[KS] Kim Ki-Young retrospective at Lincoln Center, New York, March 12 - 18

nkw88 at hotmail.com nkw88 at hotmail.com
Wed Mar 5 14:21:06 EST 2008

Finally, Kim Ki-Young Retrospective will be at Lincoln Center, New York, March 12 - 18.
If you live near New York, you'd better not miss this rare chance to see the most unique Korean films.

Noh, Kwang Woo
Southern Illinois University

Infernal Machines: The Films of Kim Ki-Young

March 12 – 18, 2008

"Kim Ki-young is a true artist, a
filmmaker who boldly makes films in his own voice, rough as it may be,
in a country in which everybody else is busy imitating films from
abroad.” —Byeon In-sik, Films Monthly (1978)

If one were to poll the newest generation of
Korean filmmakers—artists such as Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho, Hong
Sang-soo among others—as to which earlier Korean filmmakers have had an
impact or influence on their own work, the name most frequently
mentioned would be Kim Ki-young. A born maverick, Kim’s work
encompassed the range of Korean cinema: The Housemaid (1960) became the biggest box-office success in Korean film history, while later works such as Carnivore  (1984) and The Woman of Fire ’82
(1982) established the look of the low-budget, independent films of
their era. Even when making literary adaptations, Kim (who frequently
wrote or re-wrote his scripts) would almost completely transform the
source material, leaving at best a theme or a setting as the link to
the original. 

Born into a family of artists in South Korea, Kim spent some time after
high school in Japan, where he first discovered a wide range of foreign
culture, especially Greek tragedies, Ibsen and Eugene O’Neill. After
Korea’s liberation from Japanese control he returned home and enrolled
in medical school in Seoul, but his interest in the arts, especially
theater, continued; during the Korean War Kim became part of a film
unit in Pusan run by future writer Oh Young-jin and sponsored by the
United States Information Service. After the armistice Kim joined the
emerging South Korean film industry, although unhappily only one of his
films made in the 1950s, Yangsan Province, can be seen today. With The Housemaid,
his ninth film, Kim created the template that would structure so much
of his future work. Kim’s characters frequently find themselves trapped
in harmful situations, often of their own making. Their escape is
blocked by various social norms or practices; indeed, the harder they
try to escape, the further in they are pulled. An instinctual artist,
Kim always seems ready to abandon correct or tasteful form for a
powerful visual or aural effect. The rawness of the emotions on screen
is more than matched by the directness of his cinematic style.

Although Western audiences might find a certain “B-movie” quality to
Kim’s work, for most of his career he worked on well-funded projects
with many of Korea’s top stars. He stopped working in the mid-’80s, by
which point he had become completely marginalized within the Korean
film industry. Happily, with the emergence of the Korean New Wave in
the ‘90s, a revival in interest in Kim’s by-then forgotten work
emerged, culminating in a major retrospective at the Pusan Festival in
1997, securing his place in Korean film history. Tragically, he died in
a fire in his home just a few months later. –– Richard Peña


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