Archives for posts with tag: Kim Ki-Duk

MY RESISTANCE IN THE M-TOWER is even shorter-lived than I’d sort of feared it might be.


As soon as I say aloud, “My M-Tower isn’t yours to take, Blut Branson,” agents swoop down from the sky — I can’t remember if they’re on ropes or parachutes — gag me with an ether rag, and load me into a truck as I’m passing out.


I wake up what feels like years later, though it must in reality be a few hours. I’m in a bed that’s actually pretty comfy, with a blanket pulled up to my chin and, though I don’t reach my hands up to check, a tightness that feels like a sleeping cap on my head.


In front of me is a combined TV/VCR unit in a wall-mounted frame, with an empty VHS box on top. The box says DEAD RINGERS 2: A David Cronenberg Film, though I immediately have the cold, creepy feeling that it’s actually a Blut Branson film, perhaps one I’m now seeing for the second time, given how familiar it feels.


Still, I fall right in, as I always do with Cronenberg films, even apocryphal ones.


This one involves the same twin duo from the original, again played by Jeremy Irons, though by this point he looks well on his way to aging into a poor man’s Jeremy Irons.


In this scenario, the twins are film professors at a shoddy rural college, sort of a Miskatonic University vibe; it’s maybe even shot on the same set as Re-Animator, now that I look closer. The professors teach a Monsters of the Korean New Wave course, though all the clips they screen are blacked out — probably, I think, because Branson (I mean, Cronenberg) couldn’t secure the rights. So we see the students reacting in awe to what we know is nothing.


As in the first Dead Ringers, the twins make sure that only one of them is ever seen at a time, so as not to let on that they’re not the same person. Their angle is to sleep with as many students as possible, same as in the original (here I begin to wonder if, unless it’s just the ether talking, perhaps this is the original, questioning my memory of that film taking place in a gynecology clinic in Toronto, though this is exactly the kind of wormhole-bound thinking I’ve been trying to train myself to nip in the bud) …


The heart of the drama, once the film has established its premise and reached the point where it needs to ratchet up the conflict, centers on the problem of one twin growing more infatuated with a certain student than the other twin wants him to be. (And by extension less infatuated with his twin than their symbiosis requires.)


In this case, it’s a Goth girl with a very conspicuous nerve disease: like the worst case of shingles ever contracted, her nerves have grown outside her body and are hanging down her face like a mane of dreadlocks. I picture her being played by Sheri Moon Zombie, but even in my semi-delirium I’m fairly certain this isn’t actually the case.


One twin wants nothing to do with her, but the other, either locating a genuine fetish in himself alone, or simply eager to torment his twin by acting on a non-shared desire, decides to try to sleep with her anyway.


He seduces her in a quickly dashed-off “office hours” montage, at the end of which they go back to the bungalow that he, Elliot (the names, too, are reprised from Dead Ringers) shares with his more sensitive, self-protective twin, Beverly.


While Beverly sleeps in the spare bedroom they call The Nursery, Elliot has sex with the Goth girl — whose name, he learns, is Chloë, a double-major in film theory and Japanese — in the tub.


SHE LEAVES IN THE MORNING and Elliot struts into the breakfast nook, ostensibly to gloat to Beverly about last night’s conquest, but before he gets a chance to speak, we see his face: riven with worm-like, protruding nerves, his lips crawling, bloody fluid dribbling from his nose into his mouth.


Beverly butters his toast with a derisive I told you so smile as his twin writhes. Soon he’s nothing but a rubber-band ball of nerves, tangled in himself, shrinking. Even his voice is swallowed up, struggling to croak.



I DRIFT OFF at this point in the video, waking to find Elliot shrunken to the size of a child, Beverly now in the position of caring for him, as if this new entity were his son, not his twin.


Chloë is back in the picture as well, living with Beverly as a sort of mother to the baby-Elliot, as if he were the natural offspring of their night together in the tub. It’s not clear whether she understands that the man she’s living with isn’t the same as the man she slept with — perhaps their perfect twindom has her fooled more than anyone, though she must know she hasn’t given birth.


I get the sense, from watching Beverly’s performance in these scenes, that he’s jealous of his shrunken twin, wishing that he could’ve been the one to regress and be cared for instead … Even a horrible nerve disease like that, I imagine him thinking in voice-over, it’d be worth it if I could have back all the years I’ve wasted in the process of becoming whatever I am now … a sundered twin … an unwitting father … a rural film professor doomed to irrelevance.


I can’t help hearing Cronenberg himself, now the vaunted elder craftsman of such highbrow but somehow toothless fare as A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis, likewise wishing he could have back the gory, sleazy years of his youth … If I could just get myself back to the 80s, I think, pretending I’m him, and make Videodrome and The Fly and Dead Ringers againjust one more time, I’d … I’d … I’d …


I nod off wondering what I’d do if I were Cronenberg, granted permission to return to the 80s for one day only. When I wake up, Blut Branson’s leaning over me with a scalpel in one hand, shining a laser pointer in my eye with the other.


This dislodges a new, frightening supposition, just as the tape begins to auto-rewind: what if I’ve been shown this video as a form of infantilization, before my reckoning with Blut begins … a sort of video-anesthesia … a forced regression to my own helpless infancy, same as the twin onscreen …


As he scours my face with the laser pointer, the phrase that keeps moving through my mind is softening me up … softening me up … he’s softening me up …


I’m still thinking this as he focuses the laser pointer someplace behind my ear, and makes the first incision with the scalpel. I know I should be grateful, but all I can access is terror when I realize the pain I’m ready for isn’t getting through.


I also realize, as he’s doing whatever he’s doing, that I’ve been so totally taken in by his sequel to Dead Ringers that all I feel is regret at not having laid my M-Tower at his feet after all. What use is it to anyone now? I wonder, aware that the scalpel is inside my skull, probably erasing my memory of this whole episode.


THE SEX ACTORS of the Internet are taking a 4-week break for treatment, so everyone’s in the hardware store staring at a packet of Fruit of the Loom undies hanging from a peg.



This is how we miss a savage killing on the street outside, which we read about in tomorrow’s paper. It involved a local Male Supremacist group whipping a teenager to death for having had a mother, having been, as they put it, “born of woman and thus dead to us.”



We shake our heads.



There’s other mayhem, too. A new operation has moved in: a studio that claims the ability to generate concepts and outlines for 40 B-Movies a day, dwarfing the 20-B-Movies-a-day studio that’s been cranking out concepts and outlines, as well as actual B-Movies, for longer than I’ve been here.



The old studio is responsible for Dodge City classics like Toe Bath, in which a pedicure salon that offers clients the opportunity to stick their feet into tanks where fish nibble away dead skin turns bloody when the fish develop a taste for human pus after drinking one client’s open sore. Then there’s A/C Man, in which a poorly installed A/C unit falls from a window onto a man’s head, but instead of killing him it turns him into an A/C headed monster, breathing freon and seeking revenge upon the dwellers of the window from which it fell, except, being unable to see, he kills everyone in the city before succumbing to global warming in a Texaco restroom. There’s also Wart Benjamin, which, depending on whom you ask, is either about “a wart that thinks he’s a man,” or “a wart that splits in two.”



The thing is — we’re outside in the square now — the old 20-B-Movies-a-day studio actually produces all 20 every day, whereas the new 40-B-Movies-a-day studio promises to generate 40 concepts and outlines a day but to produce nothing.



This leads to a schism, which Professor Dalton eventually shows up to mediate.



We wonder aloud what we actually want from our B-Movies at this point in history, whether their actually being made is still paramount or if something else now is.



“Perhaps,” someone speculates, “glutting on concepts without the time investment of watching their consequences will pump our brains free of the sludge that’s been slowing them down since 2011. Instead of always feeling like we’re behind in our effort to watch 20-B-Movies-a-day, perhaps now we’ll get ahead, having scanned 40 concepts and outlines almost before waking up.”



To which someone else retorts, “Yeah, but why even call it a Movie if it’s not a Movie?”



In the midst of this, a heretic comes to town and puts forth that what’s really important now is not B-Movies at all, but what he calls B-Moves, which is essentially B-Movie behavior divorced altogether from the strictures of cinema, brought all the way into real life, where “the rest of us are anyway.”



He holds up a laminated sheet showing an introductory set of 200 B-Moves which, he promises, “anyone can master after an afternoon of practice.”



“Why sit in front of a screen when you could, you know, put your hands right in it?” he wonders rhetorically, and even Dalton has to admit it’s a good question.




LATER ON, after the schism has reached a gridlock, I’m sitting down to lunch with the heretic, who offered to treat me after I expressed interest in learning a few B-Moves myself.



“Going town to town espousing the end of cinema is actually just my day job,” he confesses, after our food arrives. “My real passion is the incomparably disruptive Korean cinema of Kim Ki-Duk, whose name I used to hesitate to even invoke. But after years of effort, I’ve transposed myself into his American avatar.”



He’s beaming, almost crying.



He takes out his phone to show me a rough cut of what he considers his first film as the American Kim Ki-Duk.



I lean in.



The film features a male and female, both of whom do indeed look like Americanized versions of Korean actors.



It’s a husband and wife facing hard times, living in a very small apartment, the type that I believe is or was sometimes called a council flat.



Their options are severely reduced by poverty, dipping to zero. They maintain their dignity in the face of a corrupt system that manifests little concern for their wellbeing, but it’s clear that something’s got to give.



With a heavy heart, after having slept on it for a night and showered first warm and then cold in the morning, the wife decides to turn to prostitution. The husband stays in bed until the wife has left for the day, unable to bear the sight of her in her new professional attire.



The heretic looks up to make sure I’m riveted.



I look like I am.



IN THE NEXT SCENE, the wife returns dejected, beaten down not by the relentlessness of the sex market but by the opposite: no customers all day. Not even any rate inquiries. “I just hung out by myself,” she admits.



The husband covers his face at this news, at first relieved and then humiliated in a new way.



The days go on in this pattern.



Then, on a tear one night, the husband chances upon a new, even more desperate solution: he’ll buy her himself.



“This is what it’s come to,” he says sternly, taking out his wallet and asking what she charges.



She tells him, he pays, and they do anything he wants for 40 mins, which involves several trips to the microwave and the letting loose of the contents of a packet labeled Hot Antss.

That night ends.
A WEEK GOES BY like this, the husband buying his wife every night, sometimes twice a night, looking away from the bruises complicating her surface.
Then, since this influx of cash is most welcome but not yet sufficient, the wife proposes the inevitable second step: she’ll buy her husband as well.
Let him see how it feels.
After some thought, he acquiesces, telling her his rate and beginning to strip.
Taking up the broom and metal pan from beside the fireplace, she barks, “get in there,” pointing at a small wooden chest in one corner of the living room, where the firewood is kept and scorpions have been known to roost.
After pleading and receiving a severe blow to the ribs, the husband crawls inside, jabbed at all the while by his wife, who’s paid good money for the privilege. The scorpions seem to multiply through contact with his gonads.
Back and forth and back and forth this all goes, the husband buying the wife and the wife buying the husband until they’re both very rich and thoroughly, thoroughly degraded and terrified of one another.
The credits roll.
“And so the really moving and transgressive thing about this film,” the heretic begins, taking the liberty of discussing his own work as if it were someone else’s, “is how the central mystery is never solved: that of where the money comes from. And isn’t that just like life? We get by somehow, most of us, but we don’t know how. We worry almost to death about not surviving, and yet somehow, semi-magically, we survive.
“Now, there are several interpretations that the director invites us to consider: is there a second couple, identical but for its wealth, inserting itself between the primary couple, and paying for the services rendered? Or are the husband and wife simply able to manifest more money, when thus obliged, than they believed themselves capable of manifesting? Or, and this is my personal favorite interpretation, is the director inviting us to consider a more metaphysical possibility, a deeper conflation of the degrading effects of prostitution and economic striving, such that by simple virtue of crossing this line with one another, the husband and wife conjure money out of the ether, calling it forth from the very shame they’ve descended into, as if the core sexuality of prostitutes naturally yields cash rather than children?”
He goes on in this vein as I creep little by little toward the edge of the booth, trying to time my exit for the moment just before he cues up the next Movie on his phone, which I can tell isn’t far off.