Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 5:59 am 
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LÊ BÌNH GIANG: KFC (2017) - NYAFF 2017


Boldly horrific, fresh, but for many unwatchable

This is described as a splatter film, which in this case mean a random series of bloody, murderous events. The director at the outset states three different ways that these things never happened. That's nice to know. "WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK!" the Lincoln Center festival blurb warns, continuing "This omnibus of strange and harrowing stories connected by vagabond characters at various levels of moral bankruptcy is truly sick in most parts, but what makes it unforgettable is the sheer talent of its director, and the ineradicable sense of profundity throughout."

A splatter film is not something I signed on for when I became a film critic, and I did not plan to watch - or to finish watching. BUt in the event, I did watch, all the way through. AT festivals, I have sat through much, and so I was, in a sense, prepared. Furthermore, Kfc is not non-stop splatter in the way that Hollywood actioners are not-stop action - no, not at all.

For many, Kfc will be unwatchable, indeed; it's for cultists, in search of the fetishistic, the bizarre, the trippy, and the outlandish. It focuses largely on poor, young, alternately scrawny or overweight boys and young men in rough, impoverished urban settings. You would not want to watch this while eating. One visual transition is from flesh-eating worms on a corpse's face to a plump young man pacing toward the camera stuffing french fries into his mouth. Cannibalism is a recurrent theme, and so is food and eating: the two run into each other, but not always.

I still cannot say what an "ineradicable sense of profundity" is. But But since the film is one of the seven Main Competition films of the NYAFF, below you will find a description of it by someone who has watched it all through, Panos Kotzathanasis of iAsian Film Vault. As he explains, the young filmmaker had to struggle to get this made, but stuck to it. There is determination, and perhaps strong conviction here, and much filmmaking skill and freshness, if turned to a perverse end. Not likely to win the Main Competition prize, but a daring choice as the Vietnam entry.

Le Bình Giang (1990, Vietnam) was educated in Film at the University of Ho Chi Minh, but he wasn’t allowed to graduate because the script for his film Kfc was considered too violent by the Council of Examiners. Lê didn't give up on his project and tried to find sponsors. He won the Film of the Future Award at the Vietnamese Autumn Meeting 2013, which helped him get started. After making several short films he finally made Kfc (2016), his feature film debut, three years later.

The story takes place in Hanoi, and revolves around a number of characters. A cannibalistic doctor who uses an ambulance to hit people in the street and then posthumously raping them. His son, who has become fat due to eating human flesh and his friend, the daughter of a prostitute who has fallen victim to the doctor. Another boy roaming the streets who becomes friends with the two children. A man whose wife has also fallen victim to the doctor. Overall, a circle of violence and revenge that seems to transcend generations.

Le Binh Giang directs, writes, co-edits and produces a genuine splatter film, where onerousness seems to derive from every frame. In this fashion, the movie includes cannibalism, amputation and torture, kid violence, necrophilia, and even flesh-eating worms. Giang, however, managed to include some comic scenes, mocking multinational companies like Coca Cola, Pepsi, and KFC. A somewhat romantic scene with a couple riding on a motorcycle and the main theme, a romantic and nostalgic song, also move towards the same direction.

The issue with the film lies with its narration, that includes many flashbacks and back and forths in time, which deem the story quite difficult to follow, despite the fact that, at the end, much of the events are explained.

In terms of cinematography, Nguyen Phuc Vinh uses some interesting techniques with slow-motion, fast forward, and Bullet Time shots. The special effects are impressive, with the torture scenes and the depiction of blood being utterly realistic. Tilkerie Pham has also done a great job on the sound, which occasionally sounds even more grotesque than the actual images it accompanies. In terms of editing, there is an amusing scene, where the torture is paralleled to a comic strip.

Evidently, the film addresses only fans of splatter, but "Kfc" is an impressive entry in the genre, especially considering that this is Le Binh Giang's debut. --Panos Kotzathanasis, Asian Film Vault.

Kfc, 68 mins., debuted at Rotterdam 27 Jan. 2017. Presented here as part of NYAFF where it shows 6 Jul. 2017. It is one of the seven NYAFF Main Competition films, representing Vietnam.


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