Seen in Jeonju

Carniverous Animals (1984)

17th October 2009

carniverous animalsAh, Kim Ki-yeong…this is the third film of yours that I have reviewed on this site and I have to say that I am becoming increasingly disillusioned with your work.  After viewing The Housemaid (1960), I thought you were a genius.  I was very impressed with your 1979 movie Neumi. But then you made Woman of Fire in 1982 which was a new– but not improved version of The Insect Woman. And now this–Carniverous Animals–which not only rehashes several plot points of your earlier works but has managed to sear into my head some of the most disturbing fetish images I have ever seen on screen.  I am not so happy with you right now…

Carniverous Animals stars Kim Seong-gyeom as Dong-shik (the name of main character in both The Housemaid and Woman of Fire).  Dong-shik is married to a strong confident business woman played by Jeong Jae-soon and has a son and a daughter, both of college age. Dong-shik’s major problem is that he does not have the respect of anyone in his family primarily because his wife is the major bread-earner of the household.  He suffers insult after insult and is even at one point locked in a small room by his wife.  He feels as powerless as an infant…a point that will come into play soon.

Dong-shik spies a pretty young bargirl played by No Kyeong-shik. He pays her employer to allow him to get her drunk and then takes her out to his car and rapes her. The bargirl threatens to go to the police unless he takes her in as his wife and she is fully supported by her co-workers and boss who storm Dong-shik’s home while he is out and break dishes and furniture forcing his true wife to come up with a plan of action.  None to pleased with what is occuring she decides to teach her husband a lesson.

His wife arranges for Dong-shik to live in two houses and and will even give his mistress an allowance on the condition that Dong-shik does not lose weight while with her and that he is always ready to return home at midnight. At first Dong-shik cannot believe his wife’s generousity however it does not take long for him to realize that living this double life is not only exhausting mentally and physically, but it can also be dangerous. Squabbles break out nearly daily between his family and his mistress who his children are asked to call their ‘little mother’ even though she is younger than they.  Then their is the mysterious appearance and disapperance of a baby in his mistress’ house before a stranger turns up dead in her basement.

The movie has many of the same thematic elements found in Woman of Fire–a man, devoid of power, trapped between his wife and his mistress.  There is also the presence of rat poison which pops up in most of the other films by Kim that I have seen.  The scenes with the rats are very well done. When we first see them, they are rising out of a manhole cover in the mistress’ basement–literally. They were piled onto the cover and then it was raised so it looked as if hundreds of rats were pouring out of the hole (when if fact there were probably less than two dozen). While the young woman is aware she has a rat problem, she is not aware how serious it is–at least not until she leaves the baby alone in the house for several hours…

The subplot with the baby was very interesting and may have been the highlight of the film–what was not so good was the subplot of infantilism–the fetish of dressing up and acting like a child.  On three separate occassions Dong-shik and his mistress role-play baby and mother. The first is the worst where middle-aged, overweight Dong-shik dresses up in a diaper, bonnet, bib and bottle. Prior to having sex, his mistress tells him to dirty his diaper so she can change it–the whole scene is very disturbing…. The final time they take on their roleplay parts, they wind up having sex on a glass table covered with hard candies (actually marbles). The camera is placed below the table so we are ‘treated’ to this scene from underneath. Blah.  In Woman of Fire, Kim had his actors painted with gold paint and filmed them through a fireplace for a very artsy look.  There is nothing artsy about this scene though–not only is it unappealing, it looks extremely uncomfortable.

I recommend that if you are looking to watch films made by Kim Ki-yeong you should avoid anything made after 1980.  His early works are great–his later works will leave you cold.

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