Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kim Jee-woon Stand for International Cinema at Busan West

Categories: Events, Film
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Lionsgate
After showing The Last Stand, which is surprisingly better than TV commercials indicate, and scooping up the third-ever Busan West Film Festival Icon Award Friday night, director Kim Jee-woon answered his first question at a post-screening Q&A in Korean before the fellow next to him translated for a diverse Chapman University audience in English, a ritual that was repeated throughout the evening. The next question went to the shoot-'em-up movie's legendary star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who dutifully began his delivery in German.

That cracked up the packed audience in the Orange campus' Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, something that happened often at the festival's red-carpet opening thanks to Kim, the Governator, the movie's writer Andrew Knauer (a Chapman alum) and The Last Stand, which, no bullshit, really is more blood-gushingly hilarious than you'd expect from a vehicle that includes Johnny Knoxville mugging. (I can see it now on the DVD box: "Surprisingly better than TV commercials indicate" and "More blood-gushingly hilarious than you'd expect from a vehicle that includes Johnny Knoxville mugging.")

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Busan West photos by Emily Coker/OC Weekly
The Last Stand panel (from left): Andrew Knauer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kim Jee-woon, Korean translator Josh Park*, and Peter Debruge. Sorry about the picture quality; organizers would not allow flash photography. (*Park's name added after post was published.)
The kidding of Schwarzenegger, a frequent Chapman visitor who even attended the groundbreaking of the very building he was in, also pointed to the overarching theme of Busan West: the global reach of cinema. It was embodied in a panel featuring a director lauded in his native Korea presenting the first of three promised Hollywood movies, an internationally beloved Austrian-American action hero making his triumphant return to the silver screen and a regular-old American still nervously wondering how he wound up on this panel. The Last Stand represents Knauer's first produced credit.

The story, soundtrack and desert locations evoke spaghetti westerns, but this one is set in the modern age. Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) and a ragtag team of deputies must protect their small Arizona border town as this generation's Pablo Escobar has broken free from the FBI in Las Vegas and is heading south in a Corvette ZR1 capable of zooming past and through police cruisers at 200 mph (another reason to blame Obama for saving the American auto industry). Kim breathes new life into a tired genre, proving yet again that South Korea is where it's at when it comes to action, horror and supernatural thrillers these days. And though it still cracks me up to no end that Schwarzenegger gets assigned a name like Ray Owens in popcorn movies, he gets a few well placed one liners as he did in his glory days. 

Variety writer and editor Peter Debruge, a Chapman adjunct faculty member, moderated the Q&A, which featured no direct questions from the audience but some submitted beforehand via Twitter and film students. Because everything Kim said and heard required translation, it would have doubled The Last Stand's 107-minute run time to get through it all had the audience been permitted direct contact with panelists. Earlier, during his award acceptance, Kim mentioned, through his amused translator Josh Park, "I'm not sure this translation is correct looking at your response."

A translator and two assistants on The Last Stand set helped Kim, but he said using facial expressions with his actors and performing stunts he wanted them to do himself is what really made the production work. That left the director with many scrapes and bruises, something that still amuses Schwarzenegger, who joked that had never happened with James Cameron or other filmmaker he'd worked with.

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Kim Jee-woon (left) and translator Josh Park
What Schwarzenegger said Kim has in common with the greats is "passion." He credited Kim with "really drilling down to analyze the script" and being marvelously inventive in creating action sequences. As for the translation challenges, Schwarzenegger said the looks Kim shot him explained perfectly what was required. "Before the translator translates for you, the actor knows what [Kim] wants," he said. Schwarzenegger later remarked, "He keeps you motivated from morning to night. That is one of the most important things a director can do."

During the Q&A and while receiving the Icon Award, Kim mentioned the "solitary" feeling he experiences in the  director's chair. In Korea, that loneliness comes from watching everyone on the set work their hardest but failing to fulfill his artistic vision. In America, the same "agony" came from the studio-imposed ticking clock and the competing visions of the studio, producers and cast members. He credited Schwarzenegger with intervening to allow the director's vision to flourish and said he felt the Icon Award rewarded him for having endured the agony.

You could also see and hear agony in Knauer, who is obviously more comfortable alone with his laptop than he is under bright stage lights. (Welcome to the club, buddy.)

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