"Well, art is an act of violence. It is about penetration, about speaking to our subconscious and our moods at different levels."
- Nicolas Winding Refn
AA: I imagine your films don’t necessarily have a typical script. Do you begin with an image? A situation? A character? How does a new film begin for you?
CR: I do actually work with a very precise screenplay, actually like a Hitchcockian screenplay where everything is described. Basically it all comes from experience, from life. For example, this last film, Post Tenebras Lux, I had just finished my previous film; then, I had children and started building my house in the countryside. Of course, a lot of ideas and feelings developed. I tried to put all of those together in a form—that, in this case, certainly seems to be a strange form—but actually it has its own logic. It does make its own sense. Then I just build it up quite rapidly. I write my screenplays in two or three days. But I think about the films for a year or more. There are certain things, particular images—I want to be there, and I try to make a world for them. I write a screenplay that’s shot by shot, not a story. I write shots. I’m trying to visualize it, and then we go out and shoot the film. It’s a materialization process. For me, it’s as if the film already existed the moment I write it. [X]
Your body of work seems to question the status of the erotic in the modern city. The sense of alienation that inhabits your characters is frequently augmented by libidinal repression. Certain of your films - Vive L’Amour, The River, What Time is it There? - conclude with failed or distorted realizations of sexual desire. How do you view the role of the erotic in these works?
I want to express the failure of erotic desire to be realized in contemporary urban space. I would like to make my films about disappearing, like The Skywalk is Gone  and Goodbye Dragon Inn. The whole theatre is disappearing in that film! This subject is important to me because society changes so fast and everything disappears so fast - historical sites, culture. One day I walked to the area where Lee Kang-Sheng was selling watches [in What Time is it There?], and I realized that ‘the skywalk is gone.’ It happens in Asia like that, things just disappear. People in their forties have no way of finding traces of their childhood. Modern people are afraid of disappearance. Living in Taipei, for example, we constantly have to deal with compelling visual change. We ask the question: what do you love the most? Who do you love the most? You will lose them - it will happen in modern society. My films ask the question: how we can face the disappearance? The loss?
How did you first become involved in cinema? What about the cinematic form was particularly appealing to you?
My childhood really was a golden age for movies, in the ’60s and ’70s there was no other entertainment, all we had was movies. My grandparents were such fans they had to watch one movie a day. They lived in a small city in Malaysia where there were seven or eight huge theatres. [My grandparents] would sell noodles on the side of the street, and take turns to see movies; sometimes I double-shifted and saw the movie with each of them. Later I had to go back to my hometown, because my father found out I was just watching movies everyday.
[In college] I chose theatre without really knowing what difference there was between theatre and film. After graduation, I did theatre, experimental theatre, TV, but never thought would turn into film director. I didn’t know I would be here today.
Film really chose me, this type of film chose me. Unfortunately I don’t have a swimming pool, my films are more abstruse. (laughs) [X]
Hey, the list kept growing as someone gave me a playlist of movies I could find on Youtube. I’ll be sure to cite their tumblr and playlist at the end.
- La Double Vie de Veronique
- Shadows, Cassavetes
- Shock Corridor, Fuller
- The River, Renoir
- The Red Shoes, Powell
- Pastoral: To Die in a Country, Terayama
- Shivers, Cronenberg
- Harakiri, Kobayashi
Again, I’ll try to get more movies for you guys to enjoy but this and the previous list should be enough for now. Here’s the tumblr user that helped:dylzo If I tagged you I feel that you would appreciate the list more and help get it out there.
I’ve compiled a list of movies found on youtube. Feel free to add to the list :)
- Mauvais Sang, Leos Carax, 1986
- Vive L’Amour, Tsai Ming-Laing, 1984
- The Wayward Cloud, Tsai Ming-Laing, 2005
- A Story of Floating Weeds, Yasujiro Ozu, 1934
- Ohayo/Good Morning, Ozu, 1959
- I Was Born But…, Ozu, 1932
- Black Narcissus, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1947
- Opening Night, Cassavetes, 1977
- Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, Parajanov, 1964
- On The Silver Globe, Zulawski, 1987
- The Devil, Zulawski, 1972
- In The Real of Senses, Nagisa Oshima, 1976
- Silent Light/Luz Silenciosa, Carlos Reygadas, 2007
- Ugetsu, Mizoguchi, 1953
- Sansho the Bailiff, Mizoguchi, 1954
- The Life of Oharu, Mizoguchi, 1952
- Street of Shame, Mizoguchi, 1956
- The Crucified Lovers, Mizoguchi, 1954
- Sisters of Goin, Mizoguchi, 1936
- The Face of Another, Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1966
- Persona, Bergman, 1966
- Cries and Whispers, Bergman, 1972
- Wild Strawberries, Bergman, 1957
- Scenes from a Marriage, Bergman, 1974
- The Virgin Spring, Bergman, 1960
- 120 Days of Sodom, Pasolini, 1975
- La Cienaga/The Swamp, Lucrecia Martel , 2001
This is all I’ve managed to get so far, and it’s enough to get you started. After watching a movie or two you can always find more in the related videos section. Please reblog so that others can get the opportunity to see these great films. I’ll add to the list when I find more movies and free time.
Great Channel to subscribe to: ART CINEMA
Aside from dealing with the same subject matter, is there a common thread that runs through your yakuza films?
I haven’t given it much thought to whether there is some sort of common thread that runs through my films or my career, because as an actor it is important to try to achieve what you are required to achieve in a project rather than to think about the consistency of a series of similar or different movies. For instance, even if I work purely as an actor for other directors, I basically try to be as cooperative and faithful to the director’s instructions as possible, not thinking about my own ideas, not thinking about my priorities, I am only listening to the director. And when I work on my own movies, it is really the film that calls for a particular performance and it is important to convey that in each project. So it is really difficult for me to reflect upon my work and find out what is different or what has been added to each movie.
Filmmaker: Guilt is a central theme in the film, as Lee Kang-do metes out penalties for the supposedly “guilty,” but is overcome with guilt himself. Are the wages of brutality on the perpetrator a preoccupation of yours thematically?
Kim: I am really fearful of violence. Violence begets violence exponentially. Pieta is a film which aims to thaw this violent guy’s heart by holding his mother hostage. Kang-do hurts other families without thinking twice, but I hoped he would realize his crimes when he finally feels what it is like to have his own family harmed. We must learn that this age of ours is one of violence and that nobody is safe from violence. Once rooted, violence keeps growing, spreading, and getting nastier as we see every day. Just like wars between nations, violence is sowed and eventually grows uncontrollably like an over-populated pot of bean sprouts.
Pieta does not show but rather insinuates violence so that the audience will recall already-familiar images of cruelty and feel the suffering of those subjected to such violence. There are no scenes of actual bodily harm in the film, but you can feel what it would be like should you be crushed by a press machine. To me, the machines in the film are the same as missiles. We shudder whenever really reflecting upon how many nuclear warheads exist in the world. Even those who have created and possessed them are afraid of the power of such weaponry. Why, then, are we still building such lethal devices? Are we humans really that dumb? I cannot understand why our political leaders, who claim to be smart, continue this dangerous chess game with nuclear missiles for pawns.
What were some of the obstacles you encountered to bringing a foreign film to Japan?
There were small details, not anything big or noticeable, but small details that weren’t as I figured before getting to Japan and I had to admit once there. For instance, one funny thing about the sound was that in Iran, I wrote that [in one scene] we could hear an alarm — a car alarm — on the street. But when the Japanse staff heard that sound during production, they asked, “What is that sound?” And we said it was a car alarm. And they said, “What is a car alarm?” It turned out that they do not have this, because cars do not get stolen in Japan.
Another was that at the moment when [the main character] Akiko is hurt and the old man starts healing the wound. I wanted him to take her face in his hand or touch her hair. But the actor told me, “I would never do that. As an older man to touch a younger girl’s face, I would never do that.” We repeated in three takes, and he just refused. And I had to admit that a Japanese character probably wouldn’t do it. There were small things I had to accept in order to be loyal to Japanse habits.
“I didn’t see many films when I was a child, and I didn’t see television. Not particularly because my parents weren’t very keen on it, but just because the TV broke down and they didn’t care much about TV, so there wasn’t any television in the house. When I was about 15 or 16, my father probably felt bad about that so he bought a television with a VCR and lot of classic films. About a thousand films. Just by accident one of the first films I saw was a film by Tarkovsky called Nostalgia, and then I saw the rest. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe cinema could be like that. The only films I’d seen were like Superman or Star Wars. With Tarkovsky, I was seeing something made from reality itself, reality was transformed into a form of beauty, conveying so much feeling. I realized cinema could be as strong as music. It could even go further. You would be seeing real people doing real things, but all could be transfigured by the act of artistic creation. Since that moment, I decided I would like to make films.”