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Director Kim enhances reputation of Korean films

2004/09/18 | 241 views | Permalink | Source

Director Kim Ki-duk won the Silver Lion for Best Direction and two unofficial awards at the 61st Venice Film Festival last Saturday with his 11th movie "3-Iron", adding to his collection of international awards.

This came only seven months after he won the best director prize at the Berlin Film Festival for "Samaria", and made one of the most controversial of Korean directors one of the most celebrated.

Kim, 44, has provoked extreme responses from critics and audiences for tackling challenging themes and marginal characters on the thin line between reality and fantasy.

This junior high school dropout's prolific career began with "The Crocodile" in 1996 after he returned from an artistic stint in Paris from 1990 to 1993. The movie features a low-life who saves a girl from committing suicide, sexually exploits her and then falls in love with her before ending both their lives.

Kim's third movie "Birdcage Inn" (1998), which describes the conflict between a prostitute and a college student of same age who make peace with each other, was invited to international film festivals including those in Berlin and Moscow.

Subjects such as prostitution, rape and murder have dominated Kim's films, earning him a reputation as the Korean movie industry's enfant terrible. Prostitutes are main characters throughout his filmography. In "The Isle" (1999), a prostitute falls into an addictive physical relationship with a cop who committed murder. In "Bad Guy" (2001), a gangster forces the college girl to becoming a prostitute, and he becomes her pimp. In "Samaria", a teenager embarks on a sexual exploitation that leads her father to a murder rampage.

Regardless of these provocative themes, which simultaneously generated intense dislike and rave reviews, Kim has been recognized for his cinematography and direction - first demonstrated in an underwater living room scene in his debut film "The Crocodile".

In this year's "3-Iron", Kim featured actress Lee Seung-yeon, plays a battered woman locked up in an abandoned house, and Kim boldly dispenses with dialogues. There is none before the movie's closing sequence.

The film was shown at the Venice Film Festival as a "Film Sorpresa", or "Surprise Screening".

Besides winning international awards, one of Kim's latest films "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring (2003)" is reported to be performing strongly in the United States and in Europe. The art film spans the life of an acolyte Buddhist monk symbolically in parallel with the changing seasons. It has drawn more than 300,000 viewers, earning $2.3 million at the box office in the United States over the last 22 weeks.

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