Pusan International Film Festival – a retrospective series 2

We slept in Saturday morning and work up mid morning. There was a full Korean breakfast waiting with Japjae too. Then we got ready to head out. I chose to wear me dark green thin corduroys with black t-shirt and my hair blow dried and down.

We leave home to the subway station. Its not far and no transfers. Still we are chatting all the time. Mi-youn is worried it will be too crowded and claustrophobic. Me, I’m hoping for a crowd. its all about atmosphere. In the end we are both satisfied – a good crowd but not suffocating. We are standing in the middle of the crowd having only just arrived when Arirang TV asks me for an interview. Mi-youn, on my behalf, agrees straight away. As they are setting up a Korean channel joins in as well! They just ask a couple of questions about why I came, what I think of PIFF, etc. I got  a bit tongue tied but hopefully no-one will notice. Anyway it was perfect to make the whole thing really feel like a festival, a special event. Next I get my picture with some costumed promoters of the new Harry Potter movie. We change our reservation slips to tickets and then go and enjoy a coffee before our first movie.

The first movie for us in ‘Unfinished Song’. An Iranian film about a researcher from Tehran trying to record old folkloric songs of Iran. These songs were sung by women but women are banned from singing in public so the old songs are being forgotten. The researcher hears of a Lady called Hayran who is the only woman who knows the songs. He has trouble  finding her and when he finally tracks her, she is in prison….for gleemanship. And so it goes and then he discovers a dark history with her and his father. It ends sadly when she is about to sing for the researcher to record and he mentions that his father is dead. She starts crying and cannot sing. The end. It was a really great movie.  And to our pleasure/surprise the director showed up even though it was not scheduled. He thanked us for coming and after the movie I got him to sign my Film2.0 magazine over the section about his movie and Mi-youn and I got a photo with him. Fantastic!

There was also an older famous actress in the crown. Mi-youn pointed her out.

There is time before the next movie session so Mi-youn leads the way to a very old, delicious noodle house. Its not big nor classy but the grub is good and its the first I’ve actually liked the fish flavoured water. It was really  nice with the noodles.

Then back to the main area to wander the stalls, get my large Film2.0 bag for throwing lots of useless pamphlets in. We also pick out a t-shirt each and Mi-youn buys one for Sun-je (formally Joseph but Mi-youn’s father told her to change his name apparently it was bad karma or some such).

The next session was Korean short films. In order, Acid Rain, 8849m, A Music Box, Once…Something, and Round. The first was about a loser Korean salaryman who, after a drinking night with work mates picks up a girl prostitute and taker her to a yeogwan. After the deed is done he finds he is out of cash to pay her. They fight and the owner comes in and drags the man to a 24 hour teller but its out of order. Eventually he calls a work mate lady to come help him out. She does. But when the owner gets back he tells the girl he didn’t get the money. The loser guy is driving home and he gets a call…from his wife.

8849m is two guys climbing a mountain in a (real) snow storm. One guy dies but the other perseveres up to the top of the mountain. At the summit he wants to take a photo of him, the view and the Korean flag. He makes several unsuccessful attempts and then the camera freezes up. He puts it in his clothes to warm it but during the wait he too dies of frostbite.

A Music Box was a non-speaking deal and it appeared to be a bit of a ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” thing. It was a lady who took some pills and then cut her wrists but had flashbacks of a pretty young girl dancing and a young woman who I guess was her when she was younger. It was in black and white.

The next one, oddly was Polish actors but directed by a Korean. I didn’t really get this one either. A girl seems to remember being kidnapped when she was young and her husband’s older brother comes to visit and tells a story of a girlfriend of his who lost a baby in a miscarriage and later kidnapped a girl. But the older brother was too young for the girl’s memory of being kidnapped to match the story so I was a little confused.

The last movie in the set “Round” was quite good. It was two boxers preparing for a fight but it also showed bits of them being interviewed after the fight. You didn’t find out until the end who won. It was well done. The lights came on in the theatre and in walked one of the boxers from the movie. Both the boxers in the movie are boxers in real life.

Then the directors of each film came out front, plus the main actor from 8849m for a question and answer session. I got Mi-youn to ask why the interview scenes in the last movie were black and white but the rest was in colour. I expected an answer about artistic interpretation but in fact he said that he originally taped the interviews in black and white and when he did some movie trick to add the colour it came out all green so he kept it in black and white. A technical error.  Mi-youn also asked his age cause he looked so young. He is 28 and married.

That was the final session for the day so we left the cinema and decided to go for a wander around some nearby markets before dinner. It didn’t take long and it was surprisingly empty. However, outside the cinema there was a stage set up and they were doing some show with stars from the movie “The Last Winter” but it was too crowded to see anything. Walking away from the market there were more police guarding a van which we supposed had some celebrities inside but after 2 minutes we got tired of waiting and walking on.

We went for Solluntang for dinner. It was a nice place with delicious kimchi. Except at one pint the waiter tossed a four shelf high trolley of dirty dishes right up against our table. It was crazy. There was heaps of room to put the trolley rather than cramming it right up against our table…..ah, Korea.

After dinner Mi-youn promised to take me to Texas Street, an infamous place for drugs, prostitutes, and crime. There are many Russian and U.S Navy people who frequent the place and it has a reputation far worse than Itaewon. I found out why. In Itaewon there are prostitutes, drugs and crime but there are also lots of people just out to have some fun. In Texas Street the only people out were the drug sellers, prostitutes and Navy boys looking for something. No general crowd to conceal or dilute their presence. It was definitely more seedy than I expected. Mi-youn really didn’t like it so we didn’t stay for a drink. We left Texas Street.

We caught the train planning to head to a place I’d never been before to have a couple of beers but it was getting a bit late and the place was quite far. We aborted that plan and instead went to Seomyun and Hollywood. My second time to Hollywood. We take a seat at the bar, where most people are. The waiter gets a beer for me and June Bug cocktail for Mi-youn. He impressively opens my beer using his forearm and shakes Mi-youn’s cocktail by flinging it and twisting it and generally giving a little cocktail performance. Ahhhhhh…..my first beer in over a month. How sweet that golden taste. Now the drunk man across the bar keeps staring at me. Mi-youn notices this too. Oh, well he is also looking quite drunk so we assume he is harmless and sure enough a bit later he losses interest in staring at me.

Another waiter, a young hip-hop clad 22 year old comes over and listens in on our conversation but he can’t speak English. He is a cutey and tells me how beautiful I am. What a sweetie!! Only two beers but with another big day ahead its time to head home. In the doorway of Mi-youn’s house, every night a po-ja-ma-ja is set up. I think its wonderful.

We get home and her parents are there so I give them my ‘thank-you-for-letting-me-stay’ gifts. A bottle of red wine and some Aussie coasters. We decided to open the bottle for a quick nightcap. I chat a little to Mi-youn’s father and then we watch a little of a video of Mi-youn’s Mother’s recent trip to China. The scenery was spectacular.

My glass empty and time for bed. I’m asleep in 2 minutes.


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November 2009
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