Schlondorff touches down in 'lively' Korea


More news from the Pusan fest

BUSAN, South Korea -- Veteran German director Volker Schlondorff was pleased with the energy at the Pusan International Film Festival, where his master class revealed what he described as the Asian filmmakers' sense of duty.

In Pusan for the first time, Schlondorff, best known for his 1979 award-winning classic "The Tin Drum," said he has long admired Asian aesthetic.

Japanese master Akira Kurosawa was among his models as a director for the "sheer energy he got out of his performers," Schlondorff, 68, said between bites of Bavarian sausage and mustard at a German Film party Sunday.

Schlondorff said he admires Japanese culture for its sense "that everything has consequences."

Korea has surprised him as "lively, not as formal as Japan, but still, it shares Japan's sense of civic duty. You can tell people here have a sense of responsibility," he said.

Although film students are "the same all over the world," the young Asians at the festival asked him sharp questions. "They are so grateful to meet an actual filmmaker since they are all so used to dealing only with teachers," he said.

Schlondorff arrived in Pusan from Haifa, Israel, where a similar master class had, to his dismay, produced no questions at all, not even from a group whose culture, he said, is "founded on argument."

The best film he'd seen at Pusan was "Wonderful Town," a debut from Thailand. "Don't miss it," he said.

Schlondorff, whose handprints were immortalized in clay by the festival, loves the attention. When a Korean programmer at Cannes spoke with enthusiasm about his latest film, "Ulzhan," a French-Kazakh co-production, he said it was "hard to refuse."

Asked if he would make a film in East Asia, Schlondorff said he will not rule it out, but had suffered a recent disappointment when a younger German director was chosen to shoot a version of the story of John Rabe, the "Schindler of Shanghai."

"They're doing it as a three-part miniseries for TV, which they'll cut, taking the best 90 minutes and release it six months before the TV release," he said. "This is a commercial trend in Germany now that leaves me feeling cold."

Movies should, after all, work like a Swiss clock, he said.

"If all the parts are moving together correctly, then the film will move the audience."

What makes him tick could be further revealed in an autobiography he is midway through writing after six months working at home in Berlin, where he lives with his wife and 16-year-old daughter.

"It's a book about life and loving movies," he said. "Fortunately, there was more than movies in my life."