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 my screenwriting.