Blood brothers

Jeonju film festival was a new occasion to shed a light on Kim Gok 김곡 and Kim Seon 김선, two twin brothers making indie films in Korea since a decade. You may have never heard of them, but you will very soon. Because their next film, White 화이트, is long-time awaited and will be released this June  : it’s a commercial horror film, notably starring Ham Eun-jeong
함은정, well-known as the singer of T-Ara, hugely famous K-pop girls band.

It looks fun, when knowing the story revolves around a K-pop girls’ band who’ll be surrounded by murders :

Brothers Kim are sincerely outraged by the capitalist, conservative protestant society embodied by the actual president of Korea

But when you look a the twins’ previous films, White looks extremely exciting. It’s indeed a project which recalls good times of Jang Sun-woo 장선우 (whose one of the film gave the the title of this blog) in Korea, and the best horror movies of the seventies in the States : when ultra underground and politically (left wing) engaged world went to clash with the big entertainment. Because Kim Gok and Kim Sun are well-known in the korean film industry for prolific works (already 17 films), but so experimental that they’ve never been properly realeased. Some of them went to famous film festivals still, until Venice.

Anti Gas Skin 방독피 (2010)

Kogals 고갈 had a very limited release in 2009 but Anti Gas Skin (2010) 방독피 is still waiting for theaters. It’s a breath-taking portrait of a Korea where everybody is totally fucked-up in the head : a girl kind of disturbed by her perverted father is convinced she’s a wolf and becomes the leader of terrorist adolescents who’ll blow up Seoul. Her father is running for the city of Seoul and is totally paranoiac. He’s an obvious metaphor of the actual president, Lee Myung-back, former mayor of Seoul. The third major character is an American GI driven mad by the loss of her Korean girlfriend.

The film is orchestrated like a macabre ballet and ends in total craziness. This film cannot obviously be shown in Korean multiplexes, but it could be a hit for overseas viewers looking for a view on Korea you never imagined, and also pure cinematic threat close to the best films of Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Kairo, Cure, Tokyo Sonata…).

The filming of Anti Gas Skin is sharply precise, the richness of image very surprising for such a low budget movie, and the huge work on the sound reminds David Lynch. The brothers maintain such a climate of deep terror in their mise en scene that you totally understand why investors have bet on such crazy guys to achieve a horror film. You bet they have made a kind of promise with the devil, because the brothers Kim are sincerely outraged by the capitalist, conservative protestant society embodied by Lee Myung-bak. You wonder how far they’ve managed to keep a bit of this raging political faith in a mainstream genre film.

Self referential Traverse

Their beliefs bring a tremendous inner power to Anti Gas Skin, and an even more delirious energy to a film Kim Sun signed under his name, with an unbearable title : Self Referential Traverse : Zeitgeist and Engagement. Nevermind that nonsensique title, just consider the pitch : a policeman in plastic (one pictured on the first photo) is fighting an invasion of rats, but also the intrusion of a sumptuous young girl playing flute, who’ll make him cum. Well, roughly speaking. Because he’s above all driven totally insane. But his biggest problem maybe that his mother is a very well-known political figure in Korea, Park Geun-hye 박근혜, daughter of the dictator Park Chung-hee, and former leader of Lee Myung-bak’s party. Kim Sun just put a photo of her on the body on a woman and that’s an example of the minimalist but yet inventive style of the film.

Kim Seon’s inspiration is indeed as various as his budget is tiny. Almost all seem to have been shot in his apartment, with rats and plastic policeman in image-per-image animation, a vintage technique perfectly handled here, such as did Michel Gondry in his debuts. The film seems like a hilarious psychedelic trip, a big laugh to the face of Korea. Then, with White, the same guys will give the exact reverse, a big chill.


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