PIFF Report: Exhausted

It’s a shame that the first movie at the 13th Pusan International Film Festival I saw, I couldn’t finish. I walked out of it 40 minutes after it started. I don’t walk out on films. Sometimes they surprise me in the end and I have to give the filmmakers a chance to tell a full story.

But this movie Exhausted was not only exhausting, it was insulting. The director made every effort to annoy me. First was the grainy, cell-phone-looking video, badly framed and badly lit. And they had the audacity to stay on these shots for excruciating lengths of time. Then there were the sounds. Not only were they loud (people were plugging their ears in the theater), they were offensive sounds: a whistle, belching, slurping ramyeon. Did I mention how loud these sounds were?

Nothing happened in the story. It’s about a whore and her pimp. They never talk. He walks, she follows him eating something. Then they slap each other or sit in a field. He drank soju and watched porn. She slept. Nothing happened, repeatedly. If the director was trying to make some statement on the banality of poverty and the wasted lives of the lower class, he succeeded. But not because it was compelling, rather because the movie was as lame as their lives.

Don’t take this as any kind of proper review. Like I said, I didn’t finish it. So it’s unfair for me to pass any kind of judgment. But that was just about the worst 40 minutes of cinema I’ve ever sat through.

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4 Responses to “PIFF Report: Exhausted”

  1. You were right to leave early. I left the film with about 10 minutes left and wish that I had never seen it. I can’t imagine that the movie redeemed itself in the last few minutes.

    I also don’t walk out of movies and I am not easily offended. I have seen some pretty gritty films, but this film managed to make me feel both disturbed and offended.

    If you are curious to know, the movie ends with a “lesbian” scene that lasts for about 5-10 minutes during which a woman pays for time with the prostitute, mutilates herself and her genitals and then attacks the prostitute. I can’t imagine that there are too many films in Korea that depict “lesbians,” (I would even guess that this could be the first) so I am utterly offended that this is how “lesbians” would be depicted. The pimp eventually breaks into the room and stabs the woman (not the prostitute) to death.

    I am completely disgusted!

    I can’t imagine what this director was trying to depict or discuss in the film. I doubt that anyone can convince me of the film’s merits

    I wonder why the festival doesn’t do a better job of preparing viewers for the type of movie they will be seeing. Simply slapping a “Must be over 19” was not preparation enough for what I saw.

    Sorry for the long comment, but I am still upset (woke up and thought of this movie first thing this morning). I wonder if you might post something about lesbians in Korean film and either confirm or deny my assumption about this matter.

  2. Ugh. I’m even more glad that I left now.

    I don’t know anything about lesbian depictions in Korean films. I know that it’s a very conservative country and homosexuality on a national level is barely even acknowledged as something that actually exists. So there seems to be a kind of denial or repressed attitude about it. Of course homosexuality happens, but from what I understand (admittedly very little) it’s hidden.

    So maybe films come out like this that try to blow the lid off of something repressive in an aggressive way. Who knows? If so, that attitude is fine and it’s even welcome. But to do it so artlessly and with such disrespect for the audience is unforgivable.

    Thanks for the comment and sorry you had to sit through it. There are some really great Korean movies out there. A lot of bold filmmaking is being done here and there are some really interesting, passionate stories being told. This was not one of them.

  3. Thanks for your comment. I don’t think this film is promoting homosexuality in a positive light. It may be blowing the lid off the issue, but it certainly doesn’t help. The only thing it is doing, in my opinion, is enforcing stereotypes that already exist. In the movie, both women are mentally disturbed. So I see that as making a connection between homosexuality and insanity. I also would like to mention that the woman who kills the prostitute is overweight and we both know how being overweight is viewed in Korean society (and many other places for that matter).

    Ah, I just can’t get over this film, but you are absolutely right, there are some great Korean films out there. I’ll focus my attention on those.

  4. Interesting points, and I agree completely. Yeah, I really can’t fathom what the filmmaker was trying to accomplish. Let’s hope it just fades away into irrelevance.

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