NEW YORK CITY — A giant of international cinema, South Korea’s Park Chan-wook’s award-winning “Decision to Leave” opens in theaters Thursday.
Park is known for films like “Oldboy,” the English language “Stoker” with Nicole Kidman and a murderous daughter and “The Little Drummer Girl” 2018 TV series. His films offer an intriguing blend of violence, black humor and convoluted plotting.
“Decision,” a romantic murder mystery revolving around an obsessive Korean detective and the Chinese woman he suspects killed her husband, won Park, 59, Cannes’ best director prize last May.
Work on the script of “Decision” began several years ago. He modeled his detective on Martin Beck, the Stockholm detective in 10 now-classic murder mysteries by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (all have been made into movies).
“Because I’ve always been a fan of mystery novels and the general kinds of movie I like are thrillers as well, I always attempt to tell stories with surprises,” Park, who was interviewed while presenting “Decision” at the New York Film Festival, said via a translator.
“At first I had the idea to make a detective film. Then there’s the separate idea of wanting to make a romance film based on the song ‘Mist’ I’ve been listening to. So, I decided to combine two different film ideas.”
This woman is pointedly Chinese and doesn’t speak Korean very well. “I did not start out wanting to make an outsider character in Korea,” he explained. “I simply made a Chinese character because I wanted to cast the actress Tang Wei from Ang Lee’s ‘Lust, Caution.’”
That means Park’s troubled – and married – detective is juggling possibilities. One scenario, he said, is: “She might be a murderer. And the case might be justified murder because she was abused domestically. Or was it murder out of greed because she was a bad person?
“But the other side is the man’s innocent curiosity towards her as a woman. My goal in this film was for these two possibilities to exist at the same time.”
While it was six years between “Drummer Girl” and “Decision,” Park is onto his next project. He’s now filming a seven-part HBO series in LA. “It’s from an English novel called ‘Sympathizer’ about Vietnamese immigrants in the United States.”
He’s the showrunner as well as “writing the script. I’m also directing three episodes.
“It’s not based on actual people specifically but it’s historically accurate. The novel is serious — but I tried to add some black comedy to it.”
“Decision to Leave” opens Thursday in theaters and streams Friday on MUBI