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Kim Ki-Duk: My Latest Obsession

With television becoming more bearable these days (Bob’s Burgers, The Blacklist, American Dad, Sleepy Hollow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D to name a few), I took some wise advice from a filmographer friend to check out Kim Ki-Duk. My friend and I had been musing about the insane world of David Lynch. He clued me into a few things I didn’t know–the reverse filming of the burning house at the end of Lost Highway, the fact that Hector was supposed to grab a mic for the “In Dreams” scene in Blue Velvet, but instead grabs a mechanic’s lamp and other sordid, obscure Lynchisms. (For the record, here are 25 things you may or may have never wanted to know about Blue Velvet).

In much the same way that Lynch takes a hammer to our perception of reality, Ki-duk does the same, but with less elbow. With Lynch, there are moments where I had to cover my eyes: the outdoor scene with Pullman’s character rounding a corner that lasts an eternity, while you wait for Robert Blake’s pasty smile to jump out at you (yeah, don’t watch these movies alone).

I got a chance to check out Ki-Duk’s 2006 film Time. Incidentally, it was the last night in my apartment in Lowell, Massachusetts. Everything was in a box, which can feel surreal all unto itself. The Korean film features one of the strangest romances I’ve ever seen portrayed on film between Seh-hee and Ji-woo. It involves fanatical love, sex scenes on low-lying mattresses with exaggerated sound effects, salvaged only by their raw intensity and passion.

It was 3 am. I had to get up early. Yet, I was drawn in like a magnet, eyes fighting sleep, much like I was with Mulholland Drive. With Ki-Duk, however, there is more of a promise of resolution, a proportion of humanity, and more pronounced commentary about the way we perceive ourselves through the eyes of others. Of course, that kind of commentary is there with Lynch, just a lot more sonorous.

In one particular scene, Seh-hee desperately attempts to convince Ji-woo of her “old self”. During their meeting, her face is covered by a mask that dons a creepy, Cheshire smile. It’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen on film, between the imagery of fragile farce and sheer misery, Ki-Duk proves his caliber as a touching, yet surreal director. In a time where celebrities are donning butt implants, it’s interesting to note that Asian stars are falling to many of the same pressures. K-Pop stars are now getting blepharoplasty or “double eyelid” surgery to look…well, less Asian.

Ki-Duk is making his rounds right now with his new film “Moebius”.  “Dream” is another riveting film from Ki-Duk that is available on Netflix.

Don’t miss out. He’s a beautiful director.

And while we’re on the topic of elucidating the feminine mystique, television has been churning out some tough, intelligent female characters (who aren’t all white, thank you very much).  Elizabeth Keen on The Blacklist, Abbie on Sleepy Hollow, Melinda May (aka “The Cavalry”), as well as Skye (a “hacktivist”) on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are proving that audiences actually appreciate watching empowered women who aren’t either insane, sex-crazed or emotionally detached.


Um, Yes. Let’s keep this pattern going. I like it.

About Kristen Damasida

Writer and Photographer for Virago Magazine, Kristen grew up listening to vinyl and highlighting the dictionary. Her work has appeared in IrockJazz.com, The East Harlem Journal, Boston's Culturehive, the Ithacan and other publications. Her love of music cannot be eclipsed by her love of words. She's been coined the "Akira Kurosawa of Blogs" by such people as herself. An aspiring musician, she has a serious penchant for peach-flavored anything, multi-tasking, slow-paced thrillers and dreams of going back to South America, laying on the beach, and drinking from a coconut.

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