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Lee Kang-do’s (Lee Jung-jin) lonely life takes quite a turn in Kim Ki-duk’s Golden Lion–winning PIETÀ

PIETA (Kim Ki-duk, 2013)
Cinema Village
22 East 12th St. between University Pl. & Fifth Ave.
Opens Friday, May 17

South Korean auteur Kim Ki-duk’s eighteenth film, Pietà, is not exactly the biblical story of Jesus and Mary. Instead, it’s a challenging, difficult psychological thriller that delves into the relationships between mothers and sons, including the Madonna-whore aspects. Lee Jung-jin stars as Lee Kang-do, a lonely young man who works for a usurer in the slums of Cheonggyecheon who charges local businessmen one-thousand-percent interest on three-thousand-dollar loans. The borrowers are forced to take out insurance policies understanding that if they default on the payments, Lee will maim them, with the resultant claim covering what they owe. In the first half of the movie, Lee makes his way through a series of men who have failed to meet their financial obligations, so he hurts them badly, often in front of their wives or mothers, doing so without guilt or any sign of compassion. A strange woman (Cho Min-soo) starts following him around, ultimately identifying herself as the mother who gave him up for adoption when he was born. Initially, Lee just wants her to go away, but after making her do something unconscionable — and very hard for viewers to watch — in order to prove who she is, they start developing an unusual parent-child relationship, and he begins to reconsider his soulless existence. But this being a Kim Ki-duk film, things don’t necessarily end well for all concerned. Written, directed, and edited by Kim (Bad Guy; Time; Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring), Pietà, winner of the Golden Lion at the 2012 Venice Film Festival, is an intense cinematic experience that examines truth, justice, family, responsibility, redemption, and revenge as only Kim can.

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