INTERVIEW WITH YANG IK-JUNE
Monday August 3rd 2009
By Mathieu Li-Goyette
Named best film of the 2009 Fantasia international film festival and
earning the best actor prize, the genius behind Breathless
(doing also the first role and screenwriting), Yang Ik-june, generously
took some of his time to do an interview with us following a long talk
where the korean filmmaker claimed he was a big fan of Takeshi Kitano,
Jean-Luc Godard, Martin Scorsese and Ken Loach. Cinema lover at heart,
Ik-june works since 2002 as an actor in korean cinema and sign here
his first masterpiece as a director. Helped by Mi-Jeong Lee, director
of Ciné-Asie and without whom this interview could never had
happened, we spoke for the time being about his inspirations while making
Breathless and about the relations he maintains with this very
personal film. Bought by Ciné-Asie during the festival, the movie
should be out in movie theatres across Canada during the year 2010 while
appearing some time later on DVD.
Pano : What's the korean translation for the title
of your movie Breathless?
Yang Ik-june : Shit fly ("When the
shits hit the fan").
Pano : While watching Breathless, I was thinking
of another Breathless, the À bout de souffle
by Jean-Luc Godard. In the relations between the character that you're
doing and the woman that he's with. I felt an certain hommage to Godard
across this whole love-hate relationship that constructs itself pretty
much with silences, contradictions, and meaningless insults.
Yang Ik-june : I'm a fan of Godard, maybe there's some
of it in it, but I haven't seen À bout the souffle before
making my Breathless. It was a friend who is also a producer
and director that decided to name the movie Breathless in English
and he wasn't thinking of Godard; the title just seemed fine because
it represented the main emotion I wanted to transpose to the screen.
In fact, I've met the assistant director of À bout de souffle
(Pierre Rissient) in Europe and he saw my movie because of it. He said
he really liked it and we had a drink! [laughs]
Pano : It was obviously a very personnal statement
that you put on screen and the way that you interpreted your character,
the way the story is driven, the way this wonderful script was written...
when did you begin thinking about making this movie virtually on your
own from screenwriting to acting.
Yang Ik-june : When I began to write my script, I never
thought I would do this movie. I never planned anything because I'm
not in the system of the film industry in my country. However, I've
made some short films and acted in feature films in Korea. I was doing
an assistant job at a TV station and the job was pretty boring. So one
day I just called the producer of the station, I told him that I will
quit the job and that I wanted to begin working on a script. I have
no job, I just walked across university campus and began looking around
and writing a script using some old memos. When I wrote my script (since
I've told you I've been an actor), I told to myself that my acting never
fulfilled the anger I wanted to express on the screen. As an actor,
I was not satisfied with my career, because in my mind, I had so much
to spare, so much anger and when I wrote my script, this kind of feeling
came out and this is how I wrote it in about 23 days walking across
campus. I had simply a notebook and a pencil and some music and that's
about all I could afford.
Pano : Do you think you're willing to go on with
acting? I suppose you have many ideas of scripts you're actually working
on right now, but are you seeing yourself acting in all your movies?
Yang Ik-june : Yes, I want to continue doing acting
in my movies.
Pano : You've said to me that you were really into
a more humanistic cinema. In what way do you see yourself playing this
kind of anti hero and do you see yourself pursuing the same realistic
aesthetic you've been looking forward to present in Breathless?
Yang Ik-june : I have no plan in what I'm going to
do or what I want to do. For the moment, I will do what I want to do.
I will probably do something next year, but for the moment I want to
take a break before starting acting in this next small movie where I
was proposed to do a part. After this, I will continue to go across
Europe to promote my film in festivals. Next year, I may begin to write
a script but that's also unsure.
Pano : You've said earlier that you were very inspired
by the english filmmaker Ken Loach. In Loach's movies, it appears to
me that small characters are depicted in their life without any melodramatic
emphasis and, by doing so, a social commentary appears that says a lot
more on the country they are living in for exemple...
Yang Ik-june : Well, I can say a bit where we seem
comparable. I admire his work and it seems quite similar in the way
we treat our characters and how it portrays the society. Ken Loach delivers
society as a complex environment while I'm not a politic man as he is
thou. Before he makes his movies, he takes a direction, he plans a political
or economic situation to treat but I don't personally have any interest
in politics of right or left wing. Breathless was a movie about
the issues that I experienced in Korea, it's a movie about the problems
I had to deal with in the past somehow and it depicts a story in relation
to a social context from which I'm obviously inspired since I had to
live with it. Honestly, I don't think I could bring any issues in my
movies beside the ones I've experienced or dreamed. It's the way I felt
in my heart at that precise moment and there's nothing less that drives