February 29, 2016

Stateless Things: When a Moving Picture Is a Moving Picture

Stateless Things left me thinking about how the word "movies" is shorthand for "moving pictures" and how "moving pictures" can mean a few things:

1. a two-dimensional portrait seemingly brought to life
2. an extension of Muybridge's artful experiments in capturing action
3. a portrait that makes you feel something deeply
4. any combination of the items above

Unafraid of prolonged silences or the slightest of conversations, director Kim Kyung-mook allows many scenes in Stateless Things to act upon you like snapshots or drawings, sculptures or mobiles. Like art. You're invited to look, not to listen, as your primary way of intuiting relationships, identities, stories. Observe the way bodies inhabit their environments. Let go of plot. Let go of conventional character development. An early sequence, in which Joon (Paul Lee) and Soonhee (Kim Sae-byeok) rush around pumping fuel at the gas station during rush hour, is enough to hold you captivated. A dance routine, performed by a "kept boy" (Yeom Hyun-joon) while his "daddy" (Im Hyeong-gook) is at work, conjures hidden dreams and desires even if there's no one else in the room to interpret/appreciate the act.

This distrust of telling too much with words is a hallmark of a certain type of indie film, and Stateless Things fearlessly trots out other tropes of the genre, with poetic lines demarcating the film's three parts, non-sequential narratives, and a strange ending that refutes its two separate story lines as being truly separate at all. You may have questions in terms of what actually happened at the end but asking questions is what Kim's moving picture is all about.

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