Posts Tagged ‘Kim Ki Duk’

Yours Truly to Appear on Busan e-FM for Weekly Segment of Cine Concerto

October 19, 2011

I got a gig appearing as a weekly guest on Cine Concerto hosted by Tina Park, the movie program of the local English radio station Busan e-FM. I’ll be on every Wednesday around 10:40 am to discuss a famous director, actor, actress, or anyone related to film. I did my first show today (Wednesday October 19) about Korean filmmaker Kim Ki Duk and it should be up on the website for you to stream by the end of the day. Here’s a link to the page where you can find the show. Hit the “Script Board” section and that should bring you to a list of shows organized by date. Once you get it to start playing, feel free to skip to about two-thirds of the way through since I only talk during the last portion of the show.

Big thanks to fellow film critic Thomas Bellmore, who helped me land the gig. He has a similar segment on the same program where he talks about all time classics on Monday mornings around the same time, so make sure to tune in then too!


The Black Sheep of Korean Cinema Only Alienates Himself Further with Increasingly Slipshod Work

October 8, 2011

AMEN (Kim Ki-Duk, Korea) – 5/100

In a recent conversation with fellow Busan Haps film writer Thomas Bellmore, I explained that when choosing which movies to watch at BIFF, it’s important to consider one of two things: the director and the pre-festival buzz surrounding the movie. Let’s not forget, there are a whopping 307 films in this year’s lineup, and while the selection committee does receive a handful of submissions from world-renowned auteurs, by and large, the movies that get picked every year are made by unknown directors who couldn’t get their films accepted at more prestigious festivals like Cannes, Berlin, and Venice. Now, I hate to be so dismissive and I don’t mean to discourage you from occasionally going with your gut and walking into a movie cold, but if you’re anywhere as picky about films as I am, then you’re probably just setting yourself up for disappointment. Call me narrow-minded, but being adventurous at any film festival rarely pays off, let alone one as inclusive as BIFF.

That being said, my personal film selection strategy is really nothing more than a rule of thumb, and even some of the directors I admire most can go off the deep end and make something so utterly unwatchable it’ll test my loyalty as a fan. Enter Kim Ki-Duk.

As the black sheep of Korean cinema, Kim gets more respect abroad than in his native homeland. In fact, most Koreans outright dislike him even though they have a propensity to fawn over any national figure who’s been remotely successful on the world stage. I’ve always stood up for Kim against the criticisms of non-believers, but in the last five years, his work has been getting harder and harder to defend. Not since “Time” (2006) has he made a decent movie, a fact he’s apparently well aware of since in his this year’s earlier attempt at a comeback, “Arirang” (2011), he spends more than an hour and a half talking into the camera about his dwindling reputation and the creative block he’s suffered through over the last three year break he took from filmmaking.

In light of Kim’s recent funk, I went into “Amen” with guarded expectations, cautiously keeping myself from becoming too optimistic, while genuinely hoping it would mark his long-awaited return to form. Unfortunately, the downward spiral into the creative abyss continues as this latest effort represents a new low for the once brilliant director of “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring” (2003) and “3-Iron” (2004). Shot between April and June, with no script, no crew, and only one lead actress, this is precisely the kind of half-assed, low-budget art-film that gives film festivals a bad name.

Centered around an unnamed Korean girl who lands in Paris only to find out that her host has fled the country, the entire movie essentially amounts to Kim traipsing around Europe with a cheap digital camera as he follows his protagonist hopping trains back and forth between different cities. The weak plot is only made worse by clumsy camerawork, unpolished sound design, and choppy editing that would make most student films seem professional.

“Amen” could perhaps be interpreted as a mirror for Kim’s own current lack of direction, as it becomes clear within the first few minutes that he, and not just the protagonist of his movie, is who’s really lost. But if that was the director’s intention, he needs to spare us this introspective, self-pitying nonsense and get back to making real movies again.

In Busan, the Sixteenth Time’s the Charm

September 25, 2011

With the Busan cinematheque closed until November, and the dearth of quality movies in both mainstream theaters and at the Gukdo Art Cinema, it’s been a rough start to what’s typically referred to as the Oscar Season. But the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) is just around the corner, and like always, it will inject a temporary dose of world-class cinema to an otherwise provincial town.

This year promises to be a major milestone in the history of the festival. The official unveiling of the Busan Cinema Center, an ultra-modern cultural complex in the heart of Centum City, will undoubtedly create quite a hoo-ha, prompting local officials to make speeches and pat each other on the back, but to me, this means just one thing. Unlike previous years, BIFF will finally be held in one concentrated area of the city, a welcome change for cinephiles like myself who no longer have to ride the subway back and forth from Nampodong to Haeundae in between screenings, running up and down escalators to make it to the next movie in-time.  Whereas most other film festivals had this figured out from day one, in Busan, the sixteenth time’s the charm.

Advance tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies can be bought online starting Monday September 26 at 17:00, while tickets for general screenings go on sale Wednesday September 28 at 9:00. Only how remains a mystery: the guidelines on the website boil down to “visit and register Daum website.” My advice is to ask a Korean friend for help if you intend to buy tickets in advance, which I recommend for anyone who wants a guaranteed seat at a screening.

The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, USA)

Saturday October 8 at 11:30, Haneulyeon Theater, Code: 032

Wednesday October 12 at 16:00, Haneulyeon Theater, Code: 114

Have you ever been stuck somewhere with the stinging urge to go to the bathroom, but no toilet in sight? That’s kind of what waiting for “The Tree of Life” to come out has felt like for me. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I left the US for Korea shortly before its American release date and have spent every day since in a state of prolonged, torturous anticipation. But I have to say my reaction to seeing it on the BIFF lineup was somewhat muted knowing that it’s already slated for a release in major movie theaters at the end of October. Still, I’ll take what I can get, and if that means twenty days of less waiting, hell, I’m happy.

The Kid with a Bike (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France/Italy)

Sunday October 9 at 9:00, Haneulyeon Theater, Code: 049

Monday October 10 at 19:30, Haneulyeon Theater, Code: 085

The Dardenne brothers have yet to make a bad or even mediocre film. This consistency has won them the coveted Palme d’Or twice, making them part of a handful of directors to have done so. So obviously I always look forward to seeing their latest movie no matter what it’s about, who’s in it, or how it’s received by other critics.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, United Kingdom)

Saturday October 8 at 9:00, Haneulyeon Theater, Code: 031

Sunday Oct 9 at 13:00, CGV Centum  City 4, Code: 208

When Lynne Ramsay makes a movie and it’s playing in a theater near you, you get your ass there. It’s been nine years since her last film came out, and it seems as though she’s trying something a little different this time around. Set outside of her native Scotland, and with Hollywood stars Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly in the main roles alongside rising actor Ezra Miller, “We Need to Talk About Kevin” clearly marks a new direction in Ramsay’s relatively short, but impressive career. I just hope that, during her long absence, she hasn’t lost it.


Faust  (Aleksandr Sokurov, Russia)

Monday October 10 at 20:00, Lotte Centum City 6, Code: 468

Monday October 10 at 20:00, Lotte Centum City 7, Code: 470

Tuesday October 11 at 14:00, Megabox Haeundae M, Code: 707

Wednesday October 12 at 13:30, Lotte Centum City 6, Code: 504

Wednesday October 12 at 13:30, Lotte Centum City 7, Code: 506

Aleksandr Sokurov’s eerie filmmaking style is often compared to that of Andrei Tarkovsky, the Russian master whose films are usually only appreciated by ardent cinema lovers. While Sokurov is a touch more accessible, his movies are at times cryptic, slow, and seemingly plot-less, but in spite of it all, strangely atmospheric and enthralling. “Faust,” a retelling of the classic German legend, is the last installment in his four-part series on power and corruption, themes he previously approached in films about Lenin, Hitler, and Emperor Hirohito.

Melancholia (Lars von Trier, Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany)

Friday Oct 7 at 9:30, Haneulyeon Theater, Code: 011

Monday October 10 at 11:00, Lotte Centum City 6, Code: 450

Monday October 10 at 11:00, Lotte Centum City 7, Code: 449

Tuesday October 11 at 20:00, Megabox Haeundae 6, Code: 725

 Tuesday October 11 at 20:00, Megabox Haeundae 7, Code: 723

Lars von Trier was banned from the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year after saying “I’m a Nazi” and “I understand Hitler” during a long, incoherent answer to a question about aesthetics. He later apologized for his remarks but recently admitted: “It’s not true. I’m not sorry.” The Danish filmmaker has a history of saying outrageous things and is known as a provocateur, not only in interviews but also in his films. Love him or hate him, it’s hard to watch his movies and not walk away with a strong, gut reaction.


The Day He Arrives (Hong Sang-Soo, Korea)

Friday October 7 at 16:00, Megabox Haeundae 3, Code: 568

Sunday October 9 at 21:00, Megabox Haeundae 1, Code: 658

Wednesday October 12 at 10:00, Megabox Haeundae 1, Code: 731

I feel like Korean cinema in general has been on the slump for the better part of the last five years, failing to produce the kind of masterpieces that were so prevalent in the first six years of the new millenium. Hong Sang-Soo is no exception. While he remains my favorite working Korean director, I’m going to start losing some serious esteem for him unless he really wows me with this one.

Amen (Kim Ki-Duk, Korea)

Friday October 7 at 19:00, Megabox Haeundae 3, Code: 583

Sunday October 9 at 10:00, Megabox Haeundae 3, Code: 630

Wednesday October 12 at 16:00, Megabox Haeundae 1, Code: 751

It definitely came as a surprise to see this one on the lineup since Kim Ki-Duk just premiered his documentary “Arirang” at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Though it won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard sidebar competition, I’ve heard it’s no more than a painfully dull and self-indulgent rant where the filmmaker turns the camera on himself and essentially wails about the creative block he’s experienced over the past few years. He hasn’t made a movie movie since 2008’s “Dream,” and neither that nor its predecessor was any good. But who knows, this could mark a return to form for the notorious director of “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring,” “3-Iron,” and “Bad Guy.”


The next three movies aren’t really high on my list, and frankly I don’t know if I’ll get around to seeing them, but I thought I would mention them anyway since they caught my eye for one reason or another.

Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai (Takashi Miike, Japan)

Friday October 7 at 9:30, Cinema 1, Code: 010

Sunday October 9 at 19:30, Lotte Centum City 4, Code: 447

Wednesday October 12 at 12:30, Lotte Centum City  5, Code: 503

Almayer’s Folly (Chantal Akerman, Belgium/France)

Saturday October 8 at 19:30, CGV Centum City 4, Code: 191

Sunday October 9 at 11:00, Lotte Centum City 3, Code: 420

Tuesday October 11 at 11:00, Megabox Haeundae M, Code: 701

Goodbye First Love (Mia Hansen-Love, France/Germany)

Friday October 7 at 17:00, Megabox Haeundae M, Code: 571

Wednesday October 12 at 11:00, Megabox Haeundae 8, Code: 734

Wednesday October 12  at 11:00, Megabox Haeundae 9, Code: 739

Thursday October 13 at 10:00, CGV Centum City 4, Code: 324