January 26, 2008

Real Fiction: No Real Friction From Kim Ki-duk

Real Fiction is the kind of movie that makes you realize that “student film” is a classifiable genre that has nothing to do with being an undergraduate, under 21, or even a beginner. I don’t care whether director Kim Ki-duk was 18 or 80 when he made this fatuous flick, but his little piece of experimentalism has all the signature marks of student filmism. To wit: 1. A largely mute lead (Ju Jin-mo) who acts as both Everyman and cipher. 2. Plenty of handheld camerawork justified by the inclusion of a videographer in the storyline. 3. Pseudo-profound lines like “Real suffering is not something that hurts physically” proclaimed while someone is being physically tortured. The irony! 4. A man-against-the-world attitude without any real oppression or a real believable world. 5. The occasional sex scene that has more to with with peeking at women’s bodies than it does with illustrating a point. 6. A truckload of symbolism: the scar, the snakes, the flowers... 7. The big reveal that declares: Hey, it's only a movie! Those murders we just watched were metaphoric. If the absence of body humor jokes and literary references prevent Real Fiction from being a purist's student artfilm, its leaden pace does suggest the need for a sophomoric drinking game.

January 6, 2008

Face: Heart of a Stranger Skips a Beat

I'd never contemplated how upsetting it might be to discover that the life-saving heart which your daughter received as a transplant ended up being just one of many blood-pumping organs harvested by a serial killer working in conjunction with a shady cardiologist. Director Yoo Sang-gon and his fellow screenwriters don't grapple with that troubling thought either, though they might have since that's a key component of the horror flick Face. You can hardly blame the film's protagonist (Shin Hyeon-jun) for having other things on his mind since he's constantly distracted by piercings sounds, dirty-haired ghosts, and a comely assistant (Song Yun-ah) who can't keep her hands off his...clay. You see, he's an artist who recreates the faces of dead people after the forensics lab drops off the skulls. It's not an easy way to make a living but even when his daughter's in the hospital, this job is addictive. You've got to get it just right so that the computer knows which hair style to add. Why does the serial killer target women? Because they've got bigger hearts, silly. Now if the demand was for fresh livers, then we'd have some equal opportunity mass murdering going on.