[UPDATED with Director Hating 3D:] Bong Joon-ho Opens Busan West Festival at Chapman University with 3D Version of The Host

Categories: Film
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UPDATE, NOV. 12, 9:37 A.M.: Introducing a new 3D version of his 2006 South Korean smash hit The Host to Friday's opening night Busan West Asian Film Festival audience at Chapman University's Knott Studios, director Bong Joon-ho said, "I don't like 3D."

Cue nervous audience laughter and a smattering of applause.

Bong then ripped, "I hate 3D."

It was quite ballsy for someone just handed the "Icon Award" from the very group showing your film in 3D.

The Spielberg of South Korea went on to explain, in limited English or with the help of a translator, that he reluctantly agreed to have his engrossing horror/ghost/family-bonding flick converted to 3D because he has good friends in the production company that did it. With a glimmer in his eye, Bong also conceded he was interested to see what they'd be able to do with The Host, which is about an amphibious being mutated by Han River toxic pollution wreaking havoc on dry land.

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Photo by Jodi Coker
Bong Joon-ho is flanked by South Korean admirers and Orange Coast College students Yiseul Cho (left) and Damin Kim.

The host of The Host screening, Chapman film school dean Bob Bassett, later returned to the podium to say he believed the 3D version of South Korea's all-time box office leader that was about to roll was "very effective." And he was right, although I had my doubts early in the picture when it appeared a doppleganger of Hie-bong Byeon was standing directly behind him. Perhaps it was the angle of my Folino Theater seat to the screen. Otherwise, the 3D truly enhanced the cinematic roller-coaster ride, especially when it came to the menacing gwoemul (monster).

Among the dignitaries who came out for the event was Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang, spotted texting at the after-party while a traditional royal Korean dance was performed. He may have been busy seeing to it city streets were cleared of gwoemuls for the ride home.

The festival continues today and Sunday, when Bong's Memories of Murder screens just before the closing ceremonies. Visit www.busanwest.com for details.

ORIGINAL POST, NOV. 9, 4:47 P.M.: Growing up in South Korea, Bong Joon-ho developed a love of American science fiction movies thanks to the Armed Forces Network.

Now, the acclaimed filmmaker and the new 3D version of The Host, Bong's 2006 valentine to American creature features, come to Orange Friday to open the Busan West Asian Film Festival at Chapman University.

Chapman, home of the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, formed a partnership with Busan in 2009 to show films on campus that premiered at the festival held annually in Haeundae-gu, Busan (also known as Pusan).

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Here comes The Host.
This year's Orange festival, which continues through Sunday, is billed as a salute to filmmakers. The Busan West Icon Award will be presented to Bong, who is definitely a heavy-hitter, having served as a member of the World Dramatic jury for the Sundance Film Festival and head of the Caméra d'Or jury for the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

In The Host (called Gwoemul or "Monster" in South Korea), a strange amphibious creature is seen in South Korea waterways years after a U.S. military pathologist orders a reluctant Korean assistant to dump 200 bottles of formaldehyde down a drain leading into the Han River. Faster than you can say Godzilla, the creature is running amok in town. Can the monster be stopped?

After she left LA Weekly (and our OC film pages) for some start-up called The New York Times, Manohla Dargis wrote, "The Host is a loopy, feverishly imaginative genre hybrid about the demons that haunt us from without and within."

It was a box office smash in South Korean, voted one of the best 10 Asian films of 2006 and, despite its limited U.S. distribution, received a 92 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Quentin Tarantino hailed The Host and Bong's Memories of Murder (which screens at 4 p.m. Sunday at Chapman) one of the 20 best films since Q became a director in 1992.

After a 6 p.m. red carpet arrival ceremony Friday at Dodge's Knott Studios (on Palm Avenue between Lemon and Cypress streets), The Host rolls in 3D in Folio Theater at 7 p.m. (Bong's 2000 film Barking Dogs Never Bite precedes it there at 4 p.m.).

Film school students get even more access to Bong, who discusses writing and directing with a master class on Saturday.

Over the course of the festival, which ends with a closing night reception, classic and contemporary Asian films selected primarily from the 2011 Busan International Film Festival by Dodge College professor Nam Lee, will be screened. Several directors ave committed to personally introduce their films to local audiences.

Among the offerings: Lee Yong-ju's Possessed, Loy Arcenas' Niño and Oh Seong-yun's animated Leafie--the latter two making their North American premieres.

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Niño

Ticket packages range from $10 for individual screenings (or $5 if you are a student) to $100 for a weekend pass. To buy them, check the complete schedule or find other festival information, visit www.busanwest.com.


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