Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I'm no prude, but every so often I have to write the Rex Reed review. "Pieta" is a vile movie made by, about, and for sociopaths. It is, as the late Roger Ebert wrote of "I Spit on Your Grave," a geek show.

Despite its Italian name (the film won the Golden Lion in Venice, which proves there's no accounting for taste), "Pieta" has been transmitted to us from South Korea, where provocateur director Kim Ki-Duk sets this tale of Kang-Do, a pitiless and amoral henchman employed by a loan shark to collect on his debts. (This guy takes usury to a new level; a $3,000 debt becomes $30,000 in a matter of months.)

Though we later learn the loan shark never ordered him to do so, Kang-Do employs the most brutal and vicious forms of physical violence to kill, maim and paralyze the debtors, all of which Kim films in gleeful and gory detail. While a human being might turn the camera away from a die-casting machine wrenching a man's hand off his arm or another man forced to cast his legs in concrete and jump from a second-story scaffold, for Kim that's just when the fun begins.

After this last incident, a woman shows up at the scene claiming to be Kang-Do's mother, who gave him up at birth. He disbelieves her and pulls a knife on her that could cut all the galbi in Seoul, but he's forced to reconsider when she stomps on the victim's barely-attached leg because he told her son to burn in hell. Later, Kang-Do, whom we'd seen unconsciously masturbate himself to orgasm during a dream, penetrates the mother vaginally, telling her, "If it's true that I came out of there, I want to go back in!" She protests at first but soon relents.

This was only one of half a dozen times I resolved to get up and walk out. Kim stages immolations, and stabbings, and the slaughter of eels and rabbits, and the ingestion of all sorts of objects not intended for human consumption. (About the only missing indicium of a serial killer is bedwetting.) All of this he films on the cheap in ugly digital video that only makes the experience more depressing.

"Pieta" is a movie that shocks the conscience of decent people for no other reason or purpose than that it can. It has nothing to say and exists only to stimulate the most visceral and involuntary of reactions.

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