Terracotta Release Kim Ki-Duk Double-Bill Arirang and Crocodile

With the success of Pieta at the Venice International Film Festival it seems that Kim Ki-Duk’s star is in the ascension once again. As I made clear in my review of Arirang (which I gave 4 out of 5), I have long been sceptical of any positive press surrounding him since my previous experiences with Kim Ki-duk felt like a slog thanks to the despite visual beauty of 3-Iron and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring. I think I also saw his enfant terrible persona that he had built as a bit much but after watching Arirang, I became convinced that I was a little too harsh, a little too dismissive. I have since even considered a season of reviews of his films. As I found out through Arirang, Kim Ki-duk has lead a tough life and became a filmmaker without any previous training. I have to respect him for that and I can see where his tough subjects comes from but I still find the content of Samaritan Girl and Bad Guy and The Isle a bit much to take. As if sensing the wavering of my dismissive attitude, Terracotta distribution have announced the release of a two-disc set featuring his very first film, Crocodile (1996) and Arirang (2011) one of his latest offerings which I quite liked. Here are the details:

CROCODILE /  ARIRANG 

Crocodile and Arirang DVD Cases

Director: KIM Ki-duk

DVD RELEASE DATE:  12th November 2012

This 2 disc DVD set will include Crocodile, Kim Ki Duk’s rarely seen 1996 directorial debut which has never been released in the UK; the grittiest of his early work which led the path to series of intense and highly acclaimed features and Arirang, the director’s long anticipated documentary about his self-imposed exile, Winner of “Un Certain Regard” Award at Cannes Festival 2011.

CROCODILE

Crocodile Kiss

South Korea / 1996 / 102 Mins / Drama / In Korean with English subtitles

Starring: Cho Jae-hyeon (Wild Animals, The Isle, Bad Guy, Address Unknown, Sword in the Moon, The Kick)

Kim Ki-duk’s stunning debut Crocodile is a study of violence in South Korean society and seemingly unlike any other Korean films made before it. It depicts the life of violent thug, Crocodile, who lives with a peddling boy and an old man by the banks of the river Han in Seoul, a popular suicide spot.
Jo Jae-Hyeon in CrocodileHomeless Crocodile makes a living by robbing the dead bodies of those who commit suicide by jumping into the river. One day, he saves the life of a suicidal young woman from drowning but only to use her for sex. Keeping her there, he develops an abusive relationship and, despite his temper and violence, a bond soon forms between the four of them.


ARIRANG

Arirang Kim Ki-duk Gives An Intense Look

South Korea / 2010 / 100 minutes / Documentary / In Korean with English subtitles
Arirang marks Kim Ki-duk’s triumphant return to cinema after an absence of three years. Arirang offers audiences a unique and indiscreet look at the man regarded as one of Korea’s greatest living directors.

While shooting a suicide scene for his last film, DREAM, in 2008, the lead actress nearly Arirang Winter Washingperished and the incident triggered an emotional and creative breakdown for the director. As an act of self-administered therapy, Arirang takes playful liberties with the documentary form as Kim Ki-duk traces his experiences and mindset during this period of crisis.

Arirang is a folk song and, according to some sources, Korea’s unofficial national anthem. While ostensibly a love song, its theme of parting and sorrow provides a potent metaphor for Korea’s suffering as a nation and its enforced division at the end of the Korean War.

Arirang is the ultimate work of auteurist cinema” – Empire

This startling, fascinating and bizarre film is in some ways the strangest arthouse event of the year.” – The Guardian 4/5 stars

a rare insight into a controversial director who’s as divisive as the 38th Parallel.” -Total Film

Arirang is quite simply Kim Ki-duk’s best film to date.” – Hangul Celluloid

Bedevilled

Bedevilled Review Banner

Bedevilled                                                                       Bedevilled Poster

Release Date: 02nd September 2010 (South Korea)

Running Time: 115 mins.

Director: Jang Cheol-Su

Writer: Choi Kwan-Young

Starring: Seo Young-Hee, Ji Sung-Won, Park Jung-Hak, Baek Su-Ryeon, Lee Ji-Eun, Je-Min, Bae Sung-Woo, Jo Duk-Je

When I picked up Bedevilled I expected a slasher film. The cover has a blood-spattered glowering young woman holding a scythe in a forest. What I got was a horror film but one similar to Eden Lake and Straw Dogs. People pushed to the brink and forced into savagery.  

Hye-Won (Ji Sung-Won) lives and works in Seoul. She is a cold and focussed individual and these character traits lead her into a fight with a co-worker. As a result of this her boss tells her to take a vacation. Stumped for ideas Hye-Won eventually goes to Moo-do island, a place where her grandfather lived and a place where she made friends with an island girl named Kim Bok-Nam. When Hye-Won arrives, Kim Bok-Nam (Seo Young-Hee) is overjoyed to see her. It is clear the locals are behind the times. Rather worryingly Kim Bok-Nam is treated like a serf by them but this mistreatment will have disastrous consequences for all involved.

Kim Bok-Nam (Seo Young-Hee) in BedevilledWhen I was watching Bedevilled I felt the spectre of Kim Ki-Duk emerge on screen. He and the director of Bedevilled, Jang Cheol-Su, share concrete connections since Jang Cheol-Su was assistant-director on Kim Ki-Duk’s films Samaritan Girl and Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…  and Spring. Critics have accused Kim Ki-Duk in displaying misogyny in his films, especially Bad Guy and Samaritan Girl with their mix of sex and violence. What about Bedevilled?

Kim Ki-Duk’s influence is seen in the subject matter in Bedevilled as it features many, many uncomfortable moments of sexual abuse, violence, and hatred, a lot of it directed at women. However unlike Kim Ki-Duk’s films where I get the impression that the director is putting his mental anguish on the screen, Bedevilled is addressing issues and the cumulative effect of the action builds up to a bitter diatribe against misogyny and gender roles while offering a warning to women about how self-preservation risks making victims of others.

There are many moments when women are subjected to violence. The violence is graphic and brutal. That is bad in itself but what is worse is the sense that the violence is culturally accepted or at least easily ignored for many of the characters.

You’re an adult you should take care of yourself

Hye-Won (Ji Sung-Won) at Work in Bedevilled

The first character we are introduced to is Hye-Won. We do not see her for a while and instead we see the world of from her perspective as she is driving her car. The opening of the film takes place in night time Seoul and amidst the bright lights and bumper-to-bumper traffic. We witness two men being physically aggressive to a Street Scene in Seoul in Bedevilledwoman. The camera breaks off for a long shot as we see the woman pushed, prodded, and punched while passers-by try to avoid her. The camera cuts back to Hye-Won’s perspective as the woman leans into the open passenger side window begging for refuge. Hye-Won hears her pleas for help and rolls up the window leaving the woman to face the men abusing her.

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Arirang

Arirang                                                                   Arirang Movie Poster

Release Date: 08th June 2012 (UK Theatrical Release),

Running Time: 110 mins.

Director: Kim Ki-duk

Writer: Kim Ki-duk

Starring: Kim Ki-duk

Kim Ki-duk is a self-taught director with a fearsome reputation. Over the course of 15 films he has cultivated a bad guy persona by creating stories packed with raw emotions and tough situations delivered in a manner that seems brutal when placed next to his more stylish and reserved contemporaries. Characters will frequently be subjected to prostitution, violence, and some form of masochism or other. All the violence and pain finally caught up with him because when shooting suicide scene for his 2008 film, Dream, the lead actress nearly died (Kim saved her). This triggered an emotional breakdown which led to his self-imposed exile in the Korean countryside. Three years later, Arirang emerges.

My previous experiences with Kim Ki-duk have been unrewarding. Despite the visual beauty of 3-Iron and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring I found the emotional content heavy going. His world view has seemed to me to be very bleak. Arirang is another one of those films that shares that bleakness.

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4th Terracotta Far East Film Festival

There are a plethora of exciting titles for anybody interested in far eastern films in the line-up for Terracotta Far East Film Festival next month. This festival is London’s premier celebration of the film and culture of the Far East because it selects the latest and most interesting titles from the region as well as bringing over the cast and crew of the films for Q&As and master-classes. Oh and there are parties.

One glance at the line-up shows that a lot of films that I followed in 2011 are getting a run at the festival including Himizu, Monsters Club, Poppy Hill and The Woodsman and the Rain. It’s a pretty awesome line-up featuring some of the most interesting talents from Japan that I rave about so enough from me! Here are the films!

Opening Film:

My Way

Dir: Kang Je-Kyu Running Time: 137 mins. Starring: Jang Dong-gun, Joe Odagiri, Fan Bingbing

My Way is the latest film from Kang Je-Kyu who directed the awesome action picture ‘Shiri’, and tells the story of two marathon runners, one Korean and one Japanese during Japan’s colonisation of Korea who are drafted into the Japanese army, and develop a close friendship through battles in Russia and Germany. It stars familiar actor Jo Odagiri (Bright Future, Adrift in Tokyo) and Jang Dong-gun who seems to have survived The Warrior’s Way.

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