Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – Kim’s Video

FrightFest review – Kim’s Video

Kim’s Video, a New York mini-chain founded by Korean enthusiast Youngman Kim, was a bizarrely important concern during the heyday of VHS.  I wandered in there a couple of times on trips to New York City, and people made obvious remarks about it stocking exactly the sort of films I was interested in – a wide range of exploitation, art, underground, vintage, foreign language, smut and documentary material (often of dubious provenance).  It was a lively film scene in itself – the forthcoming Scala Club Cinema documentary perhaps looks at an equivalent London location (albeit a cinema rather than a store) – but its moment passed … with FBI raids on bootleg materials, the decline in rental (like many UK video shops it transitioned into DVD but didn’t make it to BluRay) and the rise of streaming.  Try finding Paul Morrissey’s Mixed Blood on streaming, though.

As the last store closed, Kim offered its collection of 55,000 tapes (and discs) to anyone who’d take them – providing they allowed access to the collection to holders of Kim’s Video cards, and took steps to curate and present the materials properly.  To everyone’s surprise – and a talking head admits ‘due diligence’ wasn’t done – the lucky winner was the town of Salemi, Sicily.  No one mentions that the US and Italy have different video formats, but no evidence can be found in this documentary that anyone in Italy even tried to watch any of the films.  Documentarian David Redmon – whose narration is shot through with arcane movie references, as befits someone who’d drive all night to Austin, Texas, in search of characters from Richard Linklater’s (fiction) film Slackers – and near-invisible collaborator Ashley Sabin set out search of the video collection, which brings them into the orbit of sundry Italian political, cultural and (allegedly) criminal figures.

In a fictionalised streak of the film, admittedly inspired by Argo, Redmon resolves to heist the collection for posterity (it’s now safely back in New York) and even shoots a fake film during carnival with a crew of tape-snatchers wearing movie icon masks (Hitchcock, Godard, Maya Deren, Herzog, Varda, Jarmusch, etc), though this is an aside from a negotiated fix which leads to a happy ending.  I get a sense from what we see that the story behind all this is even odder than Redmon and Sabin are able to tell.  And it’s strange enough here.  The film is quixotic to a fault – the Sicilian custodian tells Redmon he composes film-type music, and ends up providing most of the (cool 80s-style) score … Kim is an enigmatic, amused figure, going along with the directors’ enthusiams … and the Italians are mostly seen scarpering away after blithely lying in subtitles to camera, presumably wishing this irritating American and his insistence they deliver on their promises would just go away.


One thought on “FrightFest review – Kim’s Video

  1. I loved it.

    Posted by socrates17 | August 28, 2023, 3:09 am

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: