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Day 3: Biffes, 2009

Had I been half an hour early, I could have boasted of watching three good films in a row. Like always, I was late by 15 minutes for the first film I wanted to watch, and given the way this fest is going on, I couldn’t have got a seat even if I had reached just in time. So there went Kim Ki Duk’s Spring, Summer…

I loitered around for the next two hours, as I couldn’t make much of the other movie (an Italian one), and found myself a proper seat for Tuya’s Marriage. The trick, I’ve learnt, at Vision Cinemas is that you should go in early and sit in such a way that the rows after you aren’t at the same level as yours. You do not sit in places which are easily accessible in the dark as most of the public comes after the screening starts and they trip their way to these places. There’s no point sitting at the beginning of the row. You’ll be disturbed by people walking-in late or those leaving early. And keep away from big groups. Girls specially. They chatter a lot.

Tuya’s Marriage is a film about one woman’s relentless insistance on supporting her crippled husband even when everyone, including the husband, advises her to divorce him. The film places this grim story and its suffering characters amidst the magnificent landscape of Mongolia. But if there is a balance that the film achieves, it is between the optimism of these very characters against the stark, merciless backdrop of the desert.

Some landscapes are only good for photography, it seems. Be it this or even the Iranian Kurdistan in Half-Moon, they are amongst the most enchanting of places to look at. But their people suffer for lack of freedom and opportunity.

Kim Ki-Duk’s Breath, which followed Tuya’s Marriage, has another suffering woman. She is cheated on by her husband and her bored life at home is livened up by her sculpting and the television news which regularly updates on the condition of a death-row prisoner who tries to commit suicide.

To counter her “normal” life, she undertakes a bizzare routine of visiting this prisoner. She meets him everyday and is under the surveillance of the cameras all the while. A supreme official behind these cameras initially watches her with curiosity, and then voyueristically. Finally, he decides what she does in the meeting room.

The brochure says Kim Ki-Duk acted in this film. The supreme official could be him. The prisoner doesn’t talk. Nor does his cellmate-lover, who just screams every time the former attempts suicide.

The strange thing about this retrospective has been that all four of Kim Ki-Duk’s films have been shown in two days. Just wish there had been a repeat screening of one or two of them.

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