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Kim Jong-Il: Movie Buff, Supervillain

By 1978, Shin Sang-ok, South Korea’s most celebrated filmmaker, was 51 years old and washed up. He had bankrupted his studio, run afoul of the censor board, and been divorced by his wife and collaborator, actress Choi Eun-hee. And then he and Choi were kidnapped by North Korea. The story of how the couple’s careers were forcibly revived, as told in Paul Fischer’s book, A Kim Jong-Il Production, provides not only a riveting look inside a murky state, but a glimpse into North Korea’s movie obsession, and a lens through which to see the current regime’s outrage at the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy The Interview. The book’s titular “production” is North Korea itself, which Fischer depicts as “a theatre state” propped up by symbols and spectacles, its ideological cornerstone a film treatise: Kim’s 1973 book, On the Art of Cinema.

Revenge of the Monoculture

“We’re all nerds now,” The New York Times declared last year — just as New York Magazine did in 2005, and The Guardian before it in 2003. The story of the continued mainstreaming of nerd culture (or perhaps less pejoratively, geek culture) is so compelling, remakes are often in order; it’s a franchise whose protagonists, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, altered our world forever with blockbuster films where outsiders triumph.

Movies & Music at the Toronto International Film Festival

The Soundtrack Takes Centre Stage Album sales may be stagnant, and the summer touring season was a let-down, but no one seems to be tiring of stories about musicians. Consider, if you will, the unstoppable run of music-competition reality shows, the recent spate of heavy-metal memoirs, the runaway success of Glee, and the fact that […]