The Department of Film presents the first complete U.S. retrospective of writer-director Kim Ki-Duk (b. 1960, Bonghwa), a self-taught maverick Korean filmmaker whose work has enriched international cinema with its luminous intensity. This 14-film exhibition includes several features never before seen in the United States, giving audiences a rare chance to chart the development of the director’s sensuous, sensational imagery and wild and haunting narratives.
Kim Ki-Duk was a factory worker, soldier, priest-in-training, and, between 1992 and 1995, a street artist in France, where he discovered cinema through films like Leos Carax’s Les amants de Pont-Neuf and Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs (both 1991). After winning a screenwriting competition in Korea, Kim was able to make, without any formal training, his first feature, Crocodile (1996). Kim’s debut film, long out of circulation, heralded the arrival of a furious young self-taught talent with a vision that, brutal though it is, is grounded in redemption. Over the next 11 years, 13 more films followed, including three of his best-known films in the United States, the libidinous The Isle (2000), the Buddhist-inflected Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring (2003), and an elliptical treatise on invisibility, 3-Iron (2004).
Kim’s films cohere into a vivid and compelling body of work characterized by sweeping camera movements and long, richly composed shots. They are populated by characters, uneasy in their social situations, who adopt silence as a protection and whose reactions tend to be brutal; what distinguishes these narratives is what follows this savagery. His films take place in a world sometimes circumscribed by water, but always situated in a cinematic space a couple of degrees sharper than reality. All films are directed by Kim, from South Korea, and in Korean with English subtitles, unless otherwise noted.
Organized by Laurence Kardish, Senior Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art; and Hahn Dong-Sin, founder, Open Work, New York.