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Korea's iconic actor Lee Byung-hun untangled

"Actor Lee Byung-hun" written by Beck Una / Courtesy of Hohohobeach

By Park Han-sol

"Actor Lee Byung-hun," which delves into the life, filmography and craft of one of Korea's greatest screen performers of his time, will be published Thursday as the actor celebrates the 30th anniversary of his screen debut.

The 288-page book was written by film journalist and author Beck Una and published by her company Una Labo Actorology, which is dedicated to the comprehensive study of individual actors through the field she calls "actorology." Such detailed analyses of actors' star personas and performance styles have been conducted before and well received, including the British Film Institute's "Film Stars" series and French Cahiers du Cinema's "Anatomy of an Actor," but it had never been done before in Korea, the publishing house said.

"Actor Lee Byung-hun," therefore, will serve as the first book of Beck's "actorology" series. The book traces the development of Lee's onscreen personae as well as his acting style since his debut in 1991, and explores the significance of his influence on the modern Korean cinematic world. Its vivid, insightful descriptions come from Beck's two decades of journalistic experience and interview excerpts she has conducted and compiled over the years.

The volume follows Lee's role in the Korean film renaissance and the global Korean Wave to his Hollywood debut; in the process, it looks into the changes and growth of the Korean entertainment industry as a whole.

It is divided into five sections: anatomy, collaboration, analysis, interview and "Byunghunology." The anatomy chapter dissects the works Lee has starred in from "Joint Security Area" (2000) to "The Man Standing Next" (2020) and includes the actor's own words describing the character building process. Excerpts from interviews with Lee himself, his colleagues and directors are placed in the collaboration and interview chapter.

"The fact that Lee is honest and straightforward means he does not confine himself by the walls he builds. I think that has given much freedom in his growth as an actor. It seems that his boyish innocence and optimism have provided him with the freedom to try different things and in the end, have served as the basis for expanding his performance career," "Parasite" actor Song Kang-ho said of Lee in the book.

The book also examines Lee's star quality and box office performance based on the statistical data. It ends with the coined term "Byunghunology" co-written by Beck and film critic Pierce Conran that brings the whole work of cinematic research together.

Lee said in his interview with Beck that in order to sincerely portray a character in a scenario, he needs to bring in the elements from his subconscious mind, defining acting as "the world of another me that exists in my unconsciousness."

In addition to the detailed analysis, the volume contains more than a hundred previously unpublished movie stills, film sequences and behind-the-scenes photography.

"Lee Byung-hun was the most perfect actor among his contemporaries to analyze in a multifaceted and multilayered way because he is a performer who has proven himself with three-dimensional performances and a wide acting spectrum that have resulted in concrete achievements," Beck recounts.


"Actor Lee Byung-hun" written by Beck Una / Courtesy of Hohohobeach

By Park Han-sol

"Actor Lee Byung-hun," which delves into the life, filmography and craft of one of Korea's greatest screen performers of his time, will be published Thursday as the actor celebrates the 30th anniversary of his screen debut.

The 288-page book was written by film journalist and author Beck Una and published by her company Una Labo Actorology, which is dedicated to the comprehensive study of individual actors through the field she calls "actorology." Such detailed analyses of actors' star personas and performance styles have been conducted before and well received, including the British Film Institute's "Film Stars" series and French Cahiers du Cinema's "Anatomy of an Actor," but it had never been done before in Korea, the publishing house said.

"Actor Lee Byung-hun," therefore, will serve as the first book of Beck's "actorology" series. The book traces the development of Lee's onscreen personae as well as his acting style since his debut in 1991, and explores the significance of his influence on the modern Korean cinematic world. Its vivid, insightful descriptions come from Beck's two decades of journalistic experience and interview excerpts she has conducted and compiled over the years.

The volume follows Lee's role in the Korean film renaissance and the global Korean Wave to his Hollywood debut; in the process, it looks into the changes and growth of the Korean entertainment industry as a whole.

It is divided into five sections: anatomy, collaboration, analysis, interview and "Byunghunology." The anatomy chapter dissects the works Lee has starred in from "Joint Security Area" (2000) to "The Man Standing Next" (2020) and includes the actor's own words describing the character building process. Excerpts from interviews with Lee himself, his colleagues and directors are placed in the collaboration and interview chapter.

"The fact that Lee is honest and straightforward means he does not confine himself by the walls he builds. I think that has given much freedom in his growth as an actor. It seems that his boyish innocence and optimism have provided him with the freedom to try different things and in the end, have served as the basis for expanding his performance career," "Parasite" actor Song Kang-ho said of Lee in the book.

The book also examines Lee's star quality and box office performance based on the statistical data. It ends with the coined term "Byunghunology" co-written by Beck and film critic Pierce Conran that brings the whole work of cinematic research together.

Lee said in his interview with Beck that in order to sincerely portray a character in a scenario, he needs to bring in the elements from his subconscious mind, defining acting as "the world of another me that exists in my unconsciousness."

In addition to the detailed analysis, the volume contains more than a hundred previously unpublished movie stills, film sequences and behind-the-scenes photography.

"Lee Byung-hun was the most perfect actor among his contemporaries to analyze in a multifaceted and multilayered way because he is a performer who has proven himself with three-dimensional performances and a wide acting spectrum that have resulted in concrete achievements," Beck recounts.


박한솔 hansolp@koreatimes.co.kr


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