‘Decision To Leave’ Cinematographer Kim Ji-yong – Interview

If you haven’t seen Decision to Leave yet, I can’t recommend it enough, as it is one of the best films of 2022. It’s a genre-bending style of film that blends a love story within a murder investigation. So many things catch your eye in the movie, from the performances (Tang Wei) to Park’s direction, but this film’s color palette is next level. Additionally, it’s one of the most beautifully shot films of the year. So I was excited to be able to talk to the man behind the lens.

I was able to discuss working with Park Chan-wook, their storyboard process, and how he balanced the different tones in the film.

Ricky Valero: What was your first job in the movie/TV industry? 
Kim Ji-yong: I worked on the Korean film A Bittersweet Life, which was my first cinematography job. 

RV: You did the cinematography work on the film Decision to Leave. What attracted you to this project?
KJY: The director (Park Chan-wook), but also I read the script. 

RV: I’ve heard you talk about the storyboard process with Park. What was that like, and what were you both trying to navigate throughout that process? 
KJY: When I work and prep with a film director, in the beginning, I want to learn all the ideas the director has for the script. I listened for many days and asked many questions. Once I have the ballpark of his idea, I give him all of my ideas. It took two months, and it was great. I have always wanted to work with and am a big fan of Park Chan-Woo. We had a lot of fun creating storyboards,;you can dream so big with storyboards. We got pretty much everything we planned for, so this was blessed.

RV: There are several different tones within this film. Does that make any difference when you are working on a color palette?
KJY: Yes, we kind of went subtle. We didn’t want anything to show up, and we planted things in different areas. A good example can be the interrogation room, where they spent an entire day. The room is known for power police procedures, but we created a dating scene. We want the audience to feel the process of it all. The color palate changed from the daytime to a more romantic theme in the later afternoon when they were eating sushi. You can’t really make a room like that romantic, but I tried.

RV: Were the upward shots (in the phone, in the body, etc.) part of the script, or was it Park’s decision?
KJY: Yes, it was in the script, and we liked it on the storyboard. As we were trying to develop the look we wanted, I jokingly suggested to the director we should use the POV of the cell phone, and he liked the idea and developed it further. We had several POVs and not just giving one key shot. It really works for the story. 

RV: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?
KJY: I am working with Park again. I am in LA shooting an HBO show called The Sympathizer. Robert Downey Jr. plays five different characters in this show. 

You can read Oscar Central’s review of Decision to Leave here.
Decision to Leave is currently in select theaters and will be streaming on Mubi on December 9th.

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