Showing posts with label kim ki-young. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kim ki-young. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Revenge Week: Fatal Femininity, Masochistic Masculinity - The Films of Kim Ki-young

Part of MKC's Revenge Week (July 8-14, 2013).

“If the national cinema aesthetics of Korea are characterized by the thematic motifs of han (pent-up grief), mise-en-scenes of rural mountainous landscapes, and understated emotions that are frequently projected in the works of Shin Sang-ok and Im Kwon-Taek, Kim Ki-yong is a filmmaker who falls completely outside this framework.”

-       Kyung Hyun Kim

Words like baroque, surrealistic, erotic and horror get bandied around a lot when talking about Kim Ki-young. Though his status as an auteur and place in the Korean cinema pantheon is secure there remains a lot to be discussed about his films. Within the realm of the revenge narrative his films are unique creations tapping into our fears about family and the cultural upheavals caused by modernity. Returning to the same themes, character archetypes, storylines and images, Kim was obsessed with placing impotent men, bratty children, scorned women and matriarchs under one roof and seeing the weak and the strong clash with one another. Although not as violent as a lot of the current Korean revenge, crime and horror pictures they are nonetheless emotionally jarring and claustrophobic.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

KOFA Treasures: Kim Ki-young's Woman of Fire (화녀, Hanyeo) 1971

Ongoing series on classic Korean film recently made available for free and with English subtitles on Youtube courtesy of the Korean Film Archive.

Aside from a few choice selections, remakes have become something of a bane for contemporary cinephiles.  They are borne out of commercial interests and, for the most part and almost by default, they are unoriginal.  They are also omnipresent on today’s marquees, but this wasn’t always the case.  Despite the good examples that do exist, the announcement of a remake almost never inspires much confidence, but what about when a director remakes his own work?

Surprisingly this has happened quite often, mainly when a foreign filmmaker remakes his own successful work for Hollywood.   Among the oldest examples are Hitchcock’s British and US versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 and 1956) or Yasujiro Ozu’s I Was Born But… (1932) and Good Morning (1959), both Japanese.  Among the most intriguing ones are Michael Haneke’s almost identical versions of Funny Games (Austria, 1997 and US, 2007): the US version was a fascinating meta-narrative experiment that explored our species' fascination with violence, I’m just not sure it’s what the studio had in mind, despite it being a shot-for-shot copy of the original.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

KOFA's 'Classic Korean Film Theatre' Youtube Channel Goes Live!

The Korean Film Archive has launched its much anticipated "Korean Classic Film Theater" Youtube channel which features 70 different hard to find titles, all free and with English subtitles.  The films range from 1949's A Hometown in My Heart to Hong Sang-soo's 1996 debut The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well.  Numerous classic Im Kwon-taek, Kim Ki-young and Shin Sang-ok films are featured as well as many of the most important Korean classics of the past decades, including Yu Hyun-mok's Aimless Bullet (aka Obaltan, 1961), Park Kwang-su's Chilsu and Mansu (1988), or the original hostess film, Yeongja's Heyday (1976).

I'm dying to get stuck into the many I haven't seen but I highly recommend Im Kwon-taek's Sopyonje (1993), Kim Ki-young' Ieoh Island (aka Iodo, 1977) and the aforementioned Aimless Bullet.  Truly a phenomenal resource from KOFA and cause for celebration for all Korean film fans!


Full list of films after the jump:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Udine Far East Film Festival Day VIII Report

Ongoing reports on the 14th Udine International Film Festival which Modern Korean Cinema will be covering onsite.

Splendid Outing
(South Korea, 1978)

The second Kim Soo-young film of the retrospective (after Night Journey, 1977), Splendid Outing was a fantastic island drama that was almost a horror in its design.  It’s also seem to be a huge influence of one of the best Korean films of the last few years, Jang Chul-soo’s Bedevilled (2010).

The film’s central protagonist is a successful businesswoman, which is an anomaly in 1970s Korea.  She owns a high rise, has a big office and seems respected by all of her peers.  She has two children but doesn’t seem to have much time for them.  Early on in the film the pressure starts to get to her and she takes a trip down to the South in her car, at which point she is swallowed up by a mob in coastal town, abducted and brought to an isolated island where she is given to a man who believes that she is his wife.

Once again, notions of female identity in contemporaneous Korea dominate.  Is she being punished for not conforming to the standard role of a woman?  The abundant power she holds is instantly stripped from her and after neglecting her duties as a mother in the home she is forced to care for a new offspring and has no means of escape.

Of course the traditional position of woman in society also comes under the microscope as she is literally stripped of all her freedom and forced to debase herself.  She is beaten and people ridicule her when she tries to explain who she is.  Like a number of other Korean films, old and new, the main character is transplanted from a comfortable urban environment to a rural one.  The islands in Iodo (1977), Splendid Outing and Bedevilled, as well as the villages in Bestseller (2010) and Moss (2010) are presented as spaces of horror, where dogmatic traditionalism or religion lead to horrific acts of abuse.

One of my favorite films of retrospective and the festival, Splendid Outing is a classic Korean film that could win over many spectators if given the chance.

A Woman Chasing a Killer Butterfly
(South Korea, 1978)

This bizarre effort from Kim Ki-young was loved by some and derided by others but it is certainly one of the week’s films that elicited the strongest response.  A Woman Chasing a Killer Butterfly (aka Killer Butterfly) seems like a cultish B-movie but it also has many philosophical overtones as it references Nietzsche and other works, including Leni Riefenstahl’s infamous Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will (1934).

I won’t bother providing a synopsis because to be honest I wasn’t really sure what was going on most of the time.  The film seemed relatively clear at first as it went through two pseudo-chapters but its third section, which swallowed most of the narrative, lost me completely.  I was frustrated not to understand what as going on but I was never bored.  Killer Butterfly is furiously inventive and often hilarious though this is not always intentional and poor subtitles from an old copy didn’t help matters.

Compared to Kim’s other films I was surprised at the lack of a polished mise-en-scene, which leads me to imagine that this was made in a rush.  This would also explain the choppy plotting and uneven pacing.  That said, I will definitely give this another chance some day, if I’m presented with the opportunity, as I think there was much that I didn’t catch during this viewing.

Afro Tanaka
(Japan, 2012)

I’ve been lucky to see some wonderful Japanese comedies this week, including Sukiyaki (2011) and The Woodsman and the Rain (2011), but it’s true that sometimes, Japanese humour can be a little dry.  The films of Miki Satoshi (In the Pool, 2005; Adrift in Tokyo, 2007), which I had a chance to see earlier this year at the East Winds Festival, walk a dangerously fine line but just about get away with it.  Afro Tanaka has a lot of charm and is frequently inventive but it pushes this style of comedy to an extreme and at times it was too much for me handle.  However, the audience in the theater certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves and true enough the film has many laugh out loud moments so perhaps this just wasn’t one for me.

Tanaka is a young man with an enormous afro who has yet to have a girlfriend.  He is invited to the wedding of a childhood friend and must now find a companion so as not to lose face.

I couldn’t quite make sense of the ridiculous afro, it was funny for a moment but over the course of the film, which stretched to nearly two hours, it starts to become a bit of an eyesore.  The script contents itself with situational comedy for the most part which is a shame as I think some more focus on the characters and a stronger plot may have yielded a much stronger film.

The Bounty
(Hong Kong, 2012)

This HK movie world premiere was attended by director Fung Chih-chiang as well as the producer, costume designer, production designer as well as a co-star.  An action-comedy about a bounty hunter tracking down a fugitive on a little island in Hong Kong, The Bounty had its moments but was not a satisfying effort.  Chapman To, the star, was hilarious but this pales in comparison to his performance in Vulgaria (2012).  There wasn’t much to the plot which in and of itself isn’t really a problem for this kind of a narrative but it dragged on for far too long.  There was a clear ending point which seemed to work quit well but then the film trundled along for another half an hour which really spoiled it.

Maybe the film would have played better if it had remained a straight comedy but as it stands its slide into melodrama was poorly conceived and killed any momentum that the film had built early on.  There were elements of the film I liked, the comedy mostly worked in the early stages and as already mentioned Chapman To was good, he’s a very reliable performer in this type of role, but overall this is not a film I could recommend to anybody besides diehard HK film fans.

(South Korea, 2011)

Previous MKC Review

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