Sunday, October 27, 2013
Being made speechless by Comrade Kim Goes Flying (2012) New York Asian Film Festival 2013
There are a couple of ways of seeing this film.Either this is a knowing send up of North Korean romcoms or this is a throwback to the rom-coms of the 1950's ala Rock Hudson but filtered through North Korea or this is a train wreck that you just stare at in complete and utter disbelief.
I know I could ask which it is but then it would push the film one way or another and I'm not sure I want to do that just yet. Seriously if you just take the film head on it's either brilliant or unbelievably awful... or perhaps its both. (Actually in reading on the film it seems there was a battle between the European producers and the Korean writers as to which way to go, the Koreans wanted a rah rah propaganda film and the producers wanted a light comedy)
The plot of the film follows Kim, a young lady in a coal mining town who loves acrobatics and trapeze in particular. When her mine exceeds production she gets it a promotion and she uses it to go to Pyongyang where she can work as a construction crew. She can also use it to go to the circus and meet her idol. Through circumstance she finds herself crossing paths with the hunky head of a trapeze troupe and the two begin orbiting each other romantically, even though they hate each other.
Done in an arch and knowing style that really seems to harken back to bad 1950's TV comedies or what we might have thought a Soviet romantic comedy might have been in the 50's the film comes across as very odd. The actor seem game but they seem oddly out of sorts with this thing called comedy. Worse,despite the efforts of the producers the film seems to have a strong rah rah comrade line in it. Everything is for the good of the people or if not there is an over done sense of community. The film seems to be trying to be more than a comedy at time and it gets tiring after a while. Honestly I wanted to just jump to the end and see how it all came out.
On the other hand the film has this weird vibe that kind of over comes the flaws and draws you in and forces to watch it. The film screams camp, which I think is why the film has been a hit at many film festivals. I can pick it apart but at the same time it does kind of work
For me seeing the film is a surreal experience especially in light of just seeing CAMP 14 TOTAL CONTROL ZONE at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Having the darkness and the repression of that film hanging around in my head made for a truly whacked viewing of COMRADE KIM. I can't imagine shiny happy coal miners in the world of CAMP 14 certainly not ones that are a step away from I Love Lucy in bright Technicolor colors and always on the verge of songs.
I have no idea what to think.
On the other hand (thats a third hand, but that's okay its that kind of a film) the weird WTF quality of it all makes for a unique viewing experience which means that the guys at NYAFF have done their job in programming it.