SEOUL – ‘Idiosyncratic,’ ‘iconoclastic’ and ‘isolated’ are the normal adjectives used to describe South Korean film-maker Kim Ki-duk. But now the auteur is throwing himself at the mercy of critics — and foreign audiences – in order to secure a local release for his upcoming “Moebius.”
The film will have its world premiere in a prestigious out-of-competition slot at the Venice festival, but it is currently forbidden from getting a release at home.
“Moebius” chronicles a man atoning for his sexual misdeeds by cutting off his genitals while also focusing on destructive family dynamics.
In an attempt to sway the Korean Media Rating Board (KMRB), Kim held a private screening of the film on Friday (July 26) for a specially-invited audience of film critics, journalists and other industry professionals.
Of the 109 who attended the screening at the Korean Film Council, 107 voted. An overwhelming 93 (87%) said they want to see “Moebius” released in Korea. Prior to the screening Kim had said that if he got less than 30% approval he would give up his pursuit of a domestic release.
The screening and voting are unusual steps for Kim. For all his international acclaim Kim cuts a lonely figure within Korea. He works on micro-budgets that make him a hostage to no-one and often produces, lenses and scores the works he writes and directs.
“Moebius” has been making headlines since early June when it was effectively banned. It was given a “restricted” release rating by the KMRB for scenes of extreme violence and others depicting incestuous sex between a mother and her son.
The KMRB decision means that it can only be shown at specialist theaters of which there are currently none in South Korea. The rating also imposes strict limitations on marketing and advertising of the film, though it would allow the pic to be shown at approved festivals such as Busan in October.
Hoping for an overturn of the decision, Kim has already trimmed some 20 scenes. And when the KMRB repeated the ruling on July 15, he cut a further 12 scenes amounting to 50 seconds of running time ahead of a second appeal.
It is unclear whether the director’s international standing and the film’s likely overseas career will sway the KMRB, which in its ruling described “Moebius” as “terrifying and harmful to underage audiences,” depicting “unethical and unsocial expressions of sexual activity between immediate family members.”
“Moebius” is Kim’s sixth film to be invited to Venice, where last year he won the Golden Lion award (pictured) for “Pièta.” Including “Pièta” and “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… And Spring,” his works have twice been South Korea’s foreign-language Oscar contenders, though to date no Korean film has ever received a foreign-language Oscar nomination.
The film’s international distributor Finecut reports that it has pre-sold the film to Movie Inspired for Italy and Italian-speaking Switzerland, to MFA+ Distribution for Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland and to Cinema Prestige for the ex-USSR, excluding Baltic States. It has also been sold to Ama Films for Greece and Cyprus and for Turkey, Bir Film has already snapped it up.