Early Ki-duk Kim. Interesting premise and characters, but less-than-stellar acting and direction. There were several scenes that played out like a bad after school special about abstinence.
Still, The Birdcage Inn has many of the ingredients found in Ki-duk Kim's later films. In fact, he followed it with The Isle, a much more skillful and mature film.
More sex & violence from my favorite South Korean director, Ki-duk Kim. But like always, the sex & violence are never exploitive. For Kim, sex & violence represent primordial human emotions at their most raw, and as such, they are the crux of any exploration of the human experience. And what happens when sex and violence blur into a single act? Bad Guy proves that there is indeed a difference between violent sex and sexy violence, because there's nothing "sexy" about the rape and bloodshed depicted in this or any of Kim's films.
Like so many other protagonists in Kim's films, the title character doesn't speak a word until the end, and when the "Bad Guy" does finally open his mouth, it is clear why he has remained mute for so long.
As a fan of Asian Cinema, particularly Japanese, Chinese and Korean film, I've learned that Asian films often feature sparse dialogue, at least compared to Western films. But what really sets Ki-duk Kim apart from other Asian filmmakers is that his characters are not just soft-spoken, they're downright mute. Kim has taken the adage "actions speak louder than words" and turned it into a hallmark of his artistic style.
The male lead, Jae-hyeon Jo, and the female lead, Won Seo, were both in The Isle (2000), but they were supporting characters who spoke throughout their scenes. In Bad Guy, they have to rely on their body language and facial expressions to convey an entire range of emotions, from love to hate and back again.
Ulitmately Kim's films have very little to do with the fact that the main characters are mute, but I am especially fascinated by how it creates a unique style without being problematic to the narrative. I decided early on that I'd steer-clear of typical reviews in my Film Diary, so instead of giving any sort of plot summary or in-depth analysis, I'm just noting my emotional and intellectual reactions to the films, even if it takes me off on tangents unrelated to the plot of the film. I did, however, find a great review of Bad Guy at the British site DVD Times (unfortunately there isn't an American release available yet): http://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content.php?contentid=12258
Ki-duk Kim's films are very unconventional, but Real Fiction is probably his most experimental film. Kim shot the entire film in only 200 minutes by simultaneously running 10 motion picture cameras and 2 digital video cameras with vitually no retakes to produce an almost real-time documentary-style work of graphic fiction (as the title suggests). That's less than a 3 and a half hour shooting schedule to shoot an 88 minute film!!!
The basic plot is a timid pushover gets pushed too far and goes on a vindictive killing spree against everyone who has ever walked all over him. Like all of Kim's films, sex and violence are the fundamental ingredients in the dramatic action.
Since a woman with a camcorder follows the protagonist as he exacts his revenge, much of the film is digital, which is fascinating because in an interview after the release of The Isle, Kim was asked if he'd ever shooting on DV and he responded:
The thing about Digital Video is that the image is flat. I'd use them only as a small part of the film - never 100% of it. Actual film has an organic look that is much more satisfying.
I wonder if that question sparked the idea for Real Fiction, because it was Kim's next film after The Isle.
dir. Ji-Sang Lee
Abstract film in two parts. I watched this Korean film because it featured Jung Suh from The Isle and because of the controversy surrounding it. Apparently the film was finished in 1998, but wasn't released to the public until 2002 because the Korean ratings board insisted it was too obscene for general viewing. I don't think it's very obscene. Actually, it's quite dull.
The Isle has some of the most disturbing images I have ever seen, so I'm not surprised to hear that people gasped aloud and even walked out when it screened at festivals like Sundance and Venice. But the film is also beautiful and often sweet. Still, it's all pain, both physical and emotional, so the tender moments are soon followed by sadomasochism.
I'm pretty desensitized to graphic images (to the point of being fascinated by them) and this was my second time seeing The Isle, but I still cringed this time during several scenes involving fish-hooks.
This film establishes several themes and dramatic elements that director Ki-duk Kim further explores in his later films, esp in Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring: floating houses, jealousy turned violent, animal cruelty, mute protagonists (3-Iron), prostitution (Bad Guy, Samaria).
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water
After months of sporadic viewings, I finally finished watching the Anime series Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. Nadia came highly recommended to me by Régis, who lent me the DVDs, and while I consider the 39 episode series to be a major achievement, the ending left me wanting, though I can't quite put my finger on what is missing. The series really does have it all: action, adventure, drama, comedy, sci-fi, mecha, romance. The story is fascinating, the characters are compelling and the animation is pretty damn good considering the budget was probably stretched thin over 39 episodes. I was also surprised by mature nature of the show because it starts off as if it's aimed at little kids. There's a lot of heavy stuff in Nadia: characters wax philosophical about life, love and death; scientific theories and principles are explored; the moralistic motivations for vegetarianism are debated; people die violently; there's even some nipple-less bare-boobies fan service.
Still, I wasn't totally blown away by Nadia. The problem is that the plot unfolds through a slow boil, alternating between fierce action and quiescent character development, so when the story reaches it's climax, I had high deeply invested expectations that just were not met. Aside from revelations in the resolution being totally predicatible and yet extremely far-fetched, the pacing is a bit too drawn out because there's still a lot of action AND a lot of character work that needs to happen simultaneously. Maybe I just got bored of the characters, but when they finally achieve their ultimate epiphonies, I didn't share in their emotional accomlishments.
All-in-all, I can still recommend Nadia to fans of Anime, though I think non-otaku will lose interest.
I figured since I'm been so bad about updating my blog, I could at least note the films I watch, esp considering I average about two dozen films each month. That means I'll probably be posting something almost every day, even if it's just a film title.
So to kick off my Film Diary, I've retro-actively posted the films I watched this last week:
I'll be posting comments/reviews to most of the films ASAP.
Ki-duk Kim is far and away my favorite South Korean director.
3-Iron is another film I can't wait to be released in the theaters in the US. Like Ki-duk Kim's earlier film, The Isle, the protagonists are mute, never speaking, even when the other characters try to force them to talk.
The silence of the male and female leads reminds me of Takeshi Kitano's Fireworks.
Like many of Ki-duk Kim's films, 3-Iron is open-ended, with no real resolution, but during the time between the opening and closing credits, unconventional characters explore the univseral nature of the human condition.
(watched with Sam)
Beautiful sequel to one of my all-time favorite films, In the Mood for Love.
Tony Leung is in almost all of Wong Kar-Wai's films and he's ALWAYS brilliant, and his reprise of Chow Mo Wan is awesome, though the character has grown cynical since In the Mood for Love.
I can't wait for 2046 to be released in the theaters in the US. I feel lucky that I saw In the Mood for Love for the first time on the big screen and the cinematography of 2046, esp the sci-fi futuristic scenes beg to be seen on a giant scale.
(watched with Sam)
Bill Murray flourishes as always under Wes Anderson's direction. I love love love love Wes Anderson films. There's a certain charm in his quirky character-studies that I just can't get enough of.
I admit the film is not as perfect as The Royal Tenenbaums or Rushmore, but I'm really frustrated by the so-so reviews The Life Aquatic has been getting. The Onion AV Club review is the most favorable i've seen so far (http://www.theonionavclub.com/review.php?review_id=8076), but Roger Ebert's review seems to sum up most people's reactions to the film (http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041223/REVIEWS/41201010/1023):
I can't recommend it, but I would not for one second discourage you from seeing it.
Well I totally recommend The Life Aquatic. I loved the characters (esp Willem Dafoe as Klaus and Bud Cort as the bond co stooge) and I laughed throughout. Even the soundtrack was great, featuring David Bowie tunes in Portuguese and my favorite Sigur Rós song, "Starálfur" (i'm gonna have it stuck in my head for days even though i don't understand the Icelandic lyrics)
Maybe the bad press will just drive Anderson to make his next film even better. Then again, Anderson doesn't seem to make his films for critics or even his fans.