[INTERVIEW] Kim Sung-soo and Jung Woo-sung (ASURA : THE CITY OF MADNESS)

In France, the lovers of asian cinema had certainly discovered in 2001 with Musa, princess of the desert (film or sino-Korean). After fifteen years, filmmaker Kim Sung-soo and actor Jung Woo-sung met for the fourth time with Asura : The City of Madness (our critique here). A film noir mixed with a police and political corrupt as knows so well the Korean cinema, they came to present at the 11e film Festival Korean in Paris. Together, they go back on their collaborations, through the long period of inactivity of the director and especially on the complexity of the main character ofAsura, who travels constantly between the good and the bad.


With Asura this is your fourth collaboration. The last dates back to almost 15 years.

Kim Sung-soo : It’s true, when you think about it, 15 years is a long period of time. But surprisingly it went rather quickly. Woo-sun is a little bit my first client, so it is someone with whom I always want to work.

Jung Woo-sun : One has the impression of having taken each of our paths over the years before finding themselves. But, despite the time that has passed, it is as if we had never left.


Kim Sung-soo, you’ve spent ten years without turning between 2003 and 2013. For what reasons ?

K. S. s : During this period I made a lot of other things. The business in China, I have set up my production box, I have taught at the university… I wanted to do several things at once, I think by ambition. But with so many caps, I realized that I was not necessarily very good in all of these areas. It took me 10 years for me to refocus and return to my own enjoyment ; realization.


We often find, in Korea, actors who alternate roles, and of very different kinds. You have the option not to be reduced to a single image ?

K. S. s : as a director, I always have the idea to choose an actor with respect to the image it conveys. But sometimes to do just to work in another registry. This is what I did on the casting of Asura. For some actors, I’ve wanted to keep their image, while for others it was more of the break and take another direction.

J. W. s : I think an actor is like water. Depending on the container in which it is put, it changes form. Water is something that is difficult to hold in the hands. Depending on the director that was in front, so you may have different results. This is why I do not want to be confined to an image and a type of role. And with Kim Sung-soo, this synergy that we have together comes from the fact that I have full confidence in him to achieve this.


The main character played by Woo-sun is an anti-hero who never manages to take decisions. It is a character ultimately much more complex that the scenario could advertise.

K. S. s : I think that the character of Han is a little picture of what I was before. I wanted to make good films, and also films with great success. I was doing something one day, and I felt like I was doing something wrong the next day. I tried to compare these two ideas that are opposed to each time in the film. It is all a matter of decision, and this is found with this character. When I created it, I didn’t want that we can define it as a good guy or a bad guy. That the audience is always in doubt, and does not easily empathy for him. But at the same time, by this constant doubt, this leaves a door open.

J. W. s : When I interpret this type of role, the easiest for me is to seek the understanding of the public. The difficulty here comes from the fact that Han does not know himself, how is his character. So in the end, he has even more been a question of trying to convince the public of the type of protagonist that he observes, because it remains an unknown total. It’s quite a complex character and difficult to play. After, for the question of morality, it must be understood that this character lives in a fictional town, filled with criminals, where it is said that evil is normal. So obviously it comes to losing the entire value of the harm.


Finally, he remains very human.

J. W. s : Yes one might even think that he is like us. One is always to ask yourself if you have made the right choice. And we tend to be convinced that we made the right decisions. But if you observe things more objectively, it would be probably very surprised. Therefore, Han is a bit of a mirror of this.


It is a form of originality in a genre accustomed to observe certain codes in his writing.

K. S. s : Actually in a film of this kind, one usually has stories well-designed, which develop so as to achieve a certain end. I wanted to avoid that situations fall into the stereotypes of the film noir. Get away from the idea that each scene is built to bring the following. Asura still has all the ingredients to be a film noir classic, but I wanted to have a different approach. This goes through the history and its evolution, as a series of narrative episodes, but also in relation to the main character, that I thought differently. Usually a character has a goal and evolves during the movie until you reach. There, Han is confronted with unexpected things and it should still react to the situations, it can ultimately than to undergo them. It is, therefore, more in submission than in action.


There will still be a reaction on his part to the end. But it appears almost uncontrolled, non ?

K. S. s : Yes. In fact, after having finished the film, I realized that I had just built in order to have this final sequence. This character does not make a decision, but in the end, when it can no longer do anything and that he is standing with his back to the wall, it becomes aggressive. It is like a dog that bites its master. He is rebellious, and finally, in this house at the funeral, putting all his adversaries in the same place to create a form of chaos. This is not something he has necessarily reflected nor anticipated, it is really something instinctive because it is a question of survival.


Until the end so you have a very dark picture of the world.

K. S. s : But you know, I am convinced that in our world it’s the villains who run. It is the law of the strongest. Of course in the movies the nice win. But in real life, this is not like that. The people that rule always say to the people how to behave, that it must be good and honest. Of course this is a way to dominate and submit. Around me, in real life, I’ve never seen a nice really win.

Remarks collected by Pierre Siclier film Festival Korean in Paris 2016

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