Brutal, beautiful South Korean film jolts Venice

Tue Sep 4, 2012 9:07am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE (Reuters) - "Pieta", a new film from South Korea, is so violent it is hard to watch, but the story of a pitiless loan shark and the mysterious woman who claims to be his mother turns into an absorbing thriller and moving love story rolled into one.

Director Kim Ki-duk pulls no punches in his tale of ruthless revenge and redemption, and lead actress Cho Min-soo, whom he describes as his "raven-haired Mary", is a favorite to take the best actress prize when the festival ends on Saturday.

While audiences in the West may struggle to find a theatre willing to screen Pieta, an award at the world's oldest film festival may ensure at least limited distribution, and the film is also a serious contender for the best picture Golden Lion.

The film opens with Kang-do, a lanky, expressionless debt collector terrorizing the dingy metal workshops where impoverished laborers eke out a meagre existence in a sprawling shanty town in Seoul.

Setting the plot amid squalid backstreets in the shadow of gleaming downtown skyrises, Kim makes Pieta a broader commentary on greed, the failings of the financial system and how society as a whole must take some blame for looking the other way.

"I feel that this movie in particular is a movie dedicated to humanity, to our difficult situation in an extreme capitalist crisis," Kim told reporters after a press screening of Pieta and ahead of its red carpet world premiere on Tuesday.

"That's why you may feel there have been changes in this compared with my previous movies," he added of his 18th feature film, speaking through a translator.

SHOCKING SCENES   Continued...

Director Kim Ki-duk (L) poses with actors Lee Jung-jin (R) and Jo Min-soo during the photocall of the movie "Pieta" at the 69th Venice Film Festival in Venice September 4, 2012. REUTERS/Tony Gentile