Monday, 21 November 2016

Samaritan Girl

Title: Samaritan Girl
Director: Kim Ki-duk
Released: 2004
Starring: Yeo-reum Han, Ji-min Kwak, Eol Lee, Hyun-min Kwon, Yong Oh, Gyun-Ho Im, Lee Jong-Gil, Shin Taek-Ki

Plot: Jae-Young (Yeo-reum Han) is an high school student who also moonlights as a prostitute while her best friend Yeo-Jin ( Ji-min Kwak) manages her dates and acts as a lookout as the pair plan to use the money to escape to Europe. However when Jae-Young killed trying to escape from the police Yeo-Jin trying to deal with the loss of her friend decides to track down every man Jae-Young slept with.

Review: Despite being viewed as the enfant terrible of Korean cinema, Kim Ki-duk for one reason or another has never managed to gain the same kind of name recognition that the likes of Takashi Miike or Sion Sono or even Park Chan Wook. Perhaps its due to his ability to move between making arthouse movies like “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring” and “3-Iron” aswell as more shocking fare like “Bad Guy” and “The Isle”. Here though he gives us a film which sits on the boundary line between his two styles.

To say this is a film about teen prostitution its a surprisingly upbeat movie with Jae-Young seeing no shame in what she is doing to raise the money the pair need for their tickets to Europe, though the reasons why are never clarified. Still Jae-Young who comes across like some otherworldly presence constantly reassures her friend that she enjoys these dates that the pair arrange for her, even citing the connection she feels with some of them in particular a musician (Yong Oh) who acts as the catalyst for the main meat of the film as following Jae-Young’s baffling escape attempt of jumping out of a forth story window and landing on her head, which somehow she survives only to later die in hospital asking to see the musician who she claims to be in love with.

This relationship that Jae-Young has with the relationship is one of the only times that we see any kind of tension between Jae-Young and Yeo-Jin and who are not only clearly best friends but at the same there is the hint of somthing else between them, more so when Kim Ki-duk seems so keen to include so many bathhouse scenes between the play

Its worth noting that this isn’t a film that you can watch questioning the logic of anything happening, because here Kim Ki-duk is flying in the face of logic and instead just telling the story he wants to tell. This of course is the only way I can explain why Yeo-Jin sees the best way of honouring her friend is by sleeping with all the men that Jae-Young did before returning their money. Perhaps its to try and find the same connection that Jae-Young had with these men who she previously is shown dismissing as being losers or perhaps its an attempt to live in her skin for awhile, the answer is unclear and certainly not clarified by the film.

The real twist here comes when Yeo-Jin’s police officer father Yeong-ki (Lee Eol) discovers what his daughter is doing though not understanding why nor choosing to investigate the reasons he instead embarks on personal mission to intimidate the clients. This imitation quickly escalates with Lee Eol seemingly channelling Beat Takashi’s performance in “Violent Cop” during these scenes as he shows up to the family dinner of one of the clients, unflinchingly slapping him around in front of his family before leaving as calmly as he entered, the fact that the man is shown throwing himself out of the dinning room window only serves as a grim encore to the scene. Yeong-ki’s mission against these men climax’s in a brutal toilet beatdown.

The final act of the film comes as something of a gentle let down with Yeo-Jin and her father head out to the countryside, both of them unable to tell the other about what they have been doing while the finale plays out with an air of unease as your not sure if her father plans to kill her off or not which going off his actions leading up to this spontanious visit to her mother’s grave it really could really go either way.

A strangely watchable film even though at times its unclear what is supposed to actually happening let alone the direction which Kim Ki-duk is choosing to take the film, something only made the more unpredictable considering his aforementioned love of playing with the audiences expectations of his work. At the same time while not as angry as his earlier films, it lacks the artistic whims of his later work as it falls between the two worlds and perhaps to this extent makes it the best starting place for his back catalogue.

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