Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Kim Ki-duk’s Peita
times are tough for Korean mom-and-pop machine shops and hardware stores. Turning to a predatory lender only makes
things worse. It is Lee Kang-do’s job to
collect, which he does in the worst manner possible. It is soulless work, but it suits him. However, there will be a reckoning in Kim
Ki-duk’s Golden Lion Award winning Pieta (trailer here), opening this
Friday in New York.
boss plasters the depressed Cheonggyecheon neighborhood with flyers for his
loan service, but he never mentions the four figure interest rate. When borrowers inevitably fall behind on
payments, they are forced to take out insurance naming his dodgy company as
their beneficiary. Shortly thereafter,
Lee arrives. He maims instead of
killing. It is easier to collect that
way. In proper loan shark fashion, he
has left a long string of broken bodies in his wake.
exactly a people person, Lee is rather annoyed when a middle-aged woman starts
following him. He is even less impressed
when she claims to be his long lost mother seeking to make amends for
abandoning him during his early childhood.
Initially, he wants nothing to do with Mi-sun. Yet he slowly gets used to the idea of
finally having a mother. Then things
really start to get dark and twisted.
it is hard to figure why Drafthouse is releasing Pieta the weekend after Mothers’ Day. Who wouldn’t want to take Mom to bleakly
naturalistic, sexually charged religious allegory? Like classical tragedy, it tackles some heavy
themes, such as maternal love, redemption, and retribution, which Kim quietly
and methodically strips them down to their stone cold essences. As a result, Pieta’s payoff is so bracing, it stings, even if viewers anticipate
the shoe that drops.
Mother Mi-sun, Cho Min-soo is pretty extraordinary. It is a harrowing and fearsome performance,
but also an acutely human portrayal.
Yet, in many ways, Lee Jung-jin has the harder challenge, finding pathos
and vulnerability in a hardened monster like Lee Kang-do. Nearly a two-hander, their scenes together are
genuinely riveting and often profoundly disturbing.
is a deeply moral film that treats the acts of love
and sacrifice with deadly seriousness, suggesting both have intrinsic value. Yet, it would be a mistake to describe it as
an optimistic film. Regardless, it is
the work of a legitimate auteur with a very personal point of view. Kim directly transports the audience to the dingy back
alleys of Cheonggyecheon, creating an overwhelming vibe of spiritual and
economic hopelessness. A challenging
fable featuring brave and haunting performances from his co-leads, Pieta is recommended for those who do
not consider cinema a form of entertainment but rather a matter of life and
death. It opens this Friday (5/17) in
New York at the Cinema Village.
Labels: Kim Ki-duk, Korean Cinema