Cinema

Encounter with a master

The Net  

Those who decide these matters probably thought 2016 was a good year for it, and so it began by my meeting the legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog at Sundance in January. Then, at the Edinburgh in June, I met and had a chat with British cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, whose credits include Atonement (2007) and Anna Karenina (2012), besides the small matter of The Avengers (2012) and Godzilla (2014).

The year moved relatively legend-free after that, until I got to South Korea for the Busan International Film Festival.

The festival has had its fair share of problems from officialdom and its budget was slashed. The international film industry came out in force and was vocal in their support of Asia’s most important film festival. This extended through into the festival with a filmmakers’ reception, where a veritable who’s who of world cinema gathered to express their solidarity. While Taiwanese legend Hou Hsiao-Hsien, whose last release was the mesmerising The Assassin (2015), took to the stage, I found myself standing next to a strangely familiar person.

A quick query to a Bangladeshi filmmaker and it was confirmed that he was none other than Korean master Kim Ki-duk. Introductions were made, pictures were clicked and an invitation to a Japanese bar gratefully accepted.

I was first exposed to Kim Ki-duk’s work in 2003, when I watched Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring at a film festival.

The poetic film that explores a Buddhist novitiate’s relationship with his master and his own urges takes place mostly at a floating temple on a lake. As soon as I saw the film, I realised I was in the presence of greatness and I wasted no time in watching his earlier films, including The Isle (2000), Address Unknown (2001) and Bad Guy (2001). Thereafter, I began keeping tabs on his work and would wait as eagerly for his next film as I would for the next Rajinikanth blockbuster.

In successive years, I drank in Samaritan Girl (2004), 3-Iron (2004), The Bow (2005), Time (2006), Breath (2007), Dream (2008), Amen (2011) and Pieta (2012).

Unlike Pieta, which was an elegant take on a mother-son relationship, Kim Ki-duk’s next, the dialogue-free Moebius (2013) features many elements, including castration and incest. I did not get into it at all. To me, it felt like the work of a master who just got bored and wanted to try something extremely different. And perhaps because of the Moebius aftertaste, I did not watch One on One (2014) or Stop (2015). I will now, as I will his new film The Net (2016) that showed at Busan. And with its provocative title, the world is looking forward to his next film, Who is God?

At Busan, I also had the opportunity to chat with Malian master Souleymane Cissé ( Tell Me Who You Are and Brightness), who was the head of the jury this year. Despite my rudimentary understanding of French, I understood from him that cinema in Mali is in reasonably good health and the censorship regime is not as draconian as it used to be.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 12:19:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/Encounter-with-a-master/article16072130.ece

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