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Hey kids, we had a great chat with Lee Yoon-ki, director of My Dear Enemy.  The hypnotic romantic comedy from Korea received much luv at the Tribeca Film Festival and director Lee chatted with us about what it was like to host his film in ďWoody Allenís Manhattan.Ē

Dig it.

 

My Dear Enemy

Director Lee Yoon-ki

  

The Lady Miz Diva:  My Dear Enemy opens with a wonderful tracking shot that takes you from a parking lot outside in through the betting parlor where Hee-su tracks down her ex-boyfriend, Byung-woon.  Tell us about getting that one long, seamless shot.

Lee Yoon-ki:  We reshot that scene 9 times.  We shot in an actual betting place.  It was a very difficult shoot, but now looking back at it, I wished I couldíve done more.  Originally, my plan was to go from the first floor all the way up to the fourth, by the stairs, but I couldnít.  We could do any lighting.

 

LMD:  The lighting is so much of the movieís atmosphere. The mood of the lighting and the framing of your shots remind me of the work of the American artist Edward Hopper. 

LY:  Precisely!  Heís my favourite painter.

 

LMD:  Many of Hopperís pieces illustrate human alienation, which also relevant in My Dear Enemy.  I wondered if you took any influence from him thematically or in how you set your frames?

LY:  I like Hopperís paintings a lot, but when weíre shooting on location, Iím not consciously thinking about his framing, when Iím framing myself.  Probably subconsciously itís in my head.  Now that youíre mentioning it, it does remind me of Hopper.

 

LMD:  How did you come to direct and write My Dear Enemy?

LY:  Itís adapted from an original short story written by a Japanese writer {Azuko Taira}.  These days, Japanese fiction is very popular in Korea, but in this story, I noticed that it was different from the very trendy Japanese fiction thatís so popular.  Thereís something old-fashioned about it, something very unique and intimate.  It had characters that were very good.  It felt like an old, forgotten fable, thatís what attracted me to it

 

LMD:  Did you feel compelled to keep closely to the structure of the original story?

LY:  Usually, I donít touch the structure of the original story

 

LMD:  You have a wonderful cast.

LY:  {Laughs} I was lucky!

 

LMD:  Even though their characters are supposed to be at odds, they have such a wonderful chemistry that makes the audience want to see them together.  Is that chemistry something that you as a director can make up in the camera or something that just happens between two great actors?

LY:  Both applies.  In this case, I was working with two of the most dynamic actors.  Jeon Do-yeon is a veteran actress and Ha Jeong-woo is one of the most up-and-coming actors, so, I didnít need to do a lot of work.  The only thing I needed to do for each scene was tell them what they were thinking, whatís going on in their minds and let the camera follow them.  The actors themselves knew each other quite well in real life, so they were familiar with each other.

With regard to the chemistry between two actors; in every situation, itís always both luck and skill, but I think itís not possible to teach someone how to act.

 

LMD:  Did you have a lot of rehearsal time with your actors?

LY:  I didnít have a lot of rehearsal time.  Jeon Do-yeon is in a very powerful position in the industry, so sheís very much in demand.  Also, because it was freezing, we needed to shoot.  We shot for 37 days. 

 

LMD:  If done incorrectly, either of these characters could lose the sympathy of the audience; Byung-woon is very immature, taking nothing seriously and Hee-su is very strict and serious.  How did you keep your characters likeable?

LY:  Byung-woonís character was difficult to translate on the screen because if you meet a character like that in real life, heís basically a con man, right?  Itís difficult to like such a character, but depending how heís portrayed onscreen, that will determine the audienceís reaction.  I wanted to make sure that towards the end of the movie, the audience felt something for him.

As I was making the movie, I thought about this a lot and I asked a lot of other people what they thought also.  Whether he comes off as 100% negative character, or if he comes off a perhaps someone that seems bad on the outside, but has a good heart?  This is something that Iíve thought a lot about.

The same with Hee-su; I had the same consideration for her character:  If she comes off very irritated and very bitchy throughout the entire film, itís difficult for the audience to like her character.  I wanted to make sure that in between her being very difficult, we have a glimpse of her very human side, her tender side.

 

LMD:  The structure of the film is like a road movie in a way; with every stop the two make, Hee-su finds out more and more about Byung-woon.

LY:  As they go around to different places, what she finds out about him are not new things, these are things that she knew because they have a past together.  Rather, by going around to these different places with him, sheís reminded about things that she had forgotten about him or about their time together.

 

LMD:  What were your thoughts behind the ending?

LY:  The ending is slightly different than how it ends in the short story.  In the end Byung-woon actually goes to meet his wife.  He has a wife in the original story.  I didnít use that, but I wanted to keep it similar to the storyís ending.  For one thing, I thought it was more organic for the movie to end as it does; even though this is like a fairy tale for adults, itís still set in reality.  I thought it would be nice for the audience to have something to take home and reflect on rather than a closed ending.

The movie is not about the characters falling in love again, but rather itís about these characters through the one day that they spend together, they find themselves in their separate lives again.  That is expressed in Hee-suís smile at the end of the movie.

 

LMD:  What was it like to work within the filmís 24-hour timeframe?

LY:  My previous film, Ad-Lib Night, which is also based on a short story by Azuko Taira, takes place over one night.  Itís very difficult to make a film that takes place over one day and night because you shoot over a long period of time, but you still have to maintain that itís in that timeframe. 

Despite the difficulties presented in shooting a film that takes place within one day; there are also many aspects that are very enticing.  Such as, you are able to capture very intimate details of life and small situations and emotions in that one day frame.

Iím planning to shoot another movie based on another story by Azuko Taira that also takes place within one day, so I can have a one-day trilogy. {Laughs} Itís not planned immediately, but I have spoken with Taira and sheís very excited about it.

Apart from the one-day movies, Iím planning on making a movie that takes place in 1Ĺ hours in real time about a man and a woman.  As I said, shooting a film that takes place in one day, you can capture a lot of smaller details of life:  I felt that if I zoom in even more and do it for an hour and a half period, I could capture even more details. I think it would be fun.

 

LMD:  What does showing My Dear Enemy at Tribeca mean to you?

LY:  I donít know why, but when I finished making My Dear Enemy, I had a vague sense that I wanted show my movie to the New York audience.  Maybe itís based on what I heard from other people, but I had this sense that I wanted to see the reaction of the New York audience and how they received my movie.

Itís very meaningful to me:  I was very influenced by Woody Allen in some regards and to be here in Woody Allenís New York when his movie is screening alongside mine at the same festival, it is very meaningful by that alone.

 

LMD:  What do you want audiences to take away from My Dear Enemy?

LY:  I basically wanted to audience and be able to reminisce about things that they had forgotten and retrieve certain memories or fragments of self in the past that they had forgotten.  To realise that the meaning of life is in small things, not in grand successes, but hope is in small things.  Thatís what Iíd like the audience to take away.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

May 2nd, 2009

 

 

 

Interview conducted at the DirectTV Tribeca Film Festival Press Center

 

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Photos

Exclusive photos by LMD

Film stills courtesy of Lotte Entertainment

 

 

 

 

 

 

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