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(LEAD) (Yonhap Interview) Cannes director says come to competition next time: 'Wailing' filmmaker

All Headlines 16:00 May 20, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS dropped name in 13th para)
By Shim Sun-ah, Koo Jung-mo

CANNES, May 20 (Yonhap) -- All three of director Na Hong-jin's feature films have been invited to the Cannes Film Festival. Will his next work be able to compete in next year's festival?

This seems likely, judging from the words of festival director Thierry Fremaux quoted by the South Korean filmmaker.

"Fremaux walked down the stairway to where guests get out from their cars to give me good messages, such as 'Make more films' and 'Next time, you should go to the competition section,'" he said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at a Cannes hotel.

It meant more than hospitality since Fremaux usually greets filmmakers and actors on top of the stairway before their films are screened at the 2,300-seat Lumiere Theater.

"The Wailing," also known as "Goksung" and "The Strangers," is the third feature film by Na, whose two previous movies have been shown at Cannes. "The Chaser" was invited to the Midnight Screenings in 2008 and "The Yellow Sea" was chosen for Un Certain Regard in 2010. All three are intense and violent crime thrillers although the latest is a mixture of diverse film genres.

It features a quiet rural village plagued with mysterious murders after the arrival of a stranger and a father's struggle to save his daughter from succumbing to the same tragedy.

"The festival director told me to make a film about a love story. So, I asked, 'Do you really want it?' And then he answered that a love story with a little bit of blood would be fine," he said with a laugh.

The audience gave him and his actors an enthusiastic standing ovation at the premiere of his latest film on Wednesday night. It was well after midnight when the screening of the 156-minute film finished.

As for the ecstatic audience response, Na said he was so embarrassed that he wanted to leave the place as soon as possible.

He showed his modesty toward some opinions that the film should have been listed for competition in the festival, instead of director Park Chan-wook's "The Handmaiden."

"I don't think so," he said. "It's natural that Park comes to the competition, and he'll continue to be here. ... He's the one who will clinch the top prize someday."

He then thanked Park and other senior filmmakers for opening the way for Korea films to be chosen in overseas film festivals.

For Kwak Do-won, who previously took a small role in "The Yellow Sea," "The Wailing" was his lead actor debut.

He plays Jong-gu, a police officer who resorts to the help of a shaman and then to violence after his daughter becomes severely ill, coming down with the same symptoms as other people in the town, who were later murdered by an unknown serial killer.

"I saw the film six times, and the more I looked at the picture the more shortcomings I found," he said in a separate interview here with Yonhap. This includes his secret visits to movie theaters alone to see audiences' reactions, according to him.

In the filming sets, the notoriously meticulous and hardworking filmmaker gave him unlimited chances to redo his acting.

"I acted as much as I wanted before cameras, which was a dream come true," said the actor, who is an old hand in the theater field.

Kwak became emotional when his toil was rewarded by a long standing ovation from the audience in Cannes.

"Even though they don't earn much money, actors can forget the fatigue of the day and prepare for the next day's performance when they receive applause. I was moved to tears because it had been such a long time since I'd last received an ovation from an audience," he said.


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