Pieta Screen 21 articles



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  • Pieta is maybe one of the worst films of 2012, not because it is badly made but because it strains so desperately to be intellectual and contemporary. Not only does it try to touch on far more topics than any one film could handle—“extreme capitalism” (as the director puts it), the duality of feminism, the role of family in society, religion, crime and brutality, etc.—but it does so in such a backward way that trying to untangle its ideological confusion is almost impossible.

  • One might assume that the grossest thing that could happen while watching a movie is that one’s audience neighbour sneezes, his projectile snot landing on one’s shirt. One would be wrong, given that the movie being watched is Kim Ki-duk’s Pieta, in which a son forces his mother to masticate on a piece of flesh he has carved out of his thigh and, for good measure, shoves his hand into mom’s private parts.

  • The worst major festival winner since the Palme d’Or for Amour.

  • Based on the thirty-some minutes that I saw—I checked out when the anti-hero (or whatever) stuck his hand into the vagina of a woman claiming to be his mother and starting yelling, “IS THIS WHERE I CAME FROM?”—it’s either a mediocre parody of Extreme Asian Cinema or one of the worst movies ever made.

  • Kim's provocations ring so profoundly hollow that it's frankly astounding that they've managed to register with anyone at all, let alone the purveyors of one of world cinema's major prizes. The manner in which the filmmaker, like the staunchest secret conservatives, fervently prods taboos only serves to reinforce them.

  • Such an unpleasant mise-en-scène might be tolerable if Kim was interested in examining the social and emotional reasons for its existence. But the director only views misery in simple terms, composing images of sadism with a level of fleeting enjoyment that borders on the obscene... These images carry an inherent vileness that fits right in line with Pieta’s view of the mankind as a greedy, spiteful force that only deserves one fate. This is Kim’s cinema of repellence, and he can keep it.

  • A movie genre based on pure physiology actually exists—it’s called porno. Why the premiere of Pieta took place in the main competition of the Venice Film Festival, and not on PunishTube, remains a mystery.

  • Protagonist Kang-do (Lee Jung-jin) might make his living off of crippling unpaid debtors, but upon further examination the realization hits that the true cripple may in fact be Kang-do, and beyond that perhaps Kim himself.

  • A lumbering, rust-and-neon-coloured showcase for another of the director’s pseudo-sympathetic bullyboys, Pieta could, if one were so inclined, be read as an allegory for the struggles of filmmaking and the masochism of spectatorship. (Given Kim’s ample self-pity, on grotesque display in last year’s Arirang, such a reading would not seem so off-base.)

  • The cheesy thawing process inherent to this redemptive tale of a loan shark learning to move beyond a life of simplistic destruction (from heedlessly jerking off into his sheets to planting a tree!) is too generalized to be interesting, and also strikes a squirmy balance between sappy and disturbing.

  • One of Kim's dumber ideas, milked for maximum degradation and schmaltz. As is often the case, however, scattered moments surprised me with their raw power—don't want to get into spoilers, but I was moved in spite of myself by e.g. the final resting place of the sweater Mom's knitting (not where it's found, which anyone could see coming, but where it is in the very next shot).

  • I was naturally dumbfounded when such a mediocre piece of claptrap won the Golden Lion at Venice.

  • I’d love to go into Kim’s dramaturgical singularities, his editing rhythms, the synopsis, et al to set up a more all-encompassing idea of what Pieta does right and (more often) wrong, but the truth is I couldn’t stop staring at that fucking pixel—or at least the zone of the pixel in its absence, each cut promising its Christ-like re-emergence from the murk of his mise en scène—long enough to follow whatever the hell motivated this incest.

  • Shock value is the apparent goal, given the brutality of the violence and the way that desperation turns so quickly to incest. Unfortunately, the film works better conceptually than it does in practice. One can observe the constant focus on money or the way that capitalist machinery literally eats the laborers here, but any intended power is undercut by the hazy video aesthetic and the broad psychological strokes.

  • Extreme psychology (everyone's a cripple) which is close to non-existent psychology, underlain with an animalistic coarseness (actual animals - eels, rabbits, chickens - play a part in the plot) then, further down, sentimentality and heavy irony.

  • As with anything, presentation can make even the most noxious tale somewhat tolerable. Kim has a plain, direct, almost earnest directing style that makes following “Pieta” on one level satisfying, even as its unsatisfying destination is never for a second in doubt.

  • It’s likely that two incestuous interactions between the purported blood relatives will be a deal breaker for most viewers, and both of these scenes admittedly play with a degree of poseur provocation. Stick with the film, though, and you might find yourself strangely moved by its oddball mix of ripe melodrama, overwrought violence and regional verisimilitude.

  • Pieta succeeds in repulsing and enlightening viewers simultaneously, even if its views on self-sacrifice and redemption are cynical. Kim depicts violence and sexuality with frankness; they are physical manifestations of fear and desperation rather than an opportunity for exploitation. Like Scorsese's explorations of Catholic guilt, Pieta evenly juxtapositions these manifestations with the eternal struggle of the spiritual experience.

  • It's during the first hour, however, that Kim's expertly modulated morality play is most gripping, presenting Kang-do's hand-smashing, leg-breaking brutality for profit as a reflection of a Korean society in which the industrial working class is crushed underfoot by corporate capitalist development. Alas, after establishing a central parent-child relationship rife with wacko biblical undertones, the director finds nowhere to take his story except into standard vengeance territory...

  • After the relatively mellow Airirang and Amen (both 2011), Korean shock auteur Kim Ki-duk returns to form with this brutal, unyielding exploitation film... This is brilliant in some stretches and deplorable in others, with the director's usual extreme violence and depraved sexuality.

  • Morally cunning and with a tone as black as pitch, “Pieta,” the 18th film from the South Korean director Kim Ki-duk, is a deeply unnerving revenge movie in which redemption is dangled like a cat toy before a cougar.

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