The Tales of Cinema

by CHUNG Kyung-rok   11.30.2012
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HONG Sangsoo’s Retrospective in Kino Arsenal, Berlin

“The day he arrives in another country, 90 people have to turn their steps home." He is HONG Sangsoo and the 90 people are the spectators who want to see him and his films. On November 20th, some of the fans at the ticket office has to give up seeing HONG Sangsoo.

For the first time in Berlin, which is home to one of the most prestigious international film festivals with Cannes and Venice, a retrospective of HONG Sangsoo was held under the title of ‘Tales of Cinema’. There were screenings of all of his 14 films from November 2nd to 24th. HONG Sangsoo visited Berlin from the 17th to the 21st. He attended aworkshop on the 18th and screenings on the 19th and 20th.

This retrospective was organized by the Korean Cultural Center in Berlin and co-hosted by the Korea Foundation, KOFIC and Arsenal Berlin. Although the actor, YU Joon-Sang (who played in 3 films of HONG Sangsoo’s) was supposed to attend, he could not join because he was wounded while shooting. Sulgie LIE (Berlin Free Univ.) and CHOI Sun-ju (Tübingen Univ. / Korea Univ.),introduced his films with other invited scholars and critics before the screenings. Audiences foudn their introduction helpful.

Kino Arsenal situated in the Sony Center of Potsdamer Platz in Berlin where the German Film Museum and Berlin TV and Film Academy (DFFB) reside, is an extensive cinematheque. Kino Arsenal is also responsible for the screenings of the Forum and Forum Expanded Division during Berlin International Film Festival. It also has a role of introducing various and challenging films and filmmakers from all over the world.
This retrospective of HONG Sangsoo is the first which featured his attendance in Germany. Unlike France, which has given HONG Sangsoo much recognition and invited 5 films of his to Cannes, not to mention produced a few of his films, there have been no opportunities to introduce his films in Germany save for the selection of Night and day in the competition of the 58th Berlin International Film Festival.

Berlin is a special city where 2 renowned Film schools and studio Babelsberg are situated. Many artists from around the globe gather her to produce their artwork. On the other hand, CHOI Sun-ju, co-curator of the retrospective says that this retrospective is meaningful as none of HONG Sangsoo’s films havae officially been released. She adds that the atmosphere of Berlin is quite vivid and experimental in a way and is very different from that of Paris which has a lot of traditional cinephiles.

A workshop was held at the Korean Cultural Center on the 18th. Curators, academic panels from Korea, Germany, France and USA and about 40 spectators participated. CHOI Sun-ju and Sulgie LIE made general comments about HONG Sangsoo’s films and further discussions followed for 5 hours. Herve AUBRON from Paris presented HONG’s zoom, Daniel ESCHKOTTER from Weimer addressed under the title of ‘HONG’s theory of images' with the material of Joongrae’s illustration from Woman on the beach like Fuzzy theory. Lukas FOERSTER and Nikolaus PERNECZKY from Berlin Free University depicted HONG’s films with Neurotic Layerings inside HONG’s several films. KIM Kyung-hyun from UC Irvine screened his short film, 'Weather in HONG Sangsoo’ made with footage from HONG’s films.

The highlight of this retrospective was the screening of The Day He Arrives on the 19th and In Another Country on the 20th. HONG Sangsoo attended both screenings and Q&A sessions. The seats were full and even 90 people were unfortunately turned away on the 20th. There were various people among the audiences like film students in HFF Konrad Wolf and German TV and Film Academy, Koreans in Berlin, scholars from academies and universities, and cinephiles.

Viewers were very eager to discover the secret of HONG Sangsoo’s directing and he sometimes showed his enthusiasm by holding the microphone ahead of the curator even if his cloud-like answers confused the audience. Receptions after the screenings were prepared by Arsenal Berlin and the Korean Cultural Center. Bound by the spell of the green Soju bottles during the reception, they ‘copied’ the characters of the films. There was a film student team from HFF Konrad Wolf Babelsberg led by a student who used to be interested in Korean cinema. They were interested in HONG’s style and the fact that he usually writes his script of the day very early in the morning.

On the contrary, for them it is inconceivable to film in such a spontaneous and intuitive way because every role is so specialized in their school according to roles : producer, director and writer etc. Ekkerhard KNORER who introduced ‘Woman Is the Future of Man’, wrote 'They are accurate, but never seek effect. I don’t say anything over a single film. They resemble each other, but they resemble each other so little, like a picture of Giorgio Morandi. This is a paradoxical effect.’ in the newspaper, der Tageszeitung.

At the same time, this retrospective of HONG Sangsoo could be a very paradoxical beginning in Berlin. There was a retrospective of the Busan International Film Festival in May and the Korean Cultural Center had a series of 16mm film screenings from their archive this year. There will be screenings at the Korean Cultural Center twice a month next year again to expand the chances for Berliners to see Korean films.
Throughout these activities, Berliner's interest in Korean films is expectd to rise. Moreover, the Asian Film Festival stated that they are going to make a greater effort to deliver experimental and authentic films from Asia. The selection of White Night by LEESONG Hee-il at the 63rd Berlin Film Festival was already announced. We can now expect a greater resonance of Korean Films in Europe throughout this retrospective of HONG Sangsoo until the characters scream ‘Stop copying me’ again.

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