Romances end in blood and the frail hopes of individuals are torn apart in a vile karmic continuity of colonialism, civil war and occupation. After surviving Japanese colonization, Korea ...
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At South Korea's border with the North, troops guard the coast. Each bullies those ranking beneath him; tensions are high. PFC Kang and his friend Private Kim are on patrol when drinking ... See full summary »
Violent thug Crocodile lives under a bridge by the Han River in Seoul together with a peddling boy and a homeless old man. Crocodile saves a beautiful young woman Hyun-Jung from suicide by ... See full summary »
Jae-Young is an amateur prostitute who sleeps with men while her best friend Yeo-Jin "manages" her, fixing dates, taking care of the money and making sure the coast is clear. When Jae-Young... See full summary »
On a fishing boat at sea, a 60-year old man has been raising a girl since she was a baby. It is agreed that they will get married on her 17th birthday, and she is 16 now. They live a quiet and secluded life, renting the boat to day fishermen and practicing strange divination rites. Their life changes when a teenage student comes aboard...
Mute Hee-Jin is working as a clerk in a fishing resort in the Korean wilderness; selling baits, food and occasionally her body to the fishing tourists. One day she falls in love to ... See full summary »
Two Korean ex-pats meet in Paris by chance encounter. One a petty thief and wannabe artist/painter (Chong-Hae), the other a tough guy (Hong San). Hong San saves Chong-Hae from a gang of ... See full summary »
Romances end in blood and the frail hopes of individuals are torn apart in a vile karmic continuity of colonialism, civil war and occupation. After surviving Japanese colonization, Korea became the first war zone of the Cold War. The legacy of war remains today in this divided country. Three forlorn teenagers, Chank-guk, Jihum and Eunok are figures in the landscape of this story, which highlights the global implications of a very Korean reality. None of them is able to escape the withering pull of tragedy. All desperate pleas for love and redemption are returned stamped in red with
Not unlike the Oscar Wilde play from which my "One Line Summary" for this comment is co-opted the director of `Address Unknown' requires his audience to think.
In all of the Kim Ki-duk films I have seen (The Isle, Address Unknown, Bad Guy) what lies on the surface differs greatly from what lies beneath it. He is working in a language of metaphor and allegory with characters that range from caricature to archetype to fodder. By fodder I mean they are impenetrable and near impossible to empathize/sympathize with for the sole reason that emotional attachment is not the director's intention. He is creating a fictional world made to comment on the world we live in.
By exploring the eclectic residents of an isolated South Korean village in close proximity to an American military base Ki-duk is dealing with a number of issues such as globalization (the base, the bullies who moved to America), language (the theme of English, the comic interlude of the Playboy translation), gender (obvious), race (obvious), history (that family whose father turned out to be a traitor, the constant references to the past from the veterans), tradition (the archery), relationships (Korean girl and U.S. solider), war (obvious) and violence (obvious). The bleak, violent, at times repulsive world the film takes place in is so over-the-top that the audience can't help but think that it is just a means to an end.
In films like `The Isle' and `The Bad Guy' the black humour and sarcasm are more evident. `Address Unknown' is a tad more subtle but there are more than enough hints to indicate the film should not be taken at face value. An excellent example is the constant, almost laughable violence.
Kim Ki-duk is one of a handful of directors striving to create intelligent cinema that is accessible as well. The East is bursting at the seams with talent and I really hope it starts to get the recognition it deserves.
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