The story of Romance Joe, the guy who almost died for love, is just one of half a dozen interlinked strands which run through Lee Kwangkuk’s playful movie.
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Lee Kwangkuk’s debut feature (after working as Hong Sangsoo’s assistant on four movies) is phenomenally accomplished. The promo tagline is ‘A Tale of Tales’ and the film certainly delights in juggling quite a few interlinked strands of story. We start with the irascible parents of a blocked film director, who’s gone missing, and then jump back to the moment the director was dumped in a rural backwater and told to work hard on a script. Before you know it, a sweet local hooker is telling him a story about the suicidal Romance Joe, which in turn leads to Romance Joe’s memories of his thwarted boyhood love, and then … It’s not exactly The Saragossa Manuscript, but we’re definitely caught up in a world where one things leads to an unpredictable other. We’re also laughing and blissfully bewildered, and happy to let Lee lead us where he will.
I suddenly realised one day that so many of us, including myself, are saying and hearing about countless things in this life. Some of these conversations are definitely necessary, but we tend to spend our time talking about pointless, meaningless things most of the time. We badmouth others for our personal satisfaction and create rumours based on false assumptions, sometimes leading to the tragic suicide of a wounded soul. As such, the world is filled with an endless variety of stories. There are even some who must create stories in order to make a living. So then why are we, as people, so dependent upon stories? What would happen if stories did not exist? These were the contemplations upon which I began the screenplay for Romance Joe.
Born in 1975, he graduated from the Seoul Institute of the Arts with a Bachelor’s degree in film. He built up his experience on set as First Assistant Director for Korean auteur Hong Sangsoo, on such films as Tale of Cinema, Woman on the Beach, Like You Know It All, and Hahaha. Romance Joe is his feature directorial debut.
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