The Udine Far East Film Festival 2012 features a retrospective section, which has turned into somewhat of a tradition. Having included features on Japanese pink films or Hong Kong cinema, the exploration of South Korean cinema was a part of the programme long awaited – and, readily welcomed.
During times of political and social repression, after a long period of government interventions and anti-communist policies, the film production in the country began to decline and continued decreasing constantly under the strict rule of the Motion Picture Act after its third revision. Staying true to their nature and their passion for film-making, some directors in Korea went on to create some of the most successful and representative productions of the history of Korean film, and there are five of those great minds, selected by Darcy Paquet to be featured in the special section, entitled ‘The Darkest Decade: Korean Filmmakers in the 1970s’: Im Kwon-taek, Kim Ki-young, Yu Hyon-mok, Kim Soo-yong and Ha Kil-chong, with two films each.
‘Pollen’ is the film to set the official start of the retrospective. Based on a novel by Lee Hyo-seok, this is a production that was set to bring something new to the Korean cinema, a sort of cutting edge quality, regardless of the hardships of censorship and government oppression in that period. It was a controversial release, even after the severe restriction of Ha‘s creative spark, and might have been a bit ahead of its time, as Ha attempts to discuss power and resistance in a tight correlation on a very abstract level – a subject of analysis also in the works of French philosopher Michel Foucault in the 80s.
However, the more anticipated film of the ‘darkest decade’ is Kim Ki-young‘s ‘Iodo’, an exploration of primitive impulses and experiences, set against the background of government forced campaign for modernisation and industrialisation. The late director, who died with his wife in a house fire in 1998, was a film-maker with a keen interest in making complicated, madly directed productions, that deal with profound social issues, but he was largely overlooked by audiences and critics, bar a few socially-successful productions.
‘Iodo’ is a film that brings experience down to the primal level and revels in its own unpredictability and force. Combined with the many other peculiarities – strengths of the film – Kim Ki-young‘s feature is, in fact, a heavy experience, yet ultimately quite beautiful. Named ‘one of the best Korean films ever made’ by Darcy Paquet, the film contrasts modernisation with traditional social experiences. In the era of industrialisation and looking towards the future, Kim makes a production about the primal, the primitive, the traditional, and focuses on the pursuit of reproduction as the driving force behind any species.