Friday, July 21, 2017

[news] Jang Keun Suk film honored at BIFAN - 2017-07-21

In 1997, Korea was shocked by the homicide of a Hongik college student, Cho Jung-Pil, in an Itaewon burger joint. The two murder suspects where both Korean Americans in the early 20s.

In 2009, Jang Keun Suk and Jung Jin-Young took two of the leading roles in a much acclaimed movie based on that murder, The Case of Itaewon Homicide (aka Where the Truth Lies). In one of his early, rookie roles after receiving attention in the famed drama, Sungkyunkwan Scandal, Song Joon-Ki played the murder victim.

According to some reports, JKS wanted the role in Itaewon Homicide so much that he offered to perform in the movie without pay. That's how passionate he was about acting in the film.

JKS played one of the suspected murders, Robert Pierson (although the actual suspect's name was changed for the movie). The role required JKS to show the characteristics of a psychopath: cold, calculating, and utterly without respect for life or remorse. Throughout much of the movie, JKS played a dispassionate being, showing little to no emotion outside of his braggart talk early in the film before the murder takes place. Afterwards - after he's arrested - he takes on a persona of a mild mannered, innocent young man who knows almost no Hangeul, speaking only English. Yet, throughout the trial (perhaps a flaw in the script designed for Korean audiences), he appears to understand everything said in Hangeul by the prosecutor and the lawyer for the other suspect.

But what really defined JKS' superior acting ability - and for some of us still does - in this film are two scenes during the trial.

In the first scene, JKS recounts during the trial his going into the bathroom with the other suspect. In the flashback scene, as he's standing at the sink washing his hands, the other suspect brutally and repeatedly stabs the victim. As blood spatters all over JKS and the victim falls against him, he's horrified and pushes the victim off himself. He's shocked, stunned and acting on pure instinct, as blood splatters across his face, his hands, and his shirt. JKS' acting - his character's emotional response - in this scene was entirely real. As an audience member, you really do believe he's innocent. Moreover, on the screen during the trial, the members of the court and jury also believe he's an innocent and horrified witness to the brutal murder by his friend.

Then, in the  second significant scene, he leaves you chilled to the bone. The judge moves the trial to the Burger King bathroom where the murder took place. JKS' character is asked to re-enact where and how the victim was stabbed. Using a dummy as the victim, JKS viciously attacks it with a plastic knife, forcefully stabbing it over and over and over again. JKS, as Pierson, no longer re-enacts the stabbing, he's actually killing the victim in his demented mind. Just as he finally finishes stabbing the dummy for the last time, he turns his head to the camera. For just a couple of seconds, JKS' face is transformed into that of a true psychopath - someone who enjoys the thrill of killing merely for the sake of killing. He transforms his appearance into evil incarnate: coldly, chillingly evil and completely without remorse or morality. However, only the audience knows the true face of this maniac. The court remains unaware that his face transformed from an innocent-appearing, soft-spoken young man into a vicious, psychopathic killer during those brief seconds.

Jung Jin-young, who acted in The Happy Life with JKS as the unemployed, unhappy man who wants to put his old college rock back together again, plays the prosecutor in The Case of Itaewon Homicide. As Prosecutor Park, Jung is completely taken in by Pierson (JKS), believing he's the innocent witness to the murder. It's only after Pierson is released from prison after being found innocnet, and speaks fluent Hanguel to Park, that Park begins to doubt his former belief in Pierson's (JKS) innocence.

In 2016, Arthur John Patterson (Robert Pierson in the movies) was found guilty of the murder and extradited from the USA. The Korean courts sentenced him to 20 years in prison. For 20 long years Koreans waited for justice in his case and an end to the inconclusive verdicts of its first trials. When Patterson was convicted in absentia and, then, extradited to Korea, the film enjoyed a few, brief months resurgence of popularity.

So, what, you ask, does this film have to do with now, eight years later? Well, here's why.

This year's 21st BIFAN (Bucheon International Film Festival) - yes, that very same film festival at which JKS was honored last year for his short film, The Great Legacy - Booklet printed a feature page on The Case of Itaewon Homicide. The feature story is printing in both Hangeul and English.

The film went on to win JKS the Baeksang Arts Award for Most Popular Actor in Film that year.

Here is that page in pictures.

Finally, the English text blown up as much as possible. It's barely readable...maybe someone who picks up a copy will post a better photo of the English text. We can only hope! If you look close, you can read it.

It's a great honor that this film is being remembered. And with any luck will remind the Korean film establishment, beyond Kim Ki-duk, what a truly magnificent and versatile actor they have in the midst.


1 comment:

  1. I am glad JKS deserves it for the prize. Everything true what he wrote about the film.i loved it.


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