Thursday, April 5

Juche Cinema at Spectacle

What’s Showing Today? Thursday, April 5
[Jump to screenings]
Click venue names for ticket info & directions
Featured Screening: A Night of North Korean Juche Cinema at Spectacle

Tonight Spectacle pays tribute to the late, prolific film theorist Kim Jong-Il, a curious omission from this year’s Oscar telecast “In Memoriam” montage. A Night of Juche Cinema features Jim Finn‘s deadpan, heady, semi-non-fiction film The Juche Idea along with a program of DPRK shorts at 7:30, which will be followed at 9:30 by Urban Girl Comes to Get Married, an avowed favorite of the dear departed Leader.

However jaded one’s expectations may be of the actual hand an authoritarian leader has in works ascribed to him, Kim Jong-Il is by all accounts a legendary cinephile who did in fact author the volumes of film criticism published under his byline. Perhaps most famously, at one point he had successfully launched a complicated and nefarious plot to kidnap South Korea’s leading film artist and his estranged wife. After their forced ceremonial remarriage to commemorate Kim Il Sung’s birthday, Kim Jong-Il put the pair to work as his personal film watching companions and critical sounding boards. When Shin Sang-ok escaped nearly a decade later, he described Kim Jong-Il’s personal film library of 15,000 international titles filling the entirety of a three-story building staffed by 250 employees.

This kidnapping is the loose basis for The Juche Idea, which is, in the most general sense, a mockumentary of sorts about a South Korean video artist undergoing a residency in the North. One sees footage of the artist at work on a communal farm, studying North Korean and creating her own work; the film is on some level a pastiche of these convincingly fictive components. The artist engages directly with the concept of juche, a particularly North Korean form of Marxism-Leninism generally revolving around the idea of total, homegrown self-reliance; in the senior Kim Il Sung’s words: “having the attitude of master toward revolution and construction in one’s own country . . . refraining from dependence on others . . . using your own brains, believing your own strength and displaying the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance, and thus solving your own problems for yourself on your own responsibility under all circumstances.” Initially working as department director of propaganda and agitation, the young Kim Jong Il institute wide-sweeping reforms in the North Korean film industry, mandating artists avoid both art-for-arts sake on one extreme and stiff, dogmatic films that neglect form and artistry on the other. Aiming to surpass the technical and artistic standards of Moscow, he weeded out potential counter-revolutionaries, destroyed the notes of previous annual filmmakers’ conventions, and organized workshops for the studies of Kim Il Sung’s theories of juche culture. He then actively encouraged people to emulate the heroes from films: “Day after day, leading characters in the works of art become real in each factory and each workshop,” he wrote.

Hence Urban Girl Comes to Get Married‘s alternately sweet melodrama, lavish set-pieces alternated with blatantly propagandistic social realism. Total Cinema, for Kim Jong-Il, isn’t simply a matter of telling stories through consummate cinematic technique, but furthermore encompassing every dramatic and ideological possibility. One gets the sense of the lovingly aspirational, we-can-do-it-team, bootstraps appeal of something like the DIY Hollywood remakes of Be Kind Rewind if all movies were mushed into one and directed by a deluded maniac who understands so much, yet so little, about Marxism and Cinema alike. Strangely, the metaphors open in unexpected ways, and the intended messages can nearly always be read as the exact opposite. It’s as if there’s a latent, sub-conscious self-criticism embedded in all the films the micro-managing Kim Jong-Il lorded over. In aspiring to make each film all things to all people, and alternately proudly insular as well as pretending to the artistic achievements of great Russian filmmakers and the magic of Hollywood, North Korean film is a singularly baffling, enrapturing, inspiring and unsettling. It’s this legacy, and the films it produced, upon which The Juche Idea is founded. In any case—this will be an unmissable night at the movies.


Hey, Girlfriend! Lena Dunham Selects at BAMCinématek
Series Details

  • The Last Days of Disco (Whit Stillman). Details. Q&A with Stillman, Dunham and Chris Eigeman at 6:50 show. 35mm. 1998. 113 min. 4:30, 6:50 and 9:30 pm.

La Vita e Cinema: The Films of Nanni Moretti at IFC Center
Series Details

  • Palombella Rossa. Details. 35mm. 1989. 89 min. 7:00 pm.
  • Bianca. Details. 35mm. 1984. 96 min. 9:00 pm.

Street Views at Maysles Cinema
Series Details

  • Hu Enigma (Pedro Urano). Q&A follows. 2011. 72 min. 7:30 pm.

ContemporAsian at MoMA
Series Details

  • Tatsumi (Eric Khoo). Details. 2011. 94 min. 4:00 pm.

Carte Blanche: Cindy Sherman at MoMA
Series Details

  • Inland Empire (David Lynch). Details. 2006. 180 min. 4:15 pm.
  • Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman) with Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren & Alexander Hammid). Details. 1976/1943. 215 min. 7:00 pm.
  • Seconds (John Frankenheimer). Details. 1966. 106 min. 8:00 pm.

Two By Whit Stillman at Museum of the Moving Image
Series Details

  • Damsels in Distress (Whit Stillman). Details. Stillman in attendance for introduction. 2011. 99 min. 7:00 pm.

A Night of North Korean Juche Cinema at Spectacle
Evening Details

  • The Juche Idea (Jim Finn) with DPRK Shorts. 2010. 92 min. 7:30 pm.
  • Urban Girl Comes to Get Married and DPRK Shorts. 1994. 80+ min. 9:30 pm.

Whitney Biennial 2012: Thom Andersen at The Whitney Museum
Series Details • Through May 27

  • Los Angeles Plays ItselfDetails. Beta SP. 2003. 169 min. Noon.
  • Get Out of the Car. 16mm. 2010. 35 min. 4:00 and 5:00 pm.

The Good Fairy (William Wyler) at 92YTribeca. Details. The Daily Show’s Elliott Kalan, John Hodgman and Kristen Schaal in attendance for discussion. 35mm. 1935. 98 min. 7:30 pm.
Taylor Mead: On Film, In Person at Anthology Film Archives. Details. Work by Robert Wade Chatterton and Vernon Zimmerman. 1961-1962. 16mm. 90 min. 7:30 pm.
P. Adams Sitney Lecture: “Markopoulos’ Vision”
at The Center for Humanities, CUNY Grad Center. Details. 6:30 pm.
Last Tango in Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci) at Film Society of Lincoln Center. Details. Alec Baldwin and James Toback in attendance (?). 35mm. 1972. 136 min. 6:15 pm.
A Little Closer (Matthew Petock) at Film Society of Lincoln CenterDetails. Q&A with Petock, producer Zachary Shedd and cast members Sayra Player, Eric Baskerville, Chris Kies and Natalie Racoosin moderated by Ted Hope. Digital. 2011. 72 min. 8:00 pm.
The Lawless (Joseph Losey) at MoMA. Details. 1950. 81 min. 1:30 pm.


The Ruggles of Red Gap (Leo McCarey) at Film Forum. Details. 35mm. 1935. 92 min. 1:30, 3:30, 5:30, 7:30 and 9:30 pm.
The Island President (Jon Shenk) at Film Forum. Details. 2011. 101 min. 1:15, 3:15, 5:30, 7:50 and 10:00 pm.
Gerhard Richter Painting (Corinna Belz) at Film Forum. Details. 2011. 94 min. 1:00, 6:10 and 10:15 pm.
A Separation (Asghar Farhadi) at Film Forum. Details. 2011. 122 min. 3:00 and 8:00 pm.



Below listed North-South


  • David Lynch at Tilton Gallery, 8 East 76 Street. Open Tues-Sat 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Ends April 14.