Film Reviews: Realism in Art

I saw my first Rene Magritte painting “Son of Man” in Thomas Crown Affair directed by Luc Besson. Luc Besson is the original director for the film Point of No Return, which was the original remake of the film La Femme Nikita, starring the leading actress Bridget Fonda. Portrayed as the femme fatale, while imprisoned from a drug-crazed robbery, she listens to Nina Simone on the headphones and asks for Nina albums that featured: ‘Here Comes The Sun’, ‘I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl’, ‘Feeling Good’, ‘Wild Is the Wind’, and ‘Black Is The Color of My True Love’s Hair’.

Rene Magritte “Les Amants” is one of my favorite surrealist paintings–a visual equivocation of an expression that makes an appeal to the senses. It is an instant intimacy between lovers seemingly ordinary in outward appearance, but often dark and intense, at the same time pure. Les Amants, about death and love, seduces us into thinking or rather heightens our perception of the world. There’s an imaginary line between reality and perception when life is like a film and a film is real as life. However, this expose is not about paintings or films or music found in art. This expose is about reality expressed in art–visualization of our natural world. While watching the Korean filmBin-Jip” other wise known by the international title 3-Iron from the director Kim Ki-duk, I visualized this expression.

Kim Ki-duk films makes a clear expression of life from mimesis–an art form showing what is real. The figurative term of “real” or “reality” based on reasoning and rationality of our experiences as seen in Kim Ki-duk cinema. The director mentions something to this effect that “we are all empty houses waiting for someone to open the lock and set us free.” Another film by Kim Ki-duk comes to mind called Nabbeun Namja in Korean or Bad Guy in English. The entire dialogue in the film captured the vocals of Etta Scollo “E tuoi fiori” that the seemingly ordinary can become a strange encounter. 

A Korean pimp eyes captures the sight of a beautiful college girl and thrust her into a life that she never expected, a life which she becomes accustomed against her will. He drags this woman into misfortune; an act so cruel that it seems like divine will that a chance encounter, where suppressed eroticism already exists, becomes a mere attraction often recognized as that Shakespearean hopeless romanticism. Nabbeun Namja created a scene for transference where eroticism is channeled else where. Set up in a whore house, this girl becomes accustomed to accepting calls from random men. The bad man embarks on exploring the object of his desire or the cause for his passion.

We are merely affected by the body of another when there’s passion.

Rene Magritte painting Le Faux Savoir quotes on this subject, the signified captured by the signifier is the viewer placed in an intimate place where the door is always quivering … for him to enter her soul. If rape is ever done in a respectable way it borders on near seduction. There is a difference between violation and loving something until it becomes real–has history. The bad man watches her and observes her but doesn’t show him self. This girl imagines a pure nothing or emptiness being unworthy of love or being loved in return. As a result, transference takes place. A connection between lovers develops. However, this enigmatic desire returns in the form of a question or in the search for the knowledge of that which is expressed between the lovers. The truth can only be half said. In Kim Ki-Duk films, the truth is never said, it is an unspoken dialogue performed through silence.

Iron-3 (Photo credit: 18r)

She saves him without realizing that it is a man who wishes to live and die an honest life. He introduces to her that which is shared shared between lovers, turning ignorance into knowledge. Nico from the Velvet Underground wrote its montage, I’ll be your mirror and reflect what you are.” It reminds me of something even more darker but pure, the masochistic tendencies for the longings of love one wants but does not have. A man arrives like a ghost and takes away from her confinement and she follows him, without doubts, without reserve, until she finds a new destiny.

Perhaps the true destiny of art is the ability to relate to the real world.

According to the director Kim Ki-duk, about his film 3-Iron, his inspiration came from the image of an empty house that no one enters. This led to a story about a very lonely woman cut off from others, treated horribly by her abusive husband inhumane subjugation, feeling that there is nothing in her worthy of love. The film develops into a story about a young man who goes in and fills that emptiness with warmth. She fell in love with the pleasure received from the other, physicality and emotionally his gaze. The symbolic representation for the film, 3-Iron is the least used club knowledgeable for anyone who plays golf.

This symbolic image recurs in the film as sequences, entering an empty house and filling the void, through the medium of Natacha “Atlas Gasfa” as played in the background.

Imagine the 3-Iron stuck inside an expensive leathery golf bag but rarely used. This image parallels to that of an abandoned person or an empty house. At the same time it is the tool with which this man rescues her and so signifies hopeful change as well.

Realism is about change, as the world around us constantly changes. And, I begin to wonder where does this fantasy end and the reality begins, the correlation between those relationships. There are such films where cinematography, art, and music interplay or transpires into realism–an image of the real world. First, it starts off as a chance encounter. There is apparently something missing in their lives. Desire turns into seduction that creates a scene for transference… reciprocation of the same feelings or shared sentiments. In such a situation, one is incapable of thought, but feel and go with our intuition guided through reason–a precursor capable of original thought untainted by human interpretations. Such an experience came to mind, where I lived as though trapped in a Jean Pierre Jeunet film, like Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain who trails Nino and observes him but does not show herself. It was some other Korean film unlike this romantic French counterpart that portrays this in dialogue:

“Unrequited love is like a flower bud, concealing endless possibilities. Sometimes, it can touch people’s heart even more. It can reach further into people’s mind more than a blooming flower. The most special human feeling is to have an unrequited love. Nothing else has such a feeling. You will never see a cat, who silently likes another cat. When this becomes a reality, it loses all its meaning by then.”

Amélie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amelie re-examines her life and her attraction to a strange man… she has fallen in love with. Amelie continues to struggle with her isolation, as captured in a repeatedly painted portrait, by her neighbor Mr. Dufayel, about the excluded look of a girl drinking a glass of water.

Excluded or isolated souls are resigned to their suffering, as quoted by Proust that“we loved outside ourselves and perceive that our love is a function of our sorrow; when in reality, it is such people more than any others who inspires love.” There is this enigmatic scene, where Amelie Poulain eyes first behold Nino, her heart pulses in rapid sequence. It is an indescribable, as the French called it, jenai se quoia. This fatal attraction is the recurring musical theme in the film Amelie, captured by the musical composition Yann Tiersen Comptine D’un Autre Ere, like the melody of two resounding heartbeats. Coexistence, a relationship of such that constitutes the imagination cannot be without contradictions or dualism. For example, masculine vs. feminine, absence vs. presence, and outside vs. inside. We are merely strangers to our selves, isolated souls in search for another.

Art is tautological.

Art is the medium by which the tool uses it as a canvas. Looking at art can be viewed as looking at representations of ourselves and our interaction with what is real, the reality of our experiences in the existing world. Realism is an expression of reality. Realism in art is the ability to see a picture for what it is–art communicated between the self and the world. The only difference between art and realism is the expression and the appearance of what is real.


“I give myself up to love, I want it to wound me deeply, to electrify me, to break my heart in half, or to exalt me…what I want is to suffer. My emotions have always been stronger than the arguments of reason, and the restrictions I tried to impose on myself were to no avail.”

– George Sand

“Ars longa, vita brevis…art is long-lasting, but life is short; trust yourself and you will learn the art of living.” {intellectual, sensual, erotic, aesthetic, and spiritual}

– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe’s, Faust

One thought on “Film Reviews: Realism in Art

  1. Beautiful how you’ve captured the essence of the movie Amelie. As for the other movies, they’re definitely on my “Movie Bucket” List!


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