Jo Min-soo as Mi-sun and Lee Jeong-jin play in pointlessly provocative Pieta.
PIETA (Kim Ki-duk). 104 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (May 31). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: N
Kim Ki-duk's Pieta is an empty provocation. It's a ceaseless, insistent catalogue of transgressive ideas and images designed to shock and appall. Yes, it beat The Master for the top prize at Venice last year. I have to assume that was the jury's cry for help.
Pieta is about a Korean Mob thug, Gang-do (Lee Jeong-jin), whose uncomplicated life of torturing people who owe his bosses money is shaken up by the arrival of a woman (Jo Min-soo) claiming to be his long-lost mother. Naturally, he has sex with her.
I'm ordinarily pretty averse to revealing plot points, but... well, that sequence occurs maybe a third of the way into Pieta, and god help me, it isn't that important to the narrative. It's not even the first of Kim's attempts to send the audience screaming from the theatre. Pieta - teasingly but pointlessly named for Michelangelo's sculpture of Mary cradling the dead Jesus - is a constant stream of posturing offense.
There's no art or intelligence behind any of it, which is doubly disappointing because Kim has actual talent. (The simplicity of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring is really lovely.) But here, he's working at the level of a child who's just learned that dirty words make the grown-ups pay attention, and won't stop shouting them.