Popular with both audiences and critics, Lee Myung-sae is, at the same time, an innovative stylist and a populist crowd-pleaser. Born in 1957, he took an interest in film while still in high school. After completing a two-year course in filmmaking at Seoul Arts College, he started working in the film industry as a writer and assistant director. His most significant employer during that time was the distinguished director Bae Chang-ho, for whom Lee worked as an assistant director on a number of films, including Our Sweet Days of Youth (1988) and Dream (1990). Bae even gave his protégé a boost by acting in his directorial debut, Gagman (1988), a whimsical, fiercely inventive comedy about a two-bit comic who turns to a life of crime. Stuffed with movie references, in-jokes, and sight gags, it marked Lee as a director to watch. His second film, My Love, My Bride (1990), was a tremendous popular success, and single-handedly launched the "sex war comedy" genre that still dominates the Korean box office. The story of a struggling writer's disaster-fraught courtship of his college sweetheart, it's more low-key than Lee's rambunctious first film, but stylistic touches like animated inserts and characters directly addressing the camera earned him comparisons to the young Jean-Luc Godard. Lee's third effort, First Love (1993), was, paradoxically, a commercial failure that came to be regarded as one of the most important Korean films of the '90s. Told in a dreamlike style that shifts between the inner worlds of its two protagonists, it tells the story of a college student's unrequited crush on her drama teacher. He returned to box-office glory (and his first taste of international success) with the over-the-top action movie Nowhere to Hide (1999). Low on substance but bursting with outrageous style reminiscent of the best Hong Kong action films, it follows the misadventures of a gleefully corrupt cop battling with a crew of bad guys, and was his first film to be released in the United States. Taking a break from directing, Lee moved to New York for a few years before returning to Korea in 2003 to resume his filmmaking career.