South Korean actors (from left) Jung Eui-gap, Park Se-jin, Jeon Kwang-jin and Lee Eun-joo after the press conference at the 18th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) in Busan, South Korea.
BUSAN: Two major Asian adaptations of classic Westerns hit screens at the Busan International Film Festival this week, in a revival of a genre that drew some of its early inspiration from the cinema of the East.
Japanese-Korean director Lee Sang-Il’s “Unforgiven” is a remake of the 1992 Clint Eastwood classic of the same name, starring the Oscar-nominated Ken Watanabe.
“Once Upon a Time In Vietnam”, directed by Vietnamese-American director Dustin Nguyen takes its inspiration from Sergio Leone’s sprawling Spaghetti Western epic “Once Upon a Time in the West” from 1968.
Both films, which have been released in their domestic markets, played to packed cinemas at Busan. Lee said he believed it was the timeless nature and raw humanity explored in Westerns that continued to attract audiences.
“Every filmmaker loves them too,” Lee said.
“They confront certain issues, the goodness and evil in people and that’s what attracted me to this film.”
Watanabe, who was Oscar-nominated for his role in “The Last Samurai” (2003), takes on the role of the ageing gun for hire played by Eastwood in the original. Lee has shifted the action from the Wild West to Hokkaido at the start of the Meiji period in Japan.
“It was the same time as Hollywood Westerns are set, around the late 1800s,” said the director. “They were times of great change in both countries.”
Lee said he had been inspired by the work of the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, whose films such as “Yojimbo” (1961) had helped provide the source material for many Hollywood Westerns.
“That film was a huge influence on me, as was the way Kurosawa blended action with epic drama,” said Lee.
“Yojimbo” was a key inspiration behind Leone’s 1964 “A Fistful of Dollars” — to the extent that the Italian director and his production company were eventually sued by Kurosawa’s firm — and starred Eastwood in the main role billed as “Man with No Name”.