Independent filmmaker Hae-gang (Park Jung-pyo (박중표) has worked hard for years, helming several notable productions that have earned him a respectable reputation. However his latest endeavour is proving more difficult than most, largely due to his uncompromising, aggressive, and occasionally downright rude attitude on set. Worse still, his inability to distance himself from the stresses of production generate conflict with his long-suffering girlfriend, creating distance between them. With both time and money running out, and crew and companions turning away from him, Hae-gang is forced to make tough choices that could ultimately challenge his director’s cut.
Director’s CUT (디렉터스 컷) is a welcome addition in portraying the difficulties afflicting filmmakers. The great strength of the drama lies in the portrayal of such struggles with a great sense of realism, from minor conflicts on set of changing camera shots to larger challenges of creative control with external agencies. Writer/director Park Joon-bum (박준범) has done a remarkable job of exploring a multitude of facets related to the independent industry, even extending beyond production based problems to highlight the corruption within film festivals, a potent and brave move indeed. Also of note is the manner in which Hae-gang is conveyed as his own worst enemy. The frustrated filmmaker is so utterly devoted to his art that he unwittingly destroys relationships with those closest to him, and director Park constructs his protagonist well as passionate yet flawed perfectionist desperate for creative control.
However that said, Hae-gang is also a quite unlikable protagonist throughout the entirety of Director’s CUT. Fighting to retain his creative vision is one thing, yet the filmmaker constantly creates unnecessary conflict amongst his peers for little reason, stubbornly arguing over ridiculous matters in the name of pride and ambition. Worse still, Hae-gang’s treatment of his sweet and caring girlfriend is frankly awful, and it’s a little puzzling why she endures such hurtful conduct. This would be fine if Hae-gang evolved as a character during the course of the narrative, yet such enlightenment never dawns on him even when it is quite obvious that he needs to change. As such it’s particularly difficult to feel empathy with his plight for Hae-gang is, for the majority of the running time, a contemptible jerk.
It’s acutely ironic that while Hae-gang is responsible for impairing his film, Director’s CUT also suffers due to similar reasons. Hae-gang’s instance for control of the final cut seems to mirror that of director Park; within the film Hae-gang is determined to employ somewhat superfluous scenes much to the annoyance of his editor, while director Park does the same in Director’s CUT much to the frustration of the audience. A scene in which the camera operator forgets the correct equipment could have easily been conveyed through a few failed attempts, for example, yet by the sixth error tedium sets in as well as the desire for a more scrupulous editor.
Director’s CUT is an interesting drama exploring the difficulties of working as an independent filmmaker. The sense of realism and the far-reaching industry issues explored by writer/director Park Joon-bum form the core strength of the film, yet it is greatly impaired by a central protagonist who is wholly inconsiderate, rude and very difficult to empathise with. Lack of character arc notwithstanding, Director’s CUT is also ironically hampered by the need for more stringent editing, resulting in a film that is interesting rather than compelling.