Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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« Texture of SkinThe new abstract »

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

10:01:09 pm , 645 words, 2721 views     Categories: Animation, Indie, Animator

Lee Sung-Gang: Leading up to Texture of Skin

Since seeing a collection of Lee Sung-Gang's pre-Mari solo animated shorts one year ago I've told myself over and over again that I needed to get the DVD, but never gotten around to it. They're films that you feel like you want to come back to every once in a while. Several I found that I could relate to on a profound level of few animated films I've ever seen. Today I was surprised to discover a short interview with the director on the Japanese site for Mari, which began screening there in theaters last month. Besides the fact that it was nice to see a picture of the man, he made a few interesting comments:

The atmosphere of Mari felt similar in places to Isao Takahata's Omohide Poroporo.
I'm a great admirer of Takahata. The way country life was depicted was very beautiful, so I used it as a reference in the initial production stages of Mari. At one point the heroine travels to the countryside, and in the fields you can see workers sitting and standing doing their work. I was impressed by how detailed the depiction of their actions was.

What do you want Japanese viewers to come away with from this film?
I was at a screening yesterday, and I noticed that people in their thirties and forties seemed to react better to the film than younger people. Maybe because it's a film that makes you think back on your past life, about things you regret, things you wish you'd done differently. Young people in their teens or twenties seemed more concerned about the fact that the film didn't have any shootouts or car chases. What I'd most like would be if viewers in their thirties and forties - people who have experienced a bit of life - could come away from the film looking at love and people around them a little differently, with a little more compassion.

My next surprise was to discover that there's already a web site for his upcoming feature animated film, Yeu Woo Bi, including the 2003 pilot, which I'd been curious to but never expected to see since hearing about it some time ago. The film promises to show Lee expanding his palette again, featuring as it does some mighty fine kung-fu action and a more conventional look than his first film (it will be traditionally animated with CG backgrounds), but undoubtedly it will be full of the aloof poetic feeling of his preceding work.

My final surprise was to discover that most of his early shorts are available for viewing on the site. This took the cake. It's only been a year, but I was starting to forget the details of films, though I remembered the impression vividly. I was happy to find that I still reacted exactly the same way to them as I did last year. These were films that spoke to me so strongly last year. Would that be different? My situation hasn't changed. Beyond a certain age it doesn't in some fundamental way. I still connect with these films just as much as I did last year. It was almost cathartic to be able to experience that feeling again.

As much as I admire the broad appeal of Mari, I can't help but find his personal films more important at some fundamental level, and I hope that over the next few years in some form, be it live action or animation, he continues to address the issues he was mulling over so eloquently in those shorts. In that sense I might be looking forward to Texture of Skin more than to his upcoming animated film. It will probably be picking up the thread where his early films left off, though with a director as unpredictable as Lee I'm sure that many of my expectations are going to be pleasantly betrayed.

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1 comment

Tsuka
Tsuka [Visitor]

I posted a news few months ago about Yeu Woo Bi and vintage shorts available on the site, with downloadable video version of the pilot. The DVD of Lee Sung Gang is interesting but I would have appreciated to see it released a bit later, with O-Nu-Ri.

09/30/05 @ 20:37