Not long ago, South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk was fêted for stories such as 2004’s ‘3-Iron’ and 2003’s ‘Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring’. Kim was known for writing, directing, producing and editing his films, and yet his more recent work saw a dip in quality. His star waned and, after a near-death accident on the set of his 2008 film ‘Dream’, he withdrew from
‘Arirang’ is a self-portrait of an artist in exile: shot by himself, it features Kim living in a cabin on a hill. He cooks food on a gas burner and sleeps in a tent indoors. At first you wonder if this is real, but soon it becomes clear this is more than a filmmaker turning his camera on himself. For a long stretch, he adopts the personae of both interviewer and subject: sober Kim quizzes angry, drunken Kim, who rants about his foes in the industry and woozily sings the folk song that gives the film its title.
So this is a cri de coeur, constructed as a fly-on-the-wall doc. Some of it feels like a frenzied episode of ‘The South Bank Show’, complete with a clip of Kim in ‘Spring, Summer…’. It enters wilder, yet less interesting, territory in the final act, when Kim constructs a gun and heads for the city. By nature, it’s utterly indulgent, and those with no knowledge of – or interest in – Kim will likely shrug their shoulders at his plight. Others may find it a playful, hands-over-the-eyes experience.