Rightwing Film Geek

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3-IRON (Kim Ki-duk, South Korea, 2004, 8)

An upgrade is very possible for this film, as it has been marinating wonderfully in my mind’s kino-eye, and the one flaw I thought 3-IRON had leaving the theater no longer seems like a problem, upon reflection. Take the basic style of Kim’s SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER … AND SPRING and THE ISLE (spare dialogue; archetypal characters; a plot as precisely segmented as a tangerine and almost as symmetrical). Only instead of a seasonal religious meditation or the latest act in the Korean Theater of Cruelty, make a mostly-silent absurdist comic parable. Much of the Buddhist recurrence in SPRING, etc., remains and so 3-IRON’s humor is mostly in the wryly amusing and serenely ironic category — like Tsai Ming-liang, only not as “boring” (or as stylistically radical).

In a series of short segments, drifter Tae-suk burgles a series of apartments — only he doesn’t steal anything, besides consume food and live in the home. He takes photos of himself in the homes — varyingly decorated according to the family in traditional Korean, modern Asian bourgeois, rich kitsch, bohemian and working class decors and he lives his vision of their lives for a few hours (and we come to think we know the families from their stuff and their pictures and seeing his squatting).

Oh … and he always does some gonzo stunt like do the family’s laundry, rig the scales, booby-trap a toy air gun. In one such burglary, battered wife Sun-hwa comes home unexpectedly and joins Tae-suk in his escapades. The “battle” for her affections between Tae-suk and her husband provides the strongest throughline for the rest of the episodic plot.

My one complaint is (or rather was) that the one prank the burglars play that goes seriously wrong — someone winds up dead, though it’s not exactly deliberate — is the one prank that is not atoned for, not rhymed nor ever comes full circle. But on reflection and prompting from (I think) Alex Fung, I decided that was really the point. The scene was more of a cosmic catalyst than a segment within the film’s schema, since it comes at approximately the midway point and splits the other pranks into “goes around” and “comes around.” The penance is done — a lot of it involving golf clubs (aside: Korean films seem to take a far more sanguine attitude toward what would unquestionably be considered police brutality in the West).

And in the end, the film takes a spiritual turn into invisibility that is just breathtaking because it’s both comic and sweetly moving. Everything by the end has more or less been righted because … well, just because that’s how the universe works.

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October 11, 2004 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Three-card S&M monty

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A HOLE IN MY HEART (Lukas Moodysson, Sweden/9th Circle of Hell, 2004, 0)

This vile movie has something to do with an apartment where a man and his friend shoot home-made porn with a street woman (the whole film is as ugly-looking as cheap porn — it resembles something shot on Super-8), while Sensitive Teen Son broods away in his room to speed-thrash music. A HOLE IN MY HEART is the most existentially unpleasant experience I think I have ever had in a movie theater. I literally turned away from the screen during a food fight when someone stuffs multiple cakes into someone else’s mouth, smears them over her lips and nose, and shoves them down her as if making her do deep-throat. Something just clicked in me. This was too much — and that’s saying something for a movie that has one character vomiting into another’s mouth, drooling closeups of labia-removal surgery, pissing in wine glasses, shit floating in the toilet bowl, live sex, a “snuff” scene, and a late scene where every last thing in the house is methodically smashed.

In post-film discussion at Toronto, Theo said Moodysson’s extremity was an attempt at meta-analysis, to ask whether ‘Some things shouldn’t be filmed.’ Except that, quite apart from whether the punishing first-level of the film is worth it, Moodysson has short-circuited the question by filming those “some things.” Or certainly short-circuited it by releasing A HOLE IN MY HEART. If “no” were the answer he came to or was an answer he wanted us to have the possibility of coming to, he would have had the integrity to burn the film once he realized he’d answered the question. Nor is everything “meta” … there is one scene of the streetwalker bending over, and Moodysson (not his characters) blocks the scene and places the camera to get a perfect moon shot, with the most appealing angle for us (not his characters) to drool over her ass.

The last five minutes are Moodysson’s attempt to redeem this vile waste of celluloid, by resorting to his signature “kids thrive amidst the adult irresponsibility they tolerate” theme, by having Sensitive Teen Professor of Feminist Studies tell his father where he gets sex all wrong. Benny Hill had the answer to that. In one sketch, he played a Chinese producer of chop-socky movies and he tells interviewer Henry McGee that his next film is heart-warming. “How?” “The hero runs into a home and slices up the family, rapes the mother, beheads the father, smashes all the furniture, and burns down the home.” (Pause) “How’s that heart warming?” “On the way out, he pats the dog on the head.”

The characters are so fundamentally stupid that it’s hard to get any sense that this home matters — the pornmaker says “we’re just giving people what they want. If this is immoral, then all of man has a problem.” Gee, ya think, Nimrod? You know, someone should start a religion based on that mighty insight — than people’s disposition to Sin is inherent, or Original, even. And if an account of one of the Q-and-As I heard is true, Moodysson himself is just as stupid.

A HOLE IN MY HEART has a conversation about the fact that light can kill creatures not used to it, and Moodyssoon cited that in defense of his film — “I’m naive enough to believe” shining a light on a bad part of the world can make its existence impossible, or something very close to that. How that sits alongside either any Original Sin reference or another conversation in the film about forms of life that survive in 400 degree steam, where life is impossible (but yet they exist) will have to be determined by someone other than myself. But let that go. “Naive” is too kind — if Moodysson actually believes that, he’s the stupidest man ever. Art works have been portraying bad stuff from the very beginning of civilization. Yet bad stuff keeps happening. MEDEA didn’t make impossible Andrea Yates (or thousands like her in the past 2400 years). ANTIGONE didn’t end the conflict between the City and the Gods. At some point, naivete becomes willful stupidity and/or exploitative pimping. And if A HOLE IN MY HEART isn’t that, nothing is.

October 11, 2004 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment