Monday, October 12, 2009

Less Seen Works of Ki-duk Kim

There are those who like the later work of Ki-duk Kim such as 3-Iron (Bin-jip, 2004).

I like his earlier work most.

I wrote in my imdb review of Crocodile (Ago-o, 96):

I saw this after The Isle (Seom, 2000), but it was made well before. It's such a beautiful, painful movie. It contains images that will never leave me. The film's protagonist, a lonely, loveless man, visits an underwater gazebo beneath a bridge in Seoul. He has a chair there, a table, a small gate. The scenes where he swims down to this subterranean retreat and simply stands there are so amazing I cried.

Characters express their best and worst emotions through violence in Ki-duk's films, and never has this concept been explored deeper than in Crocodile. The non-stop beatings, rapes and shovings have a cumulative effect on the viewer that puts you in the shoes of the film's hapless heroine. It's clear that not as much money was spent on Crocodile, but, like The Isle, its brilliance and brittle beauty is in its simplicity.
From my imdb review:

Ki-duk Kim continues his exploration of primal human behavior in
Birdcage Inn (Paran Daemun, '98). A master at depicting specific, "closed" environments, here he sets his story in a one-girl brothel in a seaside town. A man falls in love with the brothel's prostitute and this presents a dilemma for those who depend on her for survival. This is a more restrained, quieter film than the Korean director's Bad Guy, The Isle, Crocodile, or Address Unknown. The violence is less overt, the sex off-screen more than on-screen. For some, it will be a more accessible film. Personally, I would place it just below the four titles above, but that is in no way a slight on the movie. Recommended.

Unfortunately, Crocodile has not been released on DVD with English subtitles.

I saw it several years ago at the Melbourne International Film Festival.

Birdcage Inn is available on a DVD from Hong Kong's Winson Entertainment. The quality is close to rotten.


  1. I'm surprised CROCODILE hasn't been released subtitled in English. Recently, I bought Another World Entertainment's Scandinavian box release of CROCODILE, ADDRESS UNKNOWN and BIRDCAGE INN and I figured they didn't have English subs in order for them not to compete with their English/American counterparts. I haven't watched any of the films yet but usually AWE's picture quality is nothing short of great. I certainly look forward to watching them.
    index.php?n=catalogue&s=show&q=Asian Cinema&Id=JsRkRAw2lm94hdHsA

  2. Jack -- thank you for this link to AWE's site. There doesn't seem to be an interface for purchasing.

    Where would you suggest I buy these on-line? Subtitles or not, I must have them.

  3. Uhh, how can I say this... AWE's info on their page isn't quite right I'm afraid. :/

    Out of the three films only one of them is letterboxed. However, two of them DO have English subtitles. Unfortunately CROCODILE isn't one of them!

    CROCODILE and BIRDCAGE INN are in fullscreen while ADDRESS UNKNOWN is in widescreen.

    And unfortunately I don't know of any eShops that ship this box set to places outside of Scandinavia.

  4. Jack -- that's bizarre how CROCODILE is not widescreen or subbed.

    I can't understand why CROCODILE is so elusive. Not available in Korea at all.

    Could be a copyright/ownership issue, or licensing restrictions. Perhaps they're holding out for an English-language release.


    I'd snap up a Scandy version of ADDRESS UNKNOWN and BIRDCAGE because they're great.

    Thanks for the update.

  5. Crocodile is great. I waited so long to see it, guess it was shown on arte this or last year.
    And Birdcage Inn was uploaded on veoh, maybe it's still online.

  6. Missesgrim -- I agree completely with you on CROCODILE. It is so powerful and sad and beautiful. I hope you will look at BIRDCAGE INN, too.

    I'd also like to recommend the Korean THE HOUSEMAID. I "sense" it will strike a chord with you. It struck me like a bolt of welcome, transporting lightning.

    It is here:

    p.s. just replied to your reply about Saeki in your Blue Girl post. Sorry for terrible delay.

  7. Sorry that it took so long to answer you.
    I've seen Birdcage Inn a long time ago but I thought someone else might not have seen it yet, therefore the link.
    But my absolutely favourite Koran films are Oasis, A bloody Aria and Bad Guy.
    These films are so intense, they really changed my mind.

    Thanks for the link, I will have a look at it!

  8. Missergrim -- Thanks for mentioning A BLOODY ARIA. I have not seen it. I like OASIS and BAD GUY very much.