Kim Ki-duk has never been one to shy away from things that make people yark. (His breakthrough film, 2000's The Isle, unforgettably featured fishhooks going where fishhooks should never go.) What separates his work from the rest of the South Korean "new extreme wave," however, is a vein of melancholy reflection, which serves to place the viewer—however unwillingly—inside the headspace of his mostly mute protagonists. No matter how grotesque the acts in his movies, Kim's talents still make them feel tethered to reality. Mostly, anyway. Pieta, the director's 18th film (and the winner of the Golden Lion at last year's Venice Film Festival) stands as one of the few instances in his career where the gratuitous moments feel, well, gratuitous. Although the heavily Oedipal narrative contains no small amount of fascination, and even a weird gallows beauty, the taboo signal-to-noise ratio feels off.
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