Park Chan-Wook isn't exactly known for doing things the small way -- 'Oldboy,' 'Thirst,' and the other films for which the Korean auteur is known are all brashly cinematic Grand Guignols, larger than life sagas flecked with opera, dizzying camera movements, and oceans of blood. We'd sooner have guessed that his next film would be shot on 70mm than an iPhone 4, but we would have been very, very wrong. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Park's latest work -- a 30-minute film called 'Paranmanjang' ("Ups and Downs") -- was shot entirely on the latest incarnation of Apple's hugely popular mobile phone, and that the short is already complete and hitting Korean theaters for a brief run later this month.
And when we say that 'Paranmanjang' was shot entirely on an iPhone 4, we mean that 'Paranmanjang' was shot entirely on an iPhone 4. According to Park, who spoke to the Korean press following a screening of the film, "From hunting for a film location, shooting auditions, to doing a documentary on the filming process, everything was shot with the iPhone 4. We went through all the same film-making processes except that the camera was small."
'Paranmanjang' appears to be something of a fable, a characteristically droll and lightly horrifying tale of a fisherman who catches the body of a dead woman. The fisherman faints, and when he comes to he's wearing the white clothes of the woman who was entangled in his line. At that point the film's perspective flips to that of the woman, and the short "Becomes a tale of life and death from a traditional Korean point of view."
Unsurprisingly, the decision to shoot 'Paranmanjang' on the iPhone 4 wasn't organically or artistically motivated so much as it was spurred from a desire to sell more iPhone 4s. The WSJ article mentions that KT Corp. -- the carrier which holds exclusive iPhone distribution rights in Korea -- paid for a "portion" of the film's $130,000 budget, though the size of said portion remains unknown. Regardless of the corporate involvement, this is one exceptionally cool way to sell phones, and Park Chan-Wook isn't exactly the kind of filmmaker to whom companies turn if they want to play it safe. If AT&T were ever to try this kind of thing in America they'd probably hire Paul Weitz on the strength of his hip holiday hit, 'Little Fockers.'
The WSJ seems rather impressed with 'Paranmanjang,' noting: "The quality of the cinematography is quite good, except for a little shakiness in the beginning. And the fact that the screen is coarse works to the film's advantage, especially on the night scenes given its life-and-death theme." The article doesn't specify, but odds are that Park and his crew didn't just stick out their phones and eyeball their shots, instead they probably relied on a makeshift iPhone rig of some kind (maybe something like this). Park Chan-Wook is on a major roll these days -- each of his films is a major event, and it sounds like this is no exception. It would be great to check it out in theaters, but at the very least it seems like a safe bet that 'Paranmanjang' will wind up on iTunes in the near-ish future.
What do you guys think about a director of Park's caliber taking on a project like this? Would you be interested in seeing other filmmakers tackle films with consumer electronics? Is this at all inspiring or does it strike you like just another marketing ploy? Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments.