‘He’s the bad boy of South Korean cinema, an upstart who didn’t attend film school or serve an apprenticeship with an established director, the usual routes to helming your own picture. To hear Kim Ki-Duk tell it, he wrote a screenplay that a producer wanted desperately to buy. Kim held out, asking to direct. The producer resisted, but Kim held his ground. Eventually, he got his way. In 1996, his first feature was released. Crocodile was the tale of a man who recovers the bodies of suicides in the Han River, which runs through Seoul.
‘In the years since, Kim hasn’t wasted any time. His 10th film, Samaritan Girl, debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival, winning him a best director prize. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring, his ninth film, was his first to be released commercially in the U.S. outside of New York City. It’s a contemplative parable about the link between suffering and desire, between atonement and enlightenment. Its setting is a small Buddhist temple floating in the middle of a remote mountain lake. The film’s mood of tranquillity and philosophical rumination is hardly what this director is known for.
‘Kim’s other recent films, Bad Guy and Samaritan Girl, are more naked in their examination of life’s darker sides — both revolve around prostitution, violent beatings and bloody deaths. In South Korea, Kim’s films have drifted from art house fare to commercial success, with Bad Guy a hit in 2002. In that film, a small-time gangster forces a young girl into prostitution; he becomes obsessed with her and she in turn begins to form an attachment to him. Samaritan Girl follows two schoolgirls who decide to run a prostitution scam, until one dies tragically and the other decides to “pay back” her johns as an act of remorse.
‘Kim, 43, is soft-spoken, a small, compact man with closely cropped hairand a soft voice. He continually doodles, writing bits of questions posed and of responses readied on a Korean newspaper, which he repeatedly folds this way and that to find additional blank spaces. Born to a family of farmers in a South Korean village, Kim got his only formal education at a primary school, one run by missionaries. Although this made him Christian for many years, these days, he admits, “I have my doubts.” He spent five years in the South Korean equivalent of the Marine Corps — getting in even though he had been rejected by the Army when he failed a psychological test.
‘”I thought it was unfair so I volunteered for the Marine Corps,” he says. “I made an effort and I got in.” Unfortunately, this bit of bravado turned into a trauma that troubles him to this day. “What I gained was physical power, and what I lost was my mind,” he says. “I’m still suffering from my memories of the Marine Corps service — the violence, the hierarchy.”
‘It was in France, he says, that he saw his first movie. His first movie? Well, he did watch some religion-themed movies in missionary school, but he hardly remembers. What he does remember, however, was walking into a French cinema and seeing The Silence of the Lambs. Despite the fact that he couldn’t understand the French into which it had been dubbed, he could follow the story. Most of all he was transfixed by the images and the audio.
‘”I was watching the pictures and listening to the sounds,” he says. To this day, that is what films are to him, series of images and sounds, and he likes to keep speech to a minimum. “I don’t like movies with lots of dialogue.” Thus inspired, he says, “I started to write scripts after I came back from France.” One was selected in a government-sponsored competition, another fell into the hands of an architect who wanted to produce films. After some wrangling, this man eventually gave him his first chance. Kim says that he already understood lighting, composition and angles from being a painter; the rest of it he learned by doing.’ — collaged
Kim Ki-duk @ IMDb
The Kim Ki-duk Page
Kim Ki-duk’s Movies Blog
KK-d @ mubi
KK-d Facebook page
‘The strange case of director Kim Ki-Duk’
‘Kim Ki-duk Seeks Industry Vote on Moebius‘
‘The Wordless Beauty and Brutality of Kim Ki-duk’s Moebius‘
‘Lunch with director Kim Ki-duk. . . sort of’
‘The History of Cinema. Kim Ki-Duk’
‘TIFF Day 10: Pieta x 13’
KK-d interviewed @ Filmmaker Magazine
‘Master from Orient KIM KI-DUK’
‘Cruel Beauty: The Cinema of Kim Ki-Duk’
Venezia 70 Future Reloaded – Kim Ki-duk
Four delegates fainted while watching Kim Ki Duk’s “Moebius”
“Amen…” A Short Movie Directed By Kim Ki-duk
Interview with Kim Ki-duk
Your films deal with very extreme emotions, often times equal parts love and hatred and the similarities between the two. Where does the inspiration for making films that deal with this material come from? What drives you as a filmmaker?
Kim Ki-Duk: I believe that every person has multiple feelings. A person’s current personality of love, hatred, jealousy, rage or a murderous intent and so on is formed upon genetic elements, education, the environment and a family a person grows in.
The source of my movie comes from a theory “The white color and the black color is the same.” I try not to interpret things of the world into a single meaning. Rather, I try the opposite. For example, a man, who fights too often and too well, does so, not because he’s good at it but because he is scared.
Your films are also known for their minimal amounts of dialogue, yet you’re still able to portray so much through your movies without the need for a lot of words. Why is it that your characters are so often so quiet?
KK-D: I don’t think that the spoken words solve everything. Sometimes silence delivers truer feelings while the words can distort the meaning in some situations.
Your films often times deal with outcasts, people who don’t fit into the norms of society – like the central character in 3-Iron or the prostitute in Bad Guy. Why the focus on more unfortunate characters?
KK-D: They should be respected as one of the contemporaries. Even though they are unhappy, it is wrong for us to judge them as unhappy. I wanted to show their frank lives through my movies.
Which of your films do you feel the most proud of and why is it that you choose that one?
KK-D: There’s none I feel proud of. The movies I will make in the future are the ones I take pride in, because they will contain the consciousness that I am not aware of yet. I am curious – with what kind of idea and thought I will live. But if you insist to pick one, I’d like to recommend Address Unknown to the American viewers. I want American youngsters to see how a youth in a third world lives.
How do you feel about film critics who think your work is too violent or too exploitative? Or towards people who feel your work is sexist and misogynistic?
KK-D: I think that is possible. They have different background and education from mine which naturally led them to interpret my movie differently. But the critics become careful now that I am internationally recognized and have won several awards. I guess they are looking back their own thoughts. I hope their point of view changes from seeing only a single thing to observing multiple stuffs, but they will need some time.
15 of Kim Ki-duk’s 21 films
‘Crocodile is a 1996 South Korean film. It was the directorial debut of Ki-duk Kim and stars Cho Jae-hyun as “Crocodile”. The film tells the story of a man living at the edge of the Han River in Seoul, who saves a woman trying to commit suicide. He then proceeds to rape and abuse her until an odd relationship develops between them.’ — collaged
Wild Animal Reservation Zone (1997)
‘Kim Ki-duk wrote and directed this allegorical South Korean drama about Korean expatriates on the edge of the Paris art world. The original title translates as “Wild Animal Reservation Zone.” Artistically inclined hustler Chong-Hae (Cho Jae-hyun) and his pal Hong-san (Jang Dong-jik) sign on as henchmen for a French gangster (Richard Bohringer). Hong-san and Chong-Hae both get involved with women under the thumbs of oppressive Frenchmen. While Hong-San is drawn into the milieu of a stripper, Chong-Hae takes a fancy to a Korean artist. Inspired by Camille Claudel, the talented sculptress portrayed by Isabelle Adjani in Bruno Nuytten’s award-winning Camille Claudel (1988), the Korean performance artist paints herself white and then stands nude in various Paris public squares. After she stabs her French oppressor with a frozen fish, more violence erupts. The film’s soundtrack mixes Korean pop music with Arabic rhythms.’ — Bhob Stewart, Rovi
Birdcage Inn (1998)
‘Birdcage Inn is the third film of Kim Ki-duk, who probably ranks as the Korean director with the most conflicted reputation. Although it was Kim’s first film which managed to attract international attention, it was a major failure at the box-office in Korea itself. The story centers on a 24-year-old woman named Jin-a, who comes to a shabby guesthouse named Birdcage Inn to replace a prostitute who previously worked there. (Some spoilers to follow…) A couple with two children in their late teens run the lodge, located in a small village right in front of the ocean. The situation of Jin-a is complicated in many ways. Not only does her pimp force her into prostitution, but the family she lives with also gives her a hard time. The daughter discriminates against the young girl because of her social background, the mother only sees her as a source of capital, the silent father rapes her and the son, last but not least, tries to lose his virginity with her.’ — koreanfilm.org
The Isle (2000)
‘The Isle is a 2000 South Korean film written and directed by Kim Ki-duk. The film was the fifth film made by Kim, and the first to receive wider international acclaim for his recognizable style. It also became notorious for being difficult to watch, with stories of viewers vomiting or passing out during the more gruesome scenes when the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival. In his review of the film, Roger Ebert, having seen the film at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, praised the film for its cinematography, while commenting “This is the most gruesome and quease-inducing film you are likely to have seen. You may not even want to read the descriptions in this review.”‘ — collaged
the entire film
Bad Guy (2001)
‘Bad Guy, from 2001, is extremely powerful and clearly lays the roots for a lot of Ki-duk’s later work, dealing with one of his favorite themes, prostitution.The scees where Han-ki watches Sun-hwa through the two way mirror are absolutely phenomenal. The black void lighting, only broken by the embers of a burning cigarette, his face reflected in the mirror, watching Sun-Hwa’s gradual degredation. I love the way Kim’s frame create multiple planes of action. You can watch Han-Ki’s face and the action with Sun-hwa simultaneously, in the same way that a number of scenes with Han and his crew are set so that we can see Sun and her crew soliciting customers in the background, two stories happening at once.’ — Thoughts on Stuff
The Making of ‘Bad Guy’
Samaritan Girl (2004)
‘Yeo-jin and Jae-yeong are two teenage girls who are trying to earn money for a trip to Europe. To reach this end, Jae-yeong is prostituting herself while Yeo-jin acts as her pimp, setting her up with the clients and staying on guard for the police. Things take a turn for the worse when Yeo-jin gets distracted from her duty and the police raid the motel where Jae-yeong is meeting with a client. To avoid getting caught, Jae-yeong jumps out of a window, fatally injuring herself. After Jae-yeong’s death, Yeo-jin blames herself and to ease her own conscience, sets to return all of the money they earned to the clients while sleeping with them herself. Eventually Yeo-jin’s father, a policeman, is devastated when he discovers what she is doing. He starts following her discreetly and confronts her clients with increasingly violent results. Finally, he ends up brutally killing a client.’ — collaged
‘3-Iron sees Kim softening his bleak view of humanity somewhat, and removing some of the incredible viciousness which made many of his earlier works rather unpalatable for those with weaker stomachs. Although 3-Iron is still very much concerned with emotional isolation and in this case a desire to fade from the world, the director injects a sense of surrealist whimsy. Also, despite themes of domestic violence and societal control, Kim works in a number of surprisingly gentle and beautiful moments. The end result is an almost ethereal, yet truly captivating film which is fascinating and moving, and which stands amongst Kim’s finest, yet again confirming that he is one of the most talented and insightful directors working in the profession today.’ — Beyond Hollywood
The Bow (2005)
‘A 60-year-old man has lived with a 16-year-old girl on a boat afloat in the middle of the sea for 10 years. The old man crosses days off of a calendar and counts the remaining days to her 17th birthday. She is content with her life, helping the old man serve the fishermen who come to the boat. When a gentle college boy comes aboard to fish, their relationship begins to suffer. As she becomes more and more attracted to the boy, she begins to distance herself from the old man, arousing his jealousy. Much like other movies by Kim Ki-duk the film contains very little dialogue.’ — Han Cinema
‘Breaking with his formal rule of silence, Kim Ki-Duk has conceded here an unusual amount of room for the dialogues. But if speech is regained, there is still a sense of loss (of meaning, of consistency) in the dramatic scenes, which paradoxically accentuates their impact. The loss tightens the action and exacerbates the expressions of the couple, who oscillate, outside psychological norms, in the narrow margin between desperation and theatrical hysteria (not a word one should use lightly when speaking about a director accused of being “outrageously misogynistic”), causing as much violence to each other as they do to themselves. As Seh-Hee feels she failed to be accepted for what she is (“”the same boring face,” she dejectedly says to her lover) , she has this very face cut into another’s, in an intensely clinical and critical moment when her flesh becomes a malleable mask, artistic material for the recreation of her self.’ — The Korea Film Society
The Making of ‘Time’
‘Arirang addresses a personal crisis Kim went through, sparked by an incident during the filming of his previous film, Dream, where the lead actress nearly died by hanging, and by the departure of a couple of close colleagues, including the director Jang Hoon. The title comes from a Korean folk song with the same title. In a heavily line-broken text released about the film, Kim writes that “Through Arirang I understand human beings, thank the nature, and accept my life as it is now.” Kim produced the film entirely on his own. It premiered in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and won the top award for best film.’ — collaged
Kim Ki-Duk sings ‘Arirang’
‘Pietà is the 18th feature written and directed by Kim Ki-duk. It depicts the mysterious relationship between a brutal man who works for loan sharks and a middle-aged woman who claims that she is his mother, mixing Christian symbolism and highly sexual content. The film won the Golden Lion prize at the 69th Venice International Film Festival. At its Venice press screening, it reportedly “elicited extremely mixed reactions”. Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter described it as “an intense and, for the first hour, sickeningly violent film that unexpectedly segues into a moving psychological study.” Young gave high praises to the film’s acting performances, however states “it’s not an exaggeration to say there’s not a single pleasant moment in the film’s first half” and “Viewers will keep their eyes closed” for the majority of the film.”‘ — collaged
PIETA Q&A; with Kim Ki-duk at AFI FEST
‘After narrowly missing the Busan screening of the controversial and censorship loathed new film from master filmmaker Kim Ki Duk, I wasn’t going to miss the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival leg of Moebius. What can I say about this film? Let’s start of by a few descriptive words, namely disturbing, twisted, unbelievable, fascinating, frustrating and incestuous. Believe me, Kim Ki Duk have made some strange films, dealing with difficult and often controversial subjects (i.e. Pieta), but in Moebius, he goes further and beyond even himself. From the opening scene of a moebius wife who is mentally ill from her husband infidelity, fails to cut his penis and instead turn her attention to their son and quite frankly and literally chop off his penis. To call Moebius daring is actually an understatement, as it is more than that, it is a film that will haunt you, lingers with you and perhaps disturb you till you never think about it again.’ — HK Neo Reviews
‘Moebius’ by Kim Ki-duk: interviews of the director and cast
One on One (2014)
‘“Who am I?” is the question posed in the first closing credit of “One on One,” as if the preceding two hours of screeching melodrama and stomach-churning, rusty nail-assisted violence could have been the work of anyone but Kim Ki-duk. Even fierce admirers of the prolific South Korean provocateur, however, would struggle to suggest that he’s in top form in this turgid, rushed-looking revenge tale, in which the perpetrators of a schoolgirl’s senseless murder are methodically singled out for punishment of the grisliest variety. A significant step down from the more engaging grotesquerie of last year’s bonkers incest drama “Moebius,” this year’s Venice Days opener may struggle to match even the limited level of distributor interest in Kim’s recent work.’ — Variety
‘Once again, Kim Ki-duk has shot, edited, produced and written his film, only this time it is set in Japan using entirely Japanese dialogue. His touch can still be felt everywhere, as is evident in the film’s handheld cinematography and editing, which feels very rough around the edges – emblematic of much of Kim’s work. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Kim has never received any formal training in filmmaking, but his raw aesthetic is also due to the fact that he tends to shoot his films in just a few weeks or even less on a very limited budget. Kim’s films have until more recently used minimal dialogue, as evident in Moebius, where no dialogue is spoken reflecting his intent of telling a story entirely through visuals without resorting to speech. But to reverse his style in such a way as his films become less complex and more argument-driven undermines one of the traits that made his earlier films rather compelling. The points Kim Ki-duk attempts to address are relatively simple: no to nuclear power and reduce our dependence on electricity and he uses this story in putting his argument across, which is aimed at Japanese, Korean and international viewers alike. But beyond this, there’s little in the way of depth to really entice audiences.’ — Screen Daily
The Net (2016)
‘Kim Ki-duk’s career has often progressed in distinct waves – from the nasty sexual violence of his dark early work to the magical realism that produced Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring and 3-Iron. Since the glorious grotesquery of 2013’s Moebius, he’s perhaps made a move into territory that nobody could have expected from a perennially bold provocateur, one of conformity and restraint. Both One on One and Stop were flawed but conventional thrillers, albeit with distinct political motivations, and the same is true of his slightly more successful new film The Net. The visuals are around the same level as One on One – a far cry from the almost unwatchable ugliness of Pieta, for instance – but it’s not Kim or his composition that are the star of this show. As Chul-woo Ryoo Seung-bum is irresistibly endearing and empathetic, not least when he scrunches his eyes closed in the car so that he won’t have seen any of South Korea when he’s questioned by the military back home. Ryoo perfectly embodies the everyman who finds himself the victim and pawn and it’s his charisma that maintains the tragedy of the situation despite The Net overshooting by almost half an hour. The fact that what is going on around him is delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer is Kim’s current forte – but it still manages to be effective.’ — Cine-Vue
p.s. RIP Juan Goytisolo. ** Bernard, Hey. I believe I will be seeing you in the flesh you in not so many hours from now. I’ll probably hear from you before you see this, but, if not, shout when you’re here and ready. I came down with a cold and couldn’t see the second Fujiko night. Zac said the cold and wind messed it up a bit, but that it was still wunderbar. Very happy to hear that the fundraising thing for Doug Lang worked. Anyway, talk to you much more when I see you! ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. How nice that my words reminded you of that film, thank you. The Sam D’Allesandro thing: Sam was going to do a reading at Beyond Baroque. When he was talking to the reading coordinator, he joked that he was Joe D’Allesandro’s son. The coordinator didn’t get that it was a joke and stated that he was Joe’s son the publicity for the reading. As far as I remember, that’s how that thing got started. Oh, right, Myrna Loy was in ‘The Best Years of Our Lives.’ She’s amazing in that. It’s all coming back to me. When I saw the title ‘Handsome Devil’ I thought it was that unauthorized Morrissey bio-pic that’s coming out, but no. I’ll go read! Everyone, Please go read Mr. E’s thoughts on/review of a new film called ‘Handsome Devil’ hereabouts. ** Jamie, Hi, man. It’s a really good book. The Golden Fur meet-up was good. They and Zac and I are doing a collaborative performance work together. They’ll do the sound score, me the text, and Zac the visuals (light and video). So we were talking about that, and we’ll start doing some hands-on work with them on Tuesday night. I think it’s going to be very interesting, very spooky and immersive. Does it look like there are prospective new living places in your neighborhood? Is it a tough … what do hey call it … market? Housing market? I like that word skedaddle, cool. I hope Monday enraptured you. Pinprick love, Dennis. ** Joseph, My pleasure, man. Yeah, agree re: blockbusters. Although when I still lived in LA, my friends and I liked to go see blockbusters at the biggest theater on opening night because it added something to watch the film amidst the hardcore set that was so excited to see them that they had to catch the first screening. ** Amphibiouspeter, Hi, Amphi. ‘I’m here, I’m real, promise!’: nice, really nice. I think I’m going to write that one a post-it or something and poke it onto the far corner of my screen. You take it easy too! xo. ** Liquoredgoat, Hi, D. Good read, I promise. I’m good, man, and you? I wrote to you yesterday. Did you get it? Awesome and thanks galore about the post! ** S., Hey. I think I might have nachos for dinner. Hard Rock Cafe. Tonight or maybe Wednesday. I like ‘Ticket’ a bunch. So-so on the ‘Cities’ trilogy. They’re better than his cat book. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Happy Monday! Lisbon, nice. Is she there to work on writing or something else? Was your brother’s birthday gathering nice or fun enough to outweigh the preponderance of family? My weekend was okay. I came down with a mild cold, so I didn’t go to the second Fujiko Nakaya event because it was chilly and wet out, and I hoped to protect my cold’s mildness, which I think I did. Met with Golden Fur, which I described to Jamie up above. A lot of working on stuff vaguely. Did some pushing to get us more editing time, but we haven’t had an answer yet. Your weekend sounds like it was going to be pretty filled up. Was it, in the good way, and how about Monday? ** H, Hi. The anthology is very good. The heat is gone here, at least for now. I’m sure it will come roaring back in a day or two. My favorite Fassbinder is ‘In a Year of Thirteen Moons’. ** Armando, Hey. It’s really hard to know what to say to that, and suicide is a difficult topic for me, but I hope you are seeing yourself more valuably now than when you wrote that. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben, Yes, the image on the cover is a painting by Brett Reichman. His paintings are really terrific in general. I didn’t care who won the Champions League because I know zero about that, but I was happy that Madrid won because it’s another feather in the cap of the great, great Zidane. Enjoy the ‘Twin Peaks’ party tonight! ** Steevee, Hi. So rough to go through all that physical and emotional confusion at the mercy of a chemistry experiment, but I hope the perfect mixture is settled on at or very soon after your appointment. ** Misanthrope, Welcome back, G! Sounds lovely from tip to stern: NYC. Aw, that kind of heartbreak. Best thing you can with that is to use it as a drug for the muse. McCarthy is fucking great, yeah. Especially the early books: ‘Outer Dark’, ‘Blood Meridian’, ‘Child of God’, ‘Suttree’. Definitely talk those pains up to the doc. You having that mesh in you has always given me the willies, but I’m no doctor. ** James Nulick, Hi, James. It has dropped. It’s full of great stuff. K&D did an excellent job. And they chose two of the fairly few things by me pre-GM Cycle that I’m still proud of. Yes, I’ll be there for the conference. Doing a panel, I think, and a reading, I think with Eileen Myles. Awesomeness incarnate on your excitable work on the new novel! ** Okay. A pal of mine in the real world is a big fan of Kim Ki-duk and asked me if I would do a Day devoted to him, and I did. See you tomorrow.