July 21 Movie recommendation: PIETA (M18)

Cinema still: Pieta starring Lee Jung Jin (L) and Cho Min Su.



104 minutes/ Saturday & Sunday at Cathay Cineleisure

South Korean writer-director Kim Ki Duk is a polarising figure and this is his 18th work. In two screenings organised by the Singapore Film Society, viewers will get to view this work in a downtown cinema rather than in a museum or arts centre screening room.

Gang-do (Lee Jeong Jin), a knee-breaker for a debt collection agency, has a perm on his head and a hole where his heart should be. One day, an older woman, Mi-son (Jo Min Soo, both above), shows up at his door claiming to be the mother who abandoned him as a baby.

This work is the director at his best, or worst, depending on your view, and showcases his tropes: Animals are shown being hurt and dying; a woman is sexually humiliated; various high-minded notions of fate, redemption and sacrifice are illustrated with scenes of casual cruelty that will leave you gasping.

Lyrically shot and paced, and crammed with haunting ideas and images, it is also unapologetically Korean: the grease of the machine shops, the smell of frying eel and kimchi, the braying boorishness of the blue-collar types and their fatalism are all palpable.

Kim knows and loves his working-class milieu - that is, when he is not torturing its denizens.

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