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November 15, 2011

Starz Denver Film Festival 2011 - Arirang

kim ki-duk.jpg

Kim Ki-duk - 2011
Finecut Digital Presentation

Kim Ki-duk calls his first person film a drama, and not a documentary. And I'm fine with that distinction. The film follows Kim as he shoots himself (with a video camera) in his little mountain town cabin, before he shoots himself )with a gun) at the end of his film. Except that Kim never literally killed himself, and while there are undeniable autobiographical elements to Arirang, Kim is also acting out, also in the literal sense, some of his concerns.

Between 2008 and early 2011, Kim chose to be a recluse following the near accidental death of actress Lee Na-young when filming Dream. Even though Lee recovered, and is still very active in Korean film and television, Kim felt responsible for what happened, questioning his own role as a filmmaker and the value of making films. Were that John Landis be as introspective as Kim.

For Kim, it was impossible to not film, so ingrained with fifteen features made between 1996 and 2008, and a handful of screenplays filmed by others. Parts of the Arirang are dialogues with himself, or two versions of himself, as well as his own demonstration of acting, repeating the same line several different ways. Kim also points out the irony of his winning awards from South Korea primarily for having won prizes at film festivals, wondering if any of the Korean officials have actually seen Kim's films, most of which have generated controversy for various reasons. Kim does take time to watch part of his most famous film, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring, with tears in his eyes.

The title comes from a traditional Korean folk song about love and loss. This is fitting in regarding that Kim sees his films as dramatizations of various Korean issues, of his view of the state of his country. Also, as Kim reminds the audience when discussing his life, unlike many of his peers, his origins were quite unpromising, dropping out of junior high, and working in a factory as a teenager. Kim's sense of self as an outsider might be considered as essential to his films.

Arirang could well be described as therapeutic as Kim has a new film, Amen, that premiered last September at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Like Arirang, the new film was shot on High Definition video, primarily by Kim himself, suggesting that at least for now, Kim is approaching his fimmaking less formally than with his previous work. That a new film has been produced so soon after the Cannes premiere of Arirang also suggests that the offscreen shootings by Kim with his handmade gun, were of Kim killing off some of his demons.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 15, 2011 07:42 AM