Kim Ki-duk's PIETA deservedly beat out Mallick's TO THE WONDER, De Palma's PASSION, and Anderson's THE MASTER to win Venice's Golden Lion Award in 2012; THE MASTER came second.
It's encouraging to see that politics, hype, and big money don't always hold the winning cards in these festivals.
I recently caught PIETA and was blown away by it. Easily my favorite Kim Ki-duk film since CROCODILE and THE ISLE, it is a brutal, unsentimental, yet touching tale of a debt collector who will do anything to collect... until a strange woman who may or may not be 'family' enters the picture.
With recent efforts like TIME, BREATH, THE BOW, and DREAM, the director's ideas have failed to coalesce into a satisfactory whole. Although imbued with strong concepts and deft execution on low budgets, they have lacked the audacity of earlier works such as THE ISLE, ADDRESS UNKNOWN, BAD GUY, CROCODILE, and BIRDCAGE INN. Thankfully, PIETA gets the balance exactly right, and is entirely satisfying as both a visceral and a deeply emotional experience.
The film is filled with stunning revelations and bursts of cringe-worthy violence as it critiques the excesses of capitalism and the aftermath it leaves us . Set in a typically confined Kim milieu, the drama plays out intimately, and Kim never takes easy roads to dramatic peaks. Blessed with truly amazing lead performances, it's a textbook example of a brilliant concept realized brilliantly, and without the compromise that buckets of money bring.
For the faint-hearted, this is one to steer well clear of. For the adventurous cinephile, PIETA is acidic cinematic ejaculate blown across the face of convention.
...and made for 1/50 of the cost of its closest contenders.