The South Korean film industry has a star system and a series of imaginative and innovative directors, technicians and designers all operating within a modern media circus, seeking to entertain hordes of eager viewers. Which is why Behind the Camera, or Why Mr. E wanted to go to Hollywood is an essential documentary about the way the system can work in an environment that embraces new technology. Except, of course, it isn’t really, it’s more of a mockumentary about E J-Yong’s creative ideas and their fruition – or lack thereof – in a wider cinematic context. That will be renowned director E J-Yong, not, of course Lee Je-Yong, the man behind Dasepo Naughty Girls (2006) and Untold Scandal( 2003), because surely that’s not him in the interview which accompanies the extras?
We are living in, as you well know if you are reading this review, a world of electronic media distribution, where content can be accessed via computers, tablets and mobile phones. Director E J-Yong, seeking to embrace this age in a whole new way devises a brilliant plan to become an innovator within the industry by combining stars and film crews with technology. Who knows – it could find him a place earning big money in Hollywood, which is why he is in L.A.. His project will revolutionise the industry and he comes up with a concept and a title – How To Fall In Love In Ten Minutes. Time is of great importance as the film will, as the title suggests, be ten minutes long but also there are limitations for the production in that his lead actress Yoon Yeo-jeong (The Housemaid (2010), and of course, whilst this documentary was being made, Taste of Money…) is only available for two days. The other issue, particularly for the cast and crew, concerns the director’s intentions for, well, direction. He is in L.A. and not Seoul, which is where everybody else is currently located. So, part of the modernist approach is to make this new media concept whilst communicating his direction to the set using an internet video link. Some of the actors and crew are not so convinced by this approach – ‘Park Chan Wook already made a mobile phone movie’ – but they are willing to give it a try, despite confusion over sets, scripts, costumes, delivery and direction. Indeed the mishaps and the general malaise about the whole process and its ‘absent’ creator mean that the chance of insurrection is a distinct possibility. So will the film be made, edited and ready within the timescales, and will it revolutionise the film industry?
Featuring a cast of thousands (well a few dozen such as Ok-bin Kim (Thirst (2009), Dasepo Naughty Girls (2006)), Jeong-se Oh (The King of Pigs (2011), How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (2013) and Petty Romance (2010))) many of whom are the stars you see in much of South Korea’s film output, Behind the Camera is a fun but serious(ish) free-range mockumentary that addresses issues surrounding an industry in the modern age whilst also referencing its past through a series of visual techniques and quotes. What other film comedy embraces quotes from Mike Figgis, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Luc Goddard and Kurosawa Akira in its intertitles? This is coupled with superimpositions across the screen introducing cast members and their roles, from actors and editors to a selection of film critics who appear through the running time, often will little factual meaning but enhancing the false realism. This documentary feel is enhanced by the camerawork which is often handheld, pursuing the action even in the restricted studio space. This is countered by the static aspects of E J-Yong’s web-cam or the shots being taken for the film-within-a-film How To Fall In Love In Ten Minutes. These are shown with production rush-shot intertitles and red streaks to demonstrate their shooting ratio, used when part edited rushes are shown part way into the film to match the scenes that have been shot. The results often involve deliberately silly scenarios, including an aircraft flying set, plenty of snow and references to, of all things, Umbrellas Of Cherbourg (1964).
Art-humour for the digital age Behind the Camera is a film that is more entertainment than commentary on its industry, but is hugely enjoyable.