Director Jung Ji-woo, center, actor Park Hae-il, left, and Kim Hye-soo pose during the promotional event for “Modern Boy” in a Seoul theater, Wednesday. / Yonhap
By Lee Hyo-won
After six years in the making and a release date postponed by months, Jung Ji-woo's ambitious period drama ``Modern Boy,'' starring hot actors Park Hae-il and Kim Hye-soo, will open in theaters in October. The press gathered to catch the film's first promotional event held Wednesday in a Seoul theater.
The critically acclaimed director of ``Happy End'' (starring ``Old Boy'' hero Choi Min-sik and ``Secret Sunshine'' heroine Jeon Do-yeon) brings a dramatic love story set in 1930s Gyeongseong or old Seoul, when Korea was under Japanese colonization (1910-45). With years of pre-production for the period detail, the film also utilizes the most blue screen shoots for computer graphics imagery(CGI) used in a Korean movie.
``In trying to recreate the period, I realized how little remains of the past because Korea was so focused on economic development,'' the director told reporters. The film resurrects via CGI the recently burnt down Sungnyemun and other landmarks. ``Unlike the black and white documentaries we're familiar with, 1930s Gyeonseong was a thoroughly modern city, very colorful with neon lights,'' he said, explaining that while it was a time of tragedy, it was also very dynamic with culture thriving and modernization in full gear.
Like recent success ``The Good, the Bad, the Weird,'' which is set in the 1940s, this particular period, which had in the past been the subject of depressing documentaries, becomes a backdrop for crafting rich, exciting drama.
``The point here is not making a story about the colonial era but taking a character who could well exist in 2008 and displacing him in the past,'' he said. Park plays the role of a ``modern boy,'' a suave, rich young man who is unaffected by the fact his country was colonized. With his Japanese best friend, he struts around with his fashionable perm and customized linen suits, womanizing while flirting with a civil servant position. One day, however, he becomes mesmerized by a sexy singer/dancer (Kim), and becomes implicated in this mysterious woman's schemes to bomb a building.
The reputed male lead from ``Rules of Dating'' and ``Paradise Murdered'' said he took a contemporary approach to his character. ``I felt rather overwhelmed about playing a character in another time,'' said the 31-year-old actor. But he understood his character as being today's equivalent of a couture wear sporting hedonist living in the rich neighborhoods of Gangnam (southern Seoul). ``He just wants to be happy but was born in the wrong era,'' he said.
It's no surprise that Kim, Korea's ultimate sex symbol, plays a femme fatale. But the 37-year-old actress from ``Tazza: The High Rollers'' said that sex appeal doesn't define her character, who has at least nine identities from singer and dancer to fashion designer. ``She's a very talented woman who lived ahead of her time,'' she said.
Kim sings in Korean, Japanese and English and swings to jazz music. She said the months of preparation were physically enervating yet spiritually invigorating. ``It was a life changing experience both personally and professionally,'' she said with a smile. The screen beauty also revealed that she had been long interested in the film even before she was cast. ``I read about the movie in a magazine and was captivated by a photo they used of a singer from the era,'' she said.
Throughout the press conference, Kim and Park did not hesitate to compliment each other. The director added that the film would be worth watching just to see the chemistry between two of the most talented actors in Korea.
In theaters Oct. 2. Distributed by CJ Entertainment.