[Review working title: “Arirang – Delayed: Not so hot on the ‘heels’ of his last film”]
Film: Arirang (아리랑)
Director (& Writer): Kim Ki-duk
Venue: The Prince Charles, London
TERRACOTTA FAR EAST FILM FESTIVAL 2012
Released & Distributed in the UK by Terracotta Distribution – details and more at foot of review.
Playing at the following venues (& possibly more) from June 8th, 2012:
We’re watching a man – Kim Ki-duk – going about his everyday chores. The difference being, this is not his everyday life. Not as us cinema watching people know his life. Kim Ki-duk is a very busy filmmaker and we’re guessing he normally lives comfortably.
Before you attack me, I know all too well that filmmaking is hard and not all such film-folk live comfortably – It’s hard work – but in Kim Ki-duk’s case we feel he lives ‘ok’.
So, seeing him in the hills in a foresty, mountainy kind of setting, with snow around and a Cat & a Camera as his only friends is a little odd.
It’s obvious though, from a few minutes in that he has more than one camera as his friend. From the very early scenes you could wonder if he did just have the one device and edited all accordingly in post. But eventually we realise – especially with muti-shot and multi-angle scenes – that there must be a few!
I say that Kim Ki-duk has a cat as a friend but that may also be inaccurate. Sure, the cat seems to constantly meow – obviously for food – but only on an occasion or two does Kim Ki-duk return the conversation… Either by a copycat meow or later some words.
Meowing aside, it’s pretty amazing that NO words are uttered until about 10 minutes into this docu-drama-declaration. This could be regarded as insane by today’s average movie going public, but of course more daring due to this. Insane maybe… but hardly Inane. Ironically though, when our hero (or ONLY character!!) does commence talking it could be taken as if he has indeed turned insane. Such assumptions or cross-examinations are even made by Kim Ki-duk later on.
The fact that he’s talking to nobody means he has nobody. Then again, the Cat meowing seems like the waking start of his every day. Perhaps this noise and it’s craving or greediness for food is what makes Kim Ki-duk commence the day. Would he be able to continue alone without this surge of goodwill & giving of life-food in the mornings? Is this cat responsible for Kim Ki-duk staying alive or even from going mad?
Either way, this fact of being alone is demonstrated in 3 (related) ways early in the film.
1) The non-speaking first 10 minutes or so indicates he’s alone and that we’re in for an intense and hopefully non-boring experience. Viewers’ Views may differ of course… and indeed multiple View-ings.
2) Intense or not, Kim Ki-duk sleeps in a cabin but further inside a one-man tent [Intense or in-tents?!) Ok, it could be a two man tent, but we all know those temporary abodes are always smaller than advertised and sleep, comfortably less than it states.
3) It’s from this tent that Kim Ki-duk, alone is awoken by a surreal knocking upon, presumably the cabin door. Are we in for lots of poetic license here even though this film is a one man band creation? Should we be scared, concerned, worried? Whatever… He’s alone and that’s the point – of 3 – I’m making.
3 is also the number of years that this ‘world famous director’ [I mean, he even admits that himself here] has been living the way we see him. It’s astounding to believe that this is the case – for a famous director, or anyone – but this is what we are presented with here.
At certain parts of this picture you could truly believe that an intruder, or more aptly imposter, has indeed entered into this dwelling. We see Kim Ki-duk being interviewed or interrogated by none other than… Yes, that’s right… Himself.
Whether seemingly questioning himself or talking as candidly as one would in this age of Reality TV and Big Brother, we hear stories of film (obviously!?), actors – even Willem Dafoe – and the fact that he nearly killed a girl on his “Dream” film set. The later being the primary reason, it would seem for retreating to hermits-ville.
Should Kim Ki-duk feel responsible for such near-death-ness? It’s a tough one to answer… but, we do witness him making a gun. Is he simply building a gun or just building the tension? He’s allowed to of course, being a filmmaker above anything else in his life. This is clear.
We could wonder where he’s learnt how to build guns but perhaps it’s from scenes featured in films or from research Kim Ki-duk has undertaken. Who knows…
The bigger wonder is whether he is intending to kill himself… For the girl on the set of “Dream”? Is it as punishment to himself? From what we also see, drinking-wise he could go the same way as Ben Sanderson, Nicolas Cage’s character in Mike Figgis’ “Leaving Las Vegas”, and indeed ‘drink himself to death’. We know he doesn’t though… Of course.
‘A man can’t survive on drink alone’, you say? True. We do also witness Kim Ki-duk eating. Eating the basics and fending for himself almost like an animal would, unsurprisingly.
Yes, not only do we have cat in this movie, we have a dog. A dog in many ways. For one, we see Kim Ki-duk relieving himself outside and so burying any leavings in the same way as a canine would. And to top this perhaps [Can anything top seeing a ‘world famous director’ excreting on camera?], in one if his natters he states words along the lines of “why am I here…? …eating like a dog”.
Eat like a dog he does. Watch like a hawk we do.
We want to know more, whether contrived or honest we keep on wanting to dig further. Dig like Dogs ourselves maybe.
Whilst we dig so does Kim Ki-duk. Albeit in the literal sense, by the use of a mechanical, motorised digger which just happens to be at hand. He digs with us… all searching for answers.
Another almost mechanical object which ‘happens’ to be at hand is a rather perfect coffee-making machine… Making Espressos Expressly.
Ironically though, the coffee-making is at one point where we hear him talk of craving recognition or filmmaking itself. This couldn’t come at a worse time for those of us who were enduring the Terracotta Far East Film Festival’s full marathon of movies on this day – luckily this was the first on this particular day.
The Terracotta Fest [or perhaps a more aptly named ‘Terracoffee’…] is purely a pleasure as is watching this picture at times, the first hour definitely is. Yes, it’s slow, talk-y, pretentious maybe, contrived even but it does keep you watching. Even one hour after all the Confessionals, Character-building, Coffee-making and ‘Cim Ci-duc’s’ Craving to Cry, we are treated to a marvellous, purposely moving moment. It’s a moment involving the fantastic clip from Kim Ki-duk’s own “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom / 봄 여름 가을 겨울 그리고 봄)”
Now, the words ‘marvellous, moving and fantastic’ are solely MMM’s but the scene on display, on some kind of monitor [Didn’t I tell you he also has a computer set-up in this cabin? Of course he does…!] is one we watch, whilst Kim Ki-duk watches it too and it displays that we’re often walking up a hill with a weight around our neck. Of course, we each have our own struggles, big or small so one could be affected by the scene – and the way it’s played out here – in different ways.
I guess it could also depend on whether you’ve previously seen the same clip in the aforementioned “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring”. I truly feel though, that it’s difficult for this moment – which lasts over 5 minutes – not to touch us. It certainly affects Kim Ki-duk. We see him wailing – but, is it fake, real or moving? Definitely the latter… And maybe the other/s…
Even after such moments where you may think this film is ‘directed’ a little too much the film changes it’s turns often enough to believe all what we see. Remember, it’s not as if Kim Ki-duk went up into the woods to make a film – he’d been there for around 3 years. Genuine Hermiting, at it’s most Honest & Heartfelt. Practiced, Purposely Polished Perhaps but it feels Poignant.
However, this wouldn’t be a fair or liberal review without pointing out it’s low points…
So, that brings us to the finale of Arirang. It does seem a little over-contrived, even compared to any ‘apparently planned’ scenes which had already come and gone… Especially when you consider the last few scenes and the way they’ve been filmed. For example, we see Kim Ki-duk enter a building, after deliberately leaving his camera behind, only to see it being filmed from the interior.
Interior? But essentially a film is all about how it affects ‘our’ interiors. Our emotional organs, adrenaline-psitols and of course the inners of our eyes & ears are all these interior factors. However, your body reads this film you’ll hopefully feel that it, at times it’s full of emotional, poignant and heartfelt monologues from Kim Ki-duk. Of course, you may simply hate it – each to our own.
Interspersed within the director’s talking of his career and the film industry & in fact anything which he feels needs to be addressed on camera, we are also subjected to film posters of his other film-work and awards. We are also subjected to KK-D’s singing of the ‘Arirang’ song. Note that MMM is now on first ‘initial’ terms with the director [KK-D]… It’s almost like MMM knows KKD now, after mentioned his name in full many, many times in one review. Well, he is the star, director, writer and antagonist (sometimes playing protagonist too!)
Back to the word ‘finale’ and on to the finale of this Mini Mini Movie review…
You can look at this film as a man trying to redeem himself as well as a confessional, even an apology. Most of all, it acts as self therapy for Kim Ki-duk (sorry, I mean KKD). Self therapy is probably the general concensus… But hey, I do not know EVERYONE in this world, nor how each individual’s mind works.
LIGHTHEARTED EPILOGUE: One thing’s for sure, it’s clear Kim Ki-duk eats, drinks, breathes, cries, talks, shoots & poops film.
SERIOUS EPILOGUE: As the poster perhaps indicates… Does Kim Ki-duk still have the world truly at his ‘feet’? Or is everyone watching his every ‘foot’ step?
Either way, just like the worn heels themselves, “Arirang” sure is that… plain raw.
“Mini Mini Kim K-D”…:
Find this Trailer and other Mini-er Movies here at:
Further details of Terracotta Distribution, and another Asian film favourite, Third Window Films are below. However, before you rush to clickety-click-away I’d like to use this space to mention the recent mindless riots experienced here in the UK. Did you know that these riots caused hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages and loss to our favourite independent film distributors? These are, essentially… Arrow Films, Artifical Eye, The BFI, Crabtree Films, Cine-Asia, Dogwoof Films, Exposure Cinema, Eureka, Kaleidoscope Films, Left Films, Masters of Cinema, Metrodome Films, New Wave Films, Peccadillo Pictures, Revolver Entertainment, Showbox Home Entertainment, Terracotta, Third Window Films and Warp Films.
So, with the latter in mind it is even more important to spread the word, virally about these unfortunate vendors. On that note I leave you with these links… all which will, in some way assist in keeping such films to be distributed here in the so-called land of milk & honey.
Thanks for your support… in every way.