divided into themes, switching between actors) over just showing the full clip for one actor. Really honest answers from all involved, and you tend to feel how proud they are of their achievement.
한양 광대 (Hanyang Clowns) [12:44]
Images of the Three Clowns precede the interviews.
Yoo Hae-Jin: "Whne I got the script I really liked it, especially that final moment when they're playing and singing coming down the hill, I felt chills down my spine. Thankfully even though there were many things to learn related to our performances, because of my experience in Daehakro [theater] I was used to it all, so that was a big help."
Jung Seok-Yong: "Because I worked on the play before, I felt a little awkward. I wouldn't really know what to say If you asked me whether this script was better than the original, more than anything because I was so used to the stage play. So it was a peculiar experience in many ways."
Lee Seung-Hoon: "Since I've been part of the stage play from its inception, learning that it would be made into a film made me really happy, as it's a work I really loved. The biggest difference is obviously the switching of the plot's focus from Gong-Gil to Jang-Saeng. When I got the chance to work in this film, I really had no preference about the role I'd play. Anything was fine, just taking part in a project I liked was enough for me. Then, be it luck or not, the film started becoming really popular, so it was a blessing for me in every sense."
Jung Seok-Yong: "I knew Kim Tae-Woong already since I was working with him in theater, and in the original play I was one of Nok-Soo's eunuchs."
Lee Seung-Hoon: "When I looked at the role I was playing in the film, and all the scenes dealing with the Clowns' performances, I thought the first thing I should do was getting rid of anything dealing with Jang-Saeng [Lee played Jang-Saeng in the stage play]."
Jung Seok-Yong: "I really was worried a lot, if anything because these were performances that had a strong theater-like feeling, so I was wondering how they'd translate that into film effectively. I mean, in the script you'd just read 'performance', but then the key was doing something with it visually. If handled badly, it could have looked very ordinary, but I was surprised how well the audience ate it up, they really seemed to enjoy it."
We get to see the stunt double perform some of the Clowns' acrobatics. Yoo Hae-Jin asks the director if it looked OK, and he jokes 'it looked too good..."
Lee Seung-Hoon: "I was lucky even when we had to do that Beijing Opera performance, as when I was part of an acting workshop, we got to train in Beijing Opera style for a week, so I was a little accustomed to that already. For the Samulnori parts instead I had no previous experience, so I had to learn it from scratch. Of course I knew a little about it, but not enough to do what the film required. I wasn't really used to practicing so much before a film like we do in theater, but because of the Beijing Opera performance and the 'drama inside the drama' we did many rehearsals."
Jung Seok-Yong: "Because I was his roommate for 5 months while shooting 무사 (Musa: The Warrior), Yoo Hae-Jin and I became friends, and kept meeting even after that film, so we were really close before this film. Plus obviously I worked with [Lee] Seung-Hoon a lot before, and Yoo and Lee knew each other before, so all three knowing each other and being friends beforehand certainly helped our chemistry."
Yoo Hae-Jin: "There was this scene where we perform in front of the King, and then lay on our knees looking down. It was so hot sweat started coming down, enough to ruin my makeup. Thankfully we were on our knees, otherwise it would have been a mess."
Lee Seung-Hoon: "I was really surprised looking at the Beijing Opera costumes, but those were really hard to wear, as any sudden movement could have made some parts fall off and the shoot would have to be stopped. Plus of course it was August, so it was almost unbearably hot, especially considering how many layers of clothing we were wearing. It was like being at a Spa."
Yoo Hae-Jin: "I really liked the experience of taking part in that Beijing Opera performance, not only because it was an art with great tradition like Japan's Kabuki, but also because of the particular make-up used. It was quite unique, and I liked it so much I asked for a big photo of my character with all the make-up and costume on."
Jung Seok-Yong: "It was a success, definitely. Between the film doing so well, and the theater play doing well too, you could say this project was the highlight of my career, in Chungmuro just like in Daehakro."
Lee Seung-Hoon: "One thing I remember particularly was Director Lee's attitude while shooting, that of always thinking 'humble.' You know, "if we can sell 3 Million tickets, that'll be enough, let's work hard", things like that. Then as so many people embraced and supported the film, it made me realize how important giving your all for a good project is, removed from box office success or the pursuit of it."
Yoo Hae-Jin: "Of course
you think about the big success the film made at the box
office, but that's just a number. The important memories
which will leave a lasting impression deal more with having
fun while shooting a good film, without any major problem;
growing closer and sharing a good partnership with the
actors, and obviously being happy that the film turned out
well, too. Being part of a film like this, just that will be
a precious memory for me."
COMMENT: Same structure as the previous featurette, and thankfully they gave space to the three Clowns, as the film is not just Jung Jin-Young, Gam Woo-Sung and Lee Joon-Gi. Many important and great little scenes deal with these three, and it's nice they allowed them to share their thoughts about the film with us.
삭제 장면 (Deleted Scenes) [9:38]
- 한양 가는 길 (The Way to Hanyang)
Just a couple of shots of the countryside while Gong-Gil and Jang-Saeng are on their way to Hanyang. I suppose this would have fit right after they play the 'blind' game on the hill and come down.
- 질투 (Jealousy)
Inside Nok-Soo's room, one of the Eunuchs (Woo Hyun) tells her what Yeonsan is doing.
Eunuch: "He's with her,
Nok-Soo: (surprised) "Her?"
Eunuch: "That clown... ahh.... she's a man, pardon me."
(whispering to himself) "Man?... look at what he's wearing. Man, woman, it's so damn confusing"
Nok-Soo: (angry) "What
is he doing with that girly man?"
Eunuch: "That... you know... (looks down) ahem..."
Nok-Soo looks at him, he looks back, and the camera focuses on her chest.
Nok-Soo: "Go check yourself, move!"
This is a performance right before the Beijing Opera 'shows', Nok-Soo and the Queen Mother look at Yeonsan tensely, then Nok-Soo looks at the two Palace ladies.
Yook-Gab: "Look, it's the Queen Mother. And those are King Seongjong's concubines ... let's get ready."
The performance continues. Yeonsan looks at the two concubines.
종 사품 (Fourth Rank)
This is an insert of the scene where Yeonsan gives an official Rank to Gong-Gil, and one of the Subjects complains. But then the King brings up their actions dealing with the previous' King tenure and their decision vis-a-vis the fate of his mother. The King reiterates his order to give Fourth Rank to Gong-Gil, and to prepare a big ceremony to announce it. Then we go back to the original scene, with the Subjects mentioning national mourning as the reason why they can't proceed with any celebration, and we move to their idea of staging 'hunting' games.
Inside Nok-Soo's quarters, the Eunuch
played by Woo Hyun complains again.
Eunuch: "I told you they did, my lady! A King giving such a high rank to a clown, what kind of world we live in!? Not just that, they're even staging hunting games in his honour!"
Nok-Soo looks at him with a very serious
Nok-Soo: "What is His Majesty doing now?"
Eunuch: "He called Gong-Gil before I came here, now he must be..."
Nok-Soo gets up. I think this ties to the scene when she goes to Yeonsan's room and strips Gong-Gil.
광대사냥 (Clown Hunting)
Already near the end of the scene, with Yeonsan ready to shoot the Subject who tried to kill the Clowns. There's a bit more dialogue, and Cheo-Seon even joins the proceedings looking from afar. Another Subject gets up and tries to kill the King, but is stopped on his track. Essentially the same scene, with a few additional details.
하직인사 (Biding Farewell)
Cheo-Seon bows to the King. He explains
his reasons for bringing the Clowns inside the palace -- the
King gets up saying 'You want to die? Maybe your time has
come', and he answers he's not afraid of death with a very
sad look on his face. Cheo-Seon bows one last time for the
King, while we see Gong-Gil outside and Jang-Saeng
reflecting inside his cell.
COMMENT: A few nice moments, but nothing really major. Most of the scenes add detail, so seeing all of them in the International Version would have been nice (the film would just go from 128 to 137 Minutes), but even without those little moments, you're losing nothing particularly important.
絃과 打 (Chords and Dozens) [6:22]
Clips of Lee Byung-Woo during recording, discussing with the performers.
Music Director Lee Byung-Woo: "Although attached to today's sentiments it might not perfectly fit, when dealing with images from that period [Joseon] then the music couldn't help but feeling epic, romantic and tragic at the same time. I used a lot of guitar at the beginning to outline the overall feel of what I wanted to try for the director, but he would often complain it was too romantic! [...
We see Lee again discussing with musicians, asking for something a little less sad. Then we see strings playing a little the main theme.
...] I used a lot of strings too, as you can cover the whole spectrum and adapt to many different scenes. I can see people feeling strings don't fit with a Sageuk, but thanks to Yeonsan's personality I was able to use them freely with the orchestra. I just think using strings inside the palace gives those scenes a slightly more... sophisticated nuance? [...
One of the final scenes with Jang-Saeng on the rope is shown.
(traditional Korean flute) can create
beautiful sound, but it also has a
rugged side to it, able to convey the
passage of time, or mark a big step in
another direction, so I thought it fit
well with those scenes. It's ironic how
the music portrayed in the film as part
of the performances and the element of
realism coming from it [Samulnori,
pansori et al] has a very East Asian
feeling, whereas the rest of the music
used in the film is closer to things
like Jazz structurally. When I first
read the script the scale seemed really
big, but then the scenes that needed
that kind of music weren't as many as I
thought. If there's anything I feel bad
about, I would have liked to write
something a little more delicate,
COMMENT: I probably wrote about it before, but I think I fell for Lee Byung-Woo's style watching the first 5 Minutes of 마리 이야기 (My Beautiful Girl, Mari). I don't know why, but when I hear stunningly beautiful music like that I get chills down my speine. I was on the verge of shedding tears for what... a bird flying over a city drawn with 3D Studio Max? That's good music. Liked this bit about the soundtrack, very simple [no big jargon or details difficult to understand] but delivers the ball effectively.
나가는 길 (The Way Out) [5:07]
Scenes from the
shoot, with Lee Joon-Ik and Yoo Hae-Jin
joking, Yeonsan's reaction after the
Beijing Opera play, and more. A sort of
NG gallery, if you will. Gam Woo-Sung's
trainer is shown performing those jumps
on the rope, and we also see his arm
after hanging from the rope (ouch).
There's a great little scene of Gam
Woo-Sung giving a massage to Jung
Jin-Young, and then he tells the staff
on character: "throw out Gong-Gil and
bring me Jang-Saeng!".
COMMENT: Kind of throwaway, but pretty fun.
둘째 마당 (The Second Yard)
안성 남사당 바우덕이 (Anseong
Namsadang Baudeogi) [13:49]
-- Note: The title above is not simply a romanization of the Korean, but the name of a performing troupe, which trained the actors for the film. They even have an English Website.
Images (in B&W) of Director and Actors introducing themselves at the training center, then we see moments of the real Baudeogi festival [it's similar to what you see at the beginning of the film]. Older Korean viewers watching this might laugh at the performers wearing microphones, as 'in the old days' performers had to do everything with their voice.
We then see the actors try it out, fool around a little, and then move to the actual training. Gam Woo-Sung starts with the rope at an height of about 30-40 cm. This is called 줄타기 (Jultagi, funambulism).We see Jultagi expert Kwon Won-Tae walk the rope in a performance, much similar to the one you see in the film -- it's a little more elaborate here, with Kwon standing and jumping on one leg and doing similar things. Interesting how Gam and Lee Joon-Gi learn to keep their balance walking on a rope put on the floor (which might be even more difficult than a suspended one).
The rope starts to
get a little higher for the actors, and
as Kwon explains that gives you a whole
new feeling in terms of balancing
yourself. Kwon says his job hasn't
changed a bit over the years, they still
live a difficult life doing a very
difficult job. The actors move outside
with a much higher rope (with mats
underneath) and learn to adapt to the
COMMENT: Really fascinating. I've never been a fan of Circus performers, but traditional street performances seen in Korean and Chinese culture always interested me. If you're a Sageuk fan you've probably seen bits and pieces of those performances a thousand times, but it's nice to see the process behind all that work, and hear it from an expert (hell, a master, even) like Kwon Won-Tae. Very enjoyable, and the Jultagi shown here is even better than what you see in the film.
-- Note: Just like the previous featurette, we're not dealing with romanization but the name of a Samulnori (사물놀이, traditional percussion-based Korean music) troupe, which trained the Clowns.
Folk Instrument Coach Kim Ju-Hoong: "Every period has its trends, like violin, ballet, piano and so on. But people living in that period don't realize how important their own traditional music is. If you look at our situation, what's left for us now that's distinctively Korean? Our traditions and culture, nothing else." [...
We see Noreum Machi play a little, then Kim keeps talking.
[... The first time I met Director Lee, it was during a concert. This funny looking guy with glasses would keep staring at me while I was playing, so I couldn't help but feel a little curiosity. Of course at first I was really nervous and excited because of the film, and people around me were as well. The basic difference between training people to perform in theater and films is their structure: since theater is a single performance and they have to go all out without making mistakes, 3 months of training would have never been enough to train them. But because in films there's this thing called cuts, you can take whatever is good and drop anything that doesn't satisfy you.
So what was our priority? Not necessarily going through all the fundamentals like we would for a theater play, but get them to a level which would look good on the screen, create a feeling with would fit well with the film's climax, and of course trying to have them learn basic chemistry between each other. My approach was more subjective than objective, as I'm a 극악인 (traditional music performer) first and foremost, but how can I decide what's going to be popular or not? I just went in my usual direction. But then Lee Byung-Woo who is extremely talented and even liked traditional music to boot was able to translate our style into something which would fit with the film, so in that sense I think we did well. More than saying 'Hey, there's nothing better than what we're doing' our focus was in trying to highlight the important aspects of that time's folk music, and how we could help that process through our style."
We now move to Noreum Machi's practice room, and Kim introduces their music:
"The best way to approach listening to traditional Korean music is imagining you're going mountain hiking. You start your journey really lightly, comfortable, almost relaxed. Then the tempo increases."
There are four instruments in Samulnori: a 장구 (Jangu, the big 'hourglass drum'), 꽹과리 (Ggwaenggwari, the little gong), 징 (Jing, the bigger gong) and finally the 북 (Buk, the frame drum). We start with the four instruments slowly, and the sound gets increasingly more elaborate and louder. Kim continues his explanation about the peculiarities of Gukak.
"Within a 4/4 beat you can always improvise. If the beat goes 1/2/3/4, then you're free to only play 3 in between and not necessarily follow the beat, as long as at the end you conclude this 4/4 beat and start another. Continuity forms the beat, not necessarily what you play in between. The thing making it difficult for us is that the masses still don't understand the difference between a professional and an amateur. The difference is in the small details, and how professionals understand those and are able to follow those details and complement them. That's what separates pro's from amateurs. Just like the director picked the best scenes for the final film, we did the same with the Samulnori performances within the film, picking the best parts of our repertory, all those bits which would shine on the big screen when performed well."
Back to the studio. The four play part of the performance in the film. If you ever played drums even at amateur level you know this stuff is not easy. Not at all.
"While shooting the film I was really worried... I mean, how can they edit all this together and make it flow? I was even scared they wouldn't be able to do what was required, but then again I guess that's what films do, and they were able to put it all together at the end. If I felt bad about anything regarding the film? Well, the actors had to learn only one technique because of the film and that's all they used, but I hoped I'd see them later so we could teach them even better techniques. That makes me a little sad, but it's inevitable. The film is over, and they have to move on."
Clips of the actors performing inside the studio.
"Of course we were only part of the film as trainers for the actors, but I think the popularity of the film also influenced us and traditional music in Korean popular culture. Since this film was seen by so many people, that gave us an opportunity to promote even further traditional culture, and gave us Noreum Machi an even stronger impetus to work harder in the future."
Another (long and
impressive) performance from Noreum
Machi follows, closing the clip in great
COMMENT: I'm finding out that the older I get, the more inclined I am to listen to 국악 (Gukak, Traditional Korean music). Not that I buy Gukak CDs, but I love the sound, the rhythm and the whole atmosphere created by this style of music. There's nothing like Gukak, in particular Samulnori (percussion based Gukak) to create a festival-like feeling, which made those scenes in the film even more effective. This is a lovely introduction to Samulnori, how to approach it, its basic techniques and how it was used in the film. Excellent.
극 中 극 (Drama inside the Drama) [8:21]
Burlesque Advisor Jin Ok-Seop: "Through this film we gained a newfound interest in 궁중광대 (Royal Jesters) and 사당패 (traveling troupes). We tried to show the life of those traveling performing troupes and how they did just about everything to put food on their table, even if that involved selling their bodies like Gong-Gil. And of course Royal Jesters were entertainers performing pansori for the King." [...
We see behind the scenes clips from the first performance satirizing the King and Nok-Soo.
...] They had to learn to dance in just an hour. Of course it's not really dancing, but even if they're very subtle body movements, they add tremendously to the performance, and are quite an important part. So more than dance, we call those movements by Jesters 발림 (dance-like gestures while performing pansori). Learning that and the subtle vocal expressions done while performing (called 너름새, literally 'branching out') was definitely not easy. But even though at the beginning they had it hard, the combination of hard work and the fun in learning new things brought them to enjoy the experience, and it was the same for us teaching them. [...
The main actors practice all the gestures and vocal expressions.
...] This film was a nice way to make people interested in Jester culture, and when I found out it was Lee Joon-Ik who would direct, responsible for all that interesting dialogue in 황산벌 (Once Upon a Time in the Battlefield) I was even happier. Scenes like Yeonsan's 'baby' or Lee Joon-Gi shaking his rear end playing Nok-Soo remind really well of the kind of satire those Clowns were doing in the past, even if those were just subtle little moments. So in bringing to the surface all those elements regarding Gukak and performances, it was a nice chance to get closer to mainstream in that sense, and I'm glad all those were important parts of this film.
But in contrast with
folk jesters, we didn't know much about
Royal jesters in terms of culture. We
only knew bits and pieces, like the use
of funambulism. But in the Colonial
period, an historian called Kim
Dae-Cheol explored at length our
tradition in Palace performing arts, he
was the first to suggest Jesters wore
masks while performing. In the early
1900s a book about this issue came out,
listing many aspects of those
performances which emerged over the
years. This exposure with the mainstream
showed how tradition keeps changing over
the years, assuming new forms when it
meets different reaction from new
generations, so in that sense this film
was important in reviving interest in
this aspect of our traditional culture."
COMMENT: Perhaps something a little more visual would have helped, but a nice introduction into the world of folk and royal jesters, filled with jargon and interesting cultural connections with the other traditional elements of the film.
爾, 왕의 남자, 그 넘어 (Yi, The King and The Clown, And Beyond) [23:42]
We start with clips of the original theater play 爾 (Yi). I'm not sure as it's been a long time, but this is probably the version EBS showed years ago, as it has Oh Man-Seok of 신돈 (Shin Don) and 포도밭 그사나이 (The Vineyard Man) playing Gong-Gil. Then a long interview with writer Kim Tae-Woong begins.
Playwright Kim Tae-Woong: "I was always interested in traditional performing arts like pansori, but I gained an interest in Royal Jesters, especially when I started studying history in graduate school. Back then I didn't think there would be much data about Royal Jesters, but then I found in Yeonsan's Chronicles about this Jester called Gong-Gil and his relationship with the King, and that was the starting point for my play 爾 (Yi). What I wanted to focus on making this project was the essence of 소리 (sound, the Clowns' performance) and how it changed people experiencing it, but also the balance between power (in the Palace) and the Clowns' sense of identity. So the core was Gong-Gil's search for his true identity. [...
Clips from the play, with Lee Seung-Hoon playing Jang-Saeng, and Oh Man-Seok playing Gong-Gil. Very intense.
...] Two things I was concerned about when moving the play from the stage to the big screen were the code of homosexuality and how it would be shown in the film, but also that unique theater-like feeling the performances and even the characters had. I was wondering if they'd be able to make an effective transition without losing the impact of the original."
Jung Seok-Yong: "I've done this play many times so I knew it really well. One thing I was really worried about was how they'd interpret those theater-specific elements. In the script you'd just read 'performance', but then how would they actually do it? That really concerned me."
Scenes from Yi, dealing with the folk Jesters' performances.
Kim Tae-Woong: "What I liked about the film was how it presented the world within the Clowns' performances but also what happened outside. As the story progressed, its sense of density slowly disappears [storytelling slows down to focus on the major issues] to focus on Jang-Saeng and Gong-Gil which is something I was a little sad about. Unlike films like 스캔들 (Untold Scandal) and the way it deals with its historical setting, this film tends to focus more on a sort of 삼각관계 (menage a trois) between Yeonsan, Gong-Gil and Jang-Saeng. You could consider that a strength of the film, but then again also a weakness, if you think about what I said earlier about focusing so much on the dualism between the two Clowns."
Lee Seung-Hoon: "There's definitely something different between the Jang-Saeng portrayed on screen and the one in the play. In the play Jang-Saeng is pretty much like a lover to Gong-Gil, and in the film more than an homosexual code, the image of very close friends, brothers, colleagues is much stronger than that, no matter what people say regarding the homosexuality in the film. In the play there's even Jang-Saeng and Gong-Gil kissing each other, and I think Jang-Saeng was a little more charming in the play? Why? 'Cause I was the one playing him, obviously... (laughs)"
More clips from the play. This deals with Jang-Saeng speaking to Gong-Gil after receiving punishment from the King. Beautiful scene, in some ways hitting home even more than the film. Gong-Gil and Jang-Saeng dance together, and then... Jang-Saeng gets hit from behind, laughing on his way down.
Kim Tae-Woong: "When I heard Director Lee wanted to focus more on Jang-Saeng than Gong-Gil I had a few complaints as the original play's writer, as I thought Gong-Gil was really important to highlight that balance between power and the Clowns' sense of identity. But then I think he gave the Jang-Saeng in the film a distinctive charm of his own."
Director Lee explains the meaning of 爾 (Yi), which was a more deferential way to address people in the Joseon Dynasty. Just translating as 'you' wouldn't do, he comments that it was something closer to the meaning of 'Sir' in English. And, considering the relationship between Yeonsan (The King) and Gong-Gil (The Clown), that word was much more meaningful in that context.
A few clips from the auditions for the Musical Yi are shown. Nice songs.
Kim Tae-Woong: "If the focus of the play was about Gong-Gil and Yeonsan, and the film was more about Jang-Saeng, the musical focuses strongly on Gong-Gil once again. The story actually ends with an aria from Gong-Gil. I think all three were able to bring to the forefront all the various elements of our traditional performing arts. So if something like 취화선 (Chihwaseon) highlighted painting, this film entertained people by using the core of performing arts like pansori and funambulism."
More clips from Musical Auditions. Hide the thin glasses.
Kim closes talking
about how the content and its portrayal
through these three forms (film,
theater, musical) was really a great
challenge for them, but also a little
confusing in a way, as changing the
'genre' the approach to what's popular
certainly changes. Of course the fact
this film did so well at the box office
was nice in itself, but he considers
more valuable seeing the mainstream
accept something different on such a
level, allowing it to pass the 10
Million tickets sold. And if that leads
to more variety in Korean Cinema on a
commercial level, that's even more
COMMENT: Great peek into the mind of Kim Tae-Woong and the original play. You can feel what Lee Joon-Ik was talking about on various interviews when they had a 'rocky' relationship at the beginning of the adaptation process. Kim is very opinionated, and also very honest about the things he liked and liked a little less in the film. And of course seeing clips from the play itself is very nice, although maybe showing the full (what was it, 20 Minutes? I don't remember) EBS clip would have been truly great. Still, top notch interview once again.
연산을 위한 변명 (Explaining Yeonsan) [14:31]
We start with historian Shin Dong-Joon introducing the fact that most records dealing with Yeonsan were responsible for building the current negative image he carries, in his opinion.
We see Yeonsan's Tomb.
Jung Jin-Young: "Playing this character I really felt his sadness. He was a King but someone who knew what his ultimate fate would eventually be, with his depression mixed with a strong Oedipus Complex. Reading a collection of his poems, you could feel this was a man who knew it was only a matter of time before his life would be ruined. So instead of focusing too much on historical records, we focused on that kind of sadness the King showed."
While Lee Byung-Woo's beautiful soundtrack plays, we get to read some of Yeonsan's poems.
인생은 초로와 같아서
만날 때가 많지 않은 것
Just like dew on the
life is about not being able to meet often
Yeonsan 12th Year (1506) September 23"
Shin Dong-Joon: "During Yeonsan's rule two purges of scholars took place, first the 무오사화 (戊午士禍, Muosahwa, First Purge of Scholars, 1498) and later the 갑자사화 (甲子士禍, Gabjasahwa, Second Purge of Scholars, 1504). But this 사화 (士禍, sahwa) originally refers to scholars (士) getting massacred (禍), and if you look at the matter objectively, who's to blame for all that? When King Sejo was on his way to the throne, he forced young Danjong to abdicate [Danjong was son of Munjong, who was Crown Prince and also Sejo's brother but quickly died due to illness. In line with Yi Dynasty succession rules, the throne went to 12 year old Danjong, who was just a puppet of General Kim Jong-Seo] in 1455. One of the major culprits in the way the strife over the Royal Line developed during King Seongjong's reign was Kim Jong-Jik [one of the leading figures in the rebirth of the Neo-Confucian school], and his pupil Kim Il-Son took it from there and continued a smear campaign against Sejo's past policies towards scholars.
The biggest issue Kim Il-Son contested was the Royal Line's legitimacy itself, seeing how Sejo got to the throne. So in a way by saying that, Kim was implying Yeonsan, who was born from the union between a concubine (Lady Yoon) and one of Sejo's grandsons who would later become King Seongjong, wasn't fit to be a King. So the key here wasn't so much Yeonsan being responsible for those purges. Any King, be it Munjong, Danjong or Yeonsan himself would have eventually led things to the purges, as the elite of scholars involving Kim Il-Son contested the Royal Line ever since Sejo became King. Because the man who caused this massacre of scholars was from the 사림파 (The Neo-Confucian clan) he shot himself in the foot, eventually. So Yeonsan keeps getting portrayed as the one responsible for those purges, but it wasn't really his fault."
붉은 매화 떨어지자
휜 매화 한창이네,
하늘 이치 안다지만
인군의 도는 먼저
화목한 정서를 하는 것이라.
The King's Truth
the chrysanthemums in full bloom
the red apricots fall down
the white apricots at their most beautiful,
looking at nature
he knows heaven holds the truth
but the King's truth above all
is a symbol of harmony.
Yeonsan's 9th Year (1503), October 14"
Shin Dong-Joon: "Yeonsan's mother Lady Yoon is mentioned in relation to the second Purge of Scholars, the 갑자사화 (Gabjasahwa). It's called so because it took place in the 갑자 (甲子, year of the Rat). But although it's named after the year of the Rat, that certainly wasn't when the roots of this purge started forming, as it dealt with those who moved to kill Lady Yoon. You could say this purge, in contrast with the first one, was much more serious and even excessive, if you will."
"덕 없는 이 몽
용렬한 자질로 위에
있은 지 십년인데
너그러운 정사 못하니
부끄런 마음 금할 길 없네.
조정 안에 종사를 생각하여
보필하는 자 없으니
이 모두 어린 이 몽
This graceless Dream
As well as a foolish
It's been ten years
I can't freely indulge in state affairs
So there's no way to repress my shameful mind.
Thinking of the heirs in the Royal Court
no man is giving the King any advice
So childish is this dream
and it has no grace.
Yeonsan's 10th Year (1504), March 24"
Shin Dong-Joon: "Park Won-Jong, Yoo Soon-Jeong and Seong Hee-Ahn were responsible for Yeonsan's demise from the Palace. But this deposing of the King, and using 반정 (restoring order [in the Palace]) itself to describe the event is a bit of a paradox. Usually things like these happen, just like the name says, to restore peace and order in the Palace and serve the people in a better way. Yet this coup d'etat dealt essentially with morals within the palace and party strife, as the three men didn't know Junjong [The New King] until he was proclaimed King, so it wasn't a reform to improve things.
The best way to see the real Yeonsan is reading his poems, particularly for two reasons. First was the fact Yeonsan's state of mind emerged from those writings. Those poems also present a radically different portrait of the King, compared to all the scandals and issues dealing with Nok-Soo emerging in historical records. Through the poems, Yeonsan finally found a way to express his frustration, and show that he in fact wasn't really interested in increasing his power, unlike what the records would tell you. Looking at the way he conducted himself in the palace, enjoying the presence of women, music and other arts shows he in some ways was closer to the people. He didn't carry that image of the 폭군 (despot), but those poems revealed the man behind the figure. So it wasn't Yeonsan as a King, but as a living, breathing man, with all his demons and charms.
Looking at Joseon's history, from its founder Lee Seong-Gye to King Sejo up to Yeonsan the 신권 (Divine Right of the King) and all the various Royal Blood Line-related misfortunes were always the core issue behind party strife and the weakening of the King's Power. So the roots of all problems related to Yeonsan's tenure was the Neo-Confucian Faction's challenging of the King's Divine Right. In cases like King Sejong and Taejong, they dealt with the issue with their own power, but Yeonsan had to deal with his mother's death and other things, so his tentative to restore authority to the throne was heavily influenced by what happened to him. You could say Yeonsan was the last King in the Joseon Dynasty to try to regain that 'Mandate of Heaven' which kept losing importance because of the increasingly powerful influence of Palace Nobles."
열매 둘이 열었는데
하루 밤 센 바람에
모두 뜰에 떨어졌네
가꾼 은근한 공
하늘은 이다지 무정한가.
The peach tree grow
bearing two fruits
In just one night
They all fall in the courtyard
This fallen, quiet emptiness
all gone in vain
What could have caused
such cruelty by Heaven.
Yeonsan's 10th Year
(1504), March 24"
COMMENT: What to say, I could watch things like these 24/7. The Joseon Dynasty might be known as a 'peaceful' period from the outside, but it's so full of intrigue, party strife and general decadence that would often make more aggressive cultures look tame in comparison. And even if you don't care much about Korean History, this is a pretty fantastic introduction to Yeonsan's figure, putting in context all the behind the scenes intrigue which led to his madness. Superb.
연회의 뒷편 (Behind The Feast) [5:45]
Essentially this deals with the actors rehearsing their performances, from the fundamentals to their work together. It's quite enjoyable even without subtitles, as you basically get to see the cast try out the play satirizing the King while fooling around and constantly cracking up. And most importantly you'll see how much the actors improved in just a couple of months by looking at the final result in the film. Balls of fun, especially during the Beijing Opera performance.
셋째 마당 (The Third Yard)
포스터 촹영현장 (Poster Shoot) [5:35]
Posters for this film were particularly beautiful, so this was an interesting clip. We see the actors prepare for the shoot, and then all the different shoots for the various posters. Since it's pretty much dialogue-less, you can enjoy it without subs.
제작보고회 (Production Meeting) [6:02]
This was staged outdoors in a small village, with folk performances like the ones in the film introducing the presentation. The actors are introduced for the usual group photos, and then introduce themselves.
Jung Jin-Young: "Even though this film mostly deals with the lives of the Clowns inside the palace, it also prominently featured Yeonsan. And I was a little... annoyed. Because, you know, personality-wise Yeonsan wasn't exactly the best out there, and even my son told me 'Dad, of all the Kings... did you really have to play Yeonsan? (laughs)'
Kang Sung-Yeon: "At first the Nok-Soo in the film thinks she has Yeonsan all for herself, but when she discovers it's not the case, she starts getting confused, enraged, and plots revenge. At the end of the day, all she was seeing was Yeonsan, and no one else around him, so in a sense she could be called a second mother to him. That 모성 (motherhood) code was something I wanted to try, but since she didn't have many scenes to deal with and not much in the way of dialogue, I thought of the best way to bring out those sentiments in an effective way, despite the small role."
Lee Joon-Ik: "The Clowns in our culture weren't like the ones in Shakespeare's work, in that they put their whole body on the line to entertain, so I wanted to focus on that aspect for once."
"The focus of my performance here was
doing my best at what I liked doing,
which is also symbolic of Jang-Saeng's
The cake is out, and the actors pose for the usual photos, while we head to the closing moments.
시사회 현장 (Press Screening) [4:39]
Essentially the same, only difference is it's indoor this time. We hear a few comments from the actors, then cast, director and producer are introduced on the stage.
Lee Seon-Hee - 인연
Although older fans might scream blasphemy, let's just say Lee Seon-Hee was in the 80s what Lee So-Young is today, the queen of ballads. I think nowadays she's been active with the various 7080 concerts (a revival of older hits from decades ago. It's actually very popular with older folks), but she also released her 13th Album last year. Great song, pretty nice Music Video.
TV SPOT [1:04]
Essentially a shorter version of the Theatrical Trailer, without the shaky first 30 seconds. Well edited, and good choice of background music.
예고편 (Theatrical Trailer) [2:28]
I don't know what to say about this Trailer. It's not really bad, but you'd expect something slightly better. The first 30-40 seconds are edited pretty badly, but things pick up towards the end. Sells the film right (of course it did, 12 Million tickets!), but at times it feels like a trailer for some big budget SF blockbusters in terms of editing and soundbites. Could be better, but not entirely a waste.
스틸 겔러리 (Still Gallery) [2:05]
Really beautiful design (we see the still inside a janggu), but they tend to be hard to see for that reason. They're more or less the same stills you can find at Naver Movies or Cine21, but they gain a different mood within this design, while Lee Byung-Woo's subtly beautiful soundtracks plays in the background.
- 1. 가려진 - Jang
Jae-Hyung [Jang-Saeng's Theme] (5:53)
Nice, sad intro, repeating some of the lines Jang-Saeng says at the end. Jang Jae-Hyun also sang a duet with Eom Jung-Hwa for the 호로비츠를 위하여 (For Horowitz) soundtrack.
2. Prologue - 먼길
The song appearing during the opening credits.
3. 각시탈 (0:48)
4. 돌아올수 없는 (1:34)
5. 너 거기 있니? 나 여기 있어 (1:29)
6. 세상속으로 (1:45)
7. 위험한 제의 하나 (0:45)
8. 행복한 광대들 (1:32)
9. 내가 왕이 맞느냐? (0:49)
One of my favourite pieces, this is used right when Yeonsan questions Cheo-Seon on his legitimacy as a King. Very Lee Byung-Woo style.
10. 위험한 제의 둘 (0:45)
11. 꿈꾸는 광대들 (1:01)
12. 수청 (1:07)
13. 인형 놀이 (1:06)
14. 연정 (00:50)
15. 그림자 놀이 - 봉황은 울지 않는다 (1:48)
16. 피적삼의 울음소리 (1:52)
17. 광대사냥 (1:40)
Jaws meets Sageuk! Brilliant little piece for the 'hunting' games.
18. 광대의 죽음 (0:45)
19. 어서쏴 (0:39)
20. 질투 (0:36)
21. 장생의 분노 (1:21)
Badass string (mostly cello) piece giving gravity to the scene. Moody.
22. 내가 썼소 (0:54)
23. 애원 (1:03)
24. 장생의 외침 (1:48)
25. 눈먼 장생 (3:30)
26. 자궁속으로 (1:24)
27. 반정의 북소리 (0:39)
28. 반허공 (3:56)
29. 에필로그 - 돌아오는길 (3:22)
30. 반허공 (Guitar Version) (3:54)
OVERALL: I usually tend to enjoy two types of film soundtracks the most: those that perfectly blend with the film's flow, and the ones with plain great music. For the latter, cases like 원더풀 데이즈 (Wonderful Days), 혈의 누 (Blood Rain) and 태풍태양 (The Aggressives) are perfect examples. As for the former, the works of Lee Byung-Woo, the soundtrack of this film in particular, tend to be a pretty good example of that 'blending'. I wouldn't call this an impressive soundtrack, removed from the film. And that's the key, REMOVED from the film, because it perfectly supports the film and nothing else. So what probably doesn't stand on its own feet as a must buy CD doesn't mean the soundtrack isn't great. Too bad they didn't add Lee Seon-Hee's song.
I still remember when the Special Edition of 쉬리 (Shiri) came out on DVD, the first (or one of the first anyway) Korean DVD to feature English Subtitles. The occasion obviously was the incredible success of Kang Je-Gyu's film, enough that we went from the barebones original release (essentially a VCD slapped on DVD with very little fanfare) to a pretty good 2-Disc Edition. When over a year after its theater release Myung Films finally decided to release 공동경비구역 JSA (Joint Security Area), most people had already bought the Hong Kong DVD, so some of them lost the opportunity to check what's still one of the all time best Korean DVDs. Other big time box office hits like Kwak Kyung-Taek's 친구 (Friend), Kang Woo-Suk's 실미도 (Silmido) and Kang Je-Gyu's 태극기 휘날리며 (Taegukgi) received good to very good DVD releases, but the best was always elsewhere, perhaps because box office success not only doesn't guarantee a good film, but it also doesn't necessarily mean you'll get a mammoth DVD.
But considering the state the Korean DVD Market is in, efforts like the 형사 Duelist DVD and this release itself should be applauded. We're not just dealing with the most successful Korean film of all time, but one of the very finest releases you'll have in your collection. The passion shown by Director Lee, the cast and crew in making this one of the most inspirational success stories in Chungmuro history oozes from every single Minute of this release, and finding filler or throwaway material is nearly impossible. What you get is one of the best films of the year, two interesting (although not exceptional) audio commentaries, and nearly four hours of top notch extra features. Then of course there's all the ancillary material, like the booklet and the postcards, along with the sturdy box. But just like the film, what really counts is not the appearance, it's what's inside.
This was just a little tribute celebrating not only this industry's most successful film ever, but also the kind of project which I think should become the focus of Chungmuro's future (it's happening, but it will take quite some time). Good actors, ambitious directors, intelligent producers and interesting subjects. Not super-blockbusters with nothing to say; vapid exotica made to please European festivals; or empty vessels starring big names with very little acting talent and subjects tailor made for target demographics in another country, who might find their new Yonsama tomorrow and turn the whole industry's annual export profits into peanuts before you can say 'okasan.'
I won't promise many specials of this kind in the future because it's just a crazy idea I could handle only once or twice a year, but I can safely say you'll get something similar when a little film about baby Monsters infesting the Han River comes out on DVD. If you went through the effort to keep your eyes open while reading my crazy infatuation with this film, then we can go straight to what you wanted to know all along. Must buy? You bet. And long live the Clowns...
(Theatrical Cut): 8.5
FILM (International Cut): 8.5
EXTRA FEATURES: 10
VALUE FOR MONEY: 10
OVERALL (Film Rating Counted Twice): 9.00
남자 (The King and The Clown)
WangUi Namja [lit. The King's Man]
Eagle Pictures/Cineworld - 2006
감독 (Director): 이준익 (Lee Joon-Ik)
감우성 (Gam Woo-Sung) as Jang-Saeng, 정진영
(Jung Jin-Young) as Yeonsan, 강성연 (Kang
Sung-Yeon) as Jang Nok-Soo, 이준기 (Lee
Joon-Gi) as Gong-Gil, 장항선 (Jang Hang-Seon)
as Cheo-Seon, 유해진 (Yoo Hae-Jin) as Yook-Gab,
정석용 (Jung Seok-Yong) as Chil-Deuk, 이승훈
(Lee Seung-Hoon) as Pal-Bok, 윤주상 (Yoon
Ju-Sang) as Seong Hee-An, 최일화 (Choi Il-Hwa)
as Sung Joon, 신정근 (Shin Jung-Geun) as
Lee Geuk-Gyun, 박수일 (Park Su-Il) as Park
Won-Jong, 우현 (Woo Hyun) as Eunuch Hong,
윤소정 (Yoon So-Jung)
제작 (Executive Producer): 이준익 (Lee Joon-Ik), 정진완 (Jung Jin-Wan)
프로듀서 (PD): 정진완 (Jung Jin-Wan)
조감독 (Assistant Director): 안태진 (Ahn Tae-Jin)
각본 (Screenplay): 최석환 (Choi Seok-Hwan), 김태웅 (Kim Tae-Woong)
촬영 (Cinematography): 지길웅 (Ji Gil-Woong)
조명 (Lighting): 한기업 (Han Gi-Eop)
음악 (Music): 이병우 (Lee Byung-Woo)
미술 (Art Director): 강승용 (Kang Seung-Yong)
특수시각효과 (Special Visual Effects):
무술 (Action): 오세영 (Oh Se-Young)
분장 (Make-Up): 강대영 (Kang Dae-Young), 박미정 (Park Mi-Jung)
의상 (Costumes): 심현섭 (Shim Hyeon-Seop)
편집 (Editing): 김상범 (Kim Sang-Beom), 김재범 (Kim Jae-Beom)
사운드 디자이너 (Sound Designer): 최태영 (Choi Tae-Young)
Box Office: 12,300,000 Tickets Sold Nationwide
(Posted by X at September 1, 2006) :
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