Napalm review – Claude Lanzmann's gripping account of erotic encounter in North Korea

the Guardian | 5/22/2017 | Peter Bradshaw
We are living through a mini-boom in documentaries about North Korea. Film-makers are getting into Pyongyang to shoot – clandestinely, semi-clandestinely and on various pretexts – those vast statues and eerie cityscapes. Werner Herzog’s Into the Inferno suggested the North Koreans’ defensive mindset had something to do with living in the shadow of a volcano, Mount Paektu. Norwegian director Morten Traavik told the extraordinary story of how obscure Slovenian art-rockers Laibach became the first Western band to play North Korea. Alvaro Longorio’s The Propaganda Game argued that North Korea is a zombie state, kept alive by the duplicitous interests of great powers, and Ross Adam and Robert Cannon’s The Lovers and the Despot is about the staggering true story of how in late 70s the movie-mad North Korean leader Kim Jong-il actually kidnapped a South Korean director Shin Sang-ok and his wife Choi Eun-hee, and forced them to work in his industry.

Now the legendary documentarian Claude Lanzmann has entered the field with this flawed, self-indulgent but still fascinating effort, basically a single-ancedote testimony about his own incredible experience in North Korea in the late 1950s: a brief-encounter-style love story with a North Korean Red Cross nurse. It is in fact a story that he included in his 2012 memoir The Patagonian Hare, but certainly bears repeating.

Lanzmann - Film-maker - Connection - North - Korea

Lanzmann is a film-maker with a genuine connection with North Korea, who has some expertise in the subject, and so is different from the various wide-eyed film-makers who have found themselves there; although in his location work around Pyongyang, he experiences the same old thing as everyone else: the smilingly oppressive guides who pluck at his sleeve and try to stop him filming where and how he wants.

The movie begins with Lanzmann giving a brief historical sketch of the Korean war and the fact that...
(Excerpt) Read more at: the Guardian
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