Director Kim Jee-Woon on 'The Good, the Bad, the Weird’

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Korean director Kim Jee-Woon ('A Tale of Two Sisters','A Bittersweet Life') on his new film, 'The Good, the Bad, the Weird'

Can you tell me about the historical period in which the film takes place?

‘It’s set in 1930s-’40s Manchuria, a very suitable time for a western. At that time Manchuria was conquered by Japanese soldiers, who set up a puppet government, so the people in the film are a mixture of Manchurian, Chinese, Japanese and Russian, a multicultural and multinational era which is very rich visually.’

Was the title supposed to apply a little bit to all the characters?

‘As you say, I tried to put all the elements into each character. And I wanted to make the personality of the characters change depending on the situation. For example, the good could become bad by the end of the film. And the film takes place in a very different time, so in order to survive you needed all three personalities. You can’t just be good, you can’t just be bad, especially if you want to reach your desire.’

You had an interesting time finding your locations.

‘I thought about three possible locations for the film. One was China, another was Australia, the same places “Mad Max” was filmed. And the third idea was Canada, because Canada often doubles for the old west. I sent the location manager to collect all the data, and he thought China was the most suitable. We ended up on the west side of China, on the Silk Road. But it’s a desert, and we filmed in August and September, the hottest time of year. It was 40C every day. And as you can see, all the characters wear thick leather, so they really had to fight the heat.’

Was this your perfect cast?

‘For the three main characters I got the top three actors in Korea. It was almost impossible to bring them all together. But the characters were very suitable for each of their personalities. I thought that was very meaningful. I gave different missions to each actor. For the good, I asked him to deliver entertaining action, and I used lots of full shots and long shots. For the bad, I asked for a more emotional aspect, and used lots of extreme close-ups to bring it out. And for the weird I wanted pace and rhythm, so I used many different sides and angles.’

How has the film been received in Korea and around the world?

‘Well, Korean films have always been distributed to international audiences as arthouse films. But this film has been distributed just as a hugely entertaining film, and that’s a real difference. A lot of people are very interested that a Korean director has made a western. But when I look at the reactions of the audience, I realise the points at which people laugh are the same for a Korean audience and an international audience.’

Are you planning to be the first director to make a film in every genre?

‘I want to work with a wide range of genres because it gives each film a different cinematic energy. My next project is a French noir I’m making in Hollywood, called “Max and the Junkmen”, from a 1970s film by Claude Sautet. The genres I haven’t explored yet are sci-fi and melodrama, so I want to do those as well. I want to do science fiction with dark stories.’
‘The Good, the Bad, the Weird’ opens on Friday.

Author: Tom Huddleston


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