Monday, September 23, 2013

My Answer to the Latest Criticwire Survey Question: Movies Ohters Are "Just Plain Wrong" About

I’ve decided from now on, I’ll just print the Criticwire question of the week directly, rather than recap. I started recapping when I answer more than 50 at one time, but now, I’ll just print the question. This is this weeks:

Q: It's important for critics to keep an open mind, but there are some cases where it feels like no sane person could differ. What's a movie or a show where you feel like anyone who doesn't agree with you is just plain wrong?

Typically, I’m a different strokes kind of guy. While I’ll engage in intelligent debate with those who want it, I really don’t try to change people’s mind too often. I explain my point of view, and if they don’t like it, I just shrug my shoulders, and move on. Not every movie is made for everyone. But there are some examples of where I think people who disagree with me are flat out wrong.

If you don’t think Wall-E is Pixar’s best movie, you’re wrong. If you think Spike Lee’s Network-in-blackface satire Bamboozled is offensive because it uses blackface, you’re wrong. If you’re one of the critics engaging in revisionism, and trying to claim Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate as some kind of masterpiece, you’re wrong. If you think the Star Wars prequels “raped your childhood” you’re wrong.

But the film – or more accurately filmmaker – I think people who disagree with me are flat out wrong about is Kim Ki-Duk – and more specifically, his film Pieta, which was released earlier this year, after winning the top prize (on a technicality) at last year’s Venice Film Festival.

The film, inexplicably, has a 75% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Many critics have praised the film – some saying it’s subtle, or it sneaks up on you, or it has “thematic weight”, or is about the dehumanizing effect of the current economy – one critic even called it “one of the more delicately crafted character studies in modern cinema”. What the fuck!

Pieta is a horrible film – a shallow, pathetic film, about a shallow pathetic character. He is a loan shark, who takes out insurance policies on the people he lends money to, and when they cannot pay it back, he cripples them and collects the claim (get it – he cripples people physically, as the debt cripples them financially). Leave aside the absurdity of the insurance scam he’s running, this “commentary” on the economic situation is facile at best. Then, the characters “long lost mother” shows up – and he does what anyone would naturally do in this situation – grabs her by the vagina and yells “is this where I came from” – and then proceeds to rape her, after which, the two develop a close mother-son bond – with this psychopath happy to have his mommy back in his life, until, of course, Kim pulls the rug out from under the audience yet again.

The cinema of Kim Ki-Duk is full of these violent losers, who he portrays as sympathetic outsiders – cast outs from society, who do the most horrific things, but Kim always forgives their trespasses. Sorry, Kim Ki-Duk is a horrible director – he’s films are juvenile and shallow – yet because he mixes extreme violence with moments of silence, he has somehow convinced people he’s some sort of Master (that TIFF put his latest film – Moebius – in the Masters program alongside filmmakers like Jia Zhang-ke, Jafar Panahi, and Catherine Breillent – a filmmaker I don’t really like, but at least respect is ridiculous. Yes, most of the time I’m a “different strokes for different folks” kind of guy when it comes to people’s taste in movies. But if you like Kim Ki-Duk – you’re wrong.

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