‘Return to Seoul’s’ behind the scenes story of the reluctant film star

“Return to Seoul” filmmaker Davy Chou doesn’t like to surrender on his instincts. Casting had proved tough for the function of Freddie, a younger Frenchwoman of Korean origin, thrown right into a turmoil of id on a spontaneous journey to South Korea.

Till, on a buddy’s hunch, the Cambodian-French Chou met Paris-based visible artist Park Ji-Min — not an adoptee like Freddie however as a Korean raised in France, attuned to the sensation of cultural duality. Over a three-hour espresso of life experiences, and a subsequent casting check, Chou noticed his fierce, flinty character. “It was a raw, emotional force, between vulnerability and anger,” recollects Chou, who sensed an uphill battle, nevertheless, in convincing Park to take the function. She’d by no means acted earlier than and wasn’t terribly eager on doing the film.

Cue her “until” second, which concerned securing modifications to the script’s portrayal of a contemporary Asian lady. “The day I trusted Davy was the day he accepted to work on his script together,” says Park, who took concern with described clothes decisions, conduct with the story’s male characters and features that to her perpetuated a male view. “There are not many Asian women in European movies, and the few that are, are always sexualized and objectified. Why follow those cliches again?”

Chou didn’t at all times agree with Park, however their granular deconstruction produced a blueprint for Park to present one of many 12 months’s most acclaimed performances, spanning years and filled with sly humor, darkness, concern and hard-won poise. “Freddie has a lot of anger inside her, that’s for sure, but it’s not coming out of nowhere,” says Park, who describes her personal world of being Asian in a white society as one filled with “violence.” In Freddie, whose cautious seek for her beginning mother and father units the film’s occasions in movement, Park sees somebody afraid of staying nonetheless. “She needs to move constantly because that’s her only way to feel free.”

Park Ji-Min stars as Freddie, a younger Frenchwoman of Korean origin, thrown right into a turmoil of id within the movie “Return to Seoul.”

(Thomas Favel/Aurora Movies; Photos Classics)

Freddie’s unpredictability is what intrigued Chou as a filmmaker. “I was obsessed in the preparation with the idea of chaos and control,” he says. “How to film someone trying to control the chaos. The heavy topic of identity has so many cliches, preconceived ideas of reconciliation and closure. So to have such a happily destructive character was stimulating.” The movie is Cambodia’s submission for the Oscars’ worldwide movie prize.

Chou is speaking from Phnom Penh and Park from Paris, however even over Zoom their vibe is of a dialog having been picked up from a earlier time, as if that preliminary three-hour espresso was what cemented their friendship, not arguing over a script or forging an excellent movie. They textual content day-after-day, and Park is comfy teasing Chou in entrance of an interviewer in regards to the director’s lengthy, detailed solutions. When requested what was surprisingly tough about performing, Park deadpans, “Not to care much about what Davy was saying to me, maybe?” The response has them each laughing, though Chou’s comes a beat late, as if to ensure this was an try at humor.

However even that affectionate jab spurs Chou to a critical consideration of how significant their push-pull working relationship was to creating Freddie’s explicit turbulence come alive. Chou mentioned it took a response from the nice French filmmaker Claire Denis, upon seeing “Return to Seoul” in Paris, to crystallize for him what Park was embodying onscreen.

“She said what was surprising for her is that she could see an actress who was resisting against the film, against the camera,” says Chou. “And I think that’s right. You see someone who wants to be free of the frame, and that’s Freddie in the film.”

Park, an enormous Denis fan, felt the director had discovered the “exact words” for what her performing was. “I was like, ‘Whoa. So cool.’”

The way in which Park herself speaks about performing, it’s with the weariness and respect of somebody who experimented with one thing as soon as. Requested whether or not he thinks Park will ever act once more, Chou solutions together with his personal needling parry towards the brand new buddy/collaborator who likes difficult him. “I know Ji-Min pretty well now,” he says, “so if I say ‘Yes, she will act,’ that is the best way [to make sure] that she will never act again! But I am saying the truth, I will say, I think she will act again.”

Whereas Chou is speaking, Park seems to be able to pounce at any second. “You think I will act again? Is that what you said?”

“No,” Chou says. “No chance. She really hated it.”

Park laughs with a touch of just-you-wait, including, “I know him, he is provoking me!”

The sincerity returns, although, when Chou acknowledges how a lot Park gave of herself on so pressurized and demanding a shoot, one whose feelings virtually mirrored Freddie’s journey of reluctance, depth, and peace. “I feel as if Ji-Min was doing some Method in one sense, putting all her pain on screen, without any technique,” Chou says. “Every day she delivered, and I’m so proud that this emotion we received on set is now shared with a global audience.”

Park agrees that by the top, she had filming days along with her fellow actors that have been extra playful and magical. “I’m so grateful and thankful for the other actors, who gave me so much,” she says, whereas acknowledging that her one expertise was sufficient to comprehend performing is as exhausting as another type of artwork. “It demands your whole body to express deep feelings,” she says. “So much energy, concentration. But you keep pushing because you feel this strange, powerful energy. All creation is like that.”