Though 1/3‘s title seemingly refers to the fact that this debut from Yongman Kim is the first part of a planned trilogy based loosely on Dante’s Inferno, it also eloquently speaks to the film’s fractional success. Kim, the founder of NYC video store mecca Kim’s Video, mixes East and West with his tale of heaven and hell colliding in an East Village apartment building, though his setup reads less like a Bressonian examination of sin and salvation and more like a limp joke: A Buddhist monk (Ivo Velon) and a teenage hooker (Diana Gitelman) live in adjoining apartments, and when the monk makes a hole in their shared wall while hanging one of his sketches, the two begin spying on each other and, in the process, learn how the other half lives. As this narrative is conveyed with scant dialogue, 1/3 relies heavily on Kim’s mise-en-scène to maintain a sense of literal and spiritual worlds clashing, but with neither its prosaic direction nor flat performers up to such a task, the largely silent action soon becomes a drag. The monk’s idealized vision of his young neighbor is shattered by her whoring ways, while the prostitute—her violent role-playing games with johns mirroring the abuse her police officer mother used to dole out to her (unbelievably wimpy) husband—finds her life spiraling downward into sex and murder, with the proceedings never rising above the quality of a decent student film. Kim plugs his Manhattan rental chain during a scene in which the girl, having just run away from home, services a bodega’s elderly proprietor for food, and the apparent underlying association (Kim’s = blowjobs with old, deviant men) proves more intriguing than the nominal internal and external struggles of either protagonist. In the end, though, not only does Kim’s maiden directorial voyage not presage a Tarantino-ish career evolution from counter-jockey to auteur wunderkind, but it also comes across as the type of overreaching indie apt to be mocked by the rude, condescending clerks at his landmark stores.
- One-Third Productions
- 89 min
- Yongman Kim
- Yongman Kim, Edward Moran
- Diana Gitelman, Ivo Velon, Nick Raio, Eric Richardson, Michael J. Burg, Clay Drinko, Greg D'Agostino, Cary Evans, Richard Kohn, Kyle Wood, Scott Matthews, Martha Morgan
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: