February 8, 2023

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‘Kim’s Video’ Review: Get The Fabled Video Store’s Own Documentary

6 min read

The words “Quentin Tarantino” and “video store” will forever be linked in the popular imagination. But imagine that Quentin didn’t just work at a video store. Imagine that he owns, manages, designs and organizes every shelf in his dream video store That place might look a lot like Kim’s video.

If you’re an avid film fan and you walk into Kim’s, which opened in 1987 and eventually expanded to five Manhattan locations (the most famous was Mondo Kim on St. Mark’s Place), the store looks like nothing like the inside of your brain. . At Kim, you seem to be standing in a middle explosion It’s a store of cinema where grindhouse movies rubbed shoulders with Bergman and Bresson, while Wall of Fear included Dario Argento films that weren’t even there. out In video, where the avant-garde felt mainstream and genres like action and espionage actually appeared as subversions of sanity. About Kim’s – more than any other video store – was potential.

“Kim’s Video” is a film about the rise and fall of this beloved institution, and if only the entire documentary was devoted to exploring what it meant to watch movies on VHS and DVD, and the era Kim found them in. , I would be happy as a bum to see it. The film opens with David Redmon, one of the film’s co-directors (the other being his wife, Ashley Sabin), going to people in the St. Mark’s Place area and asking them if they remember Kim, which many of them do, and if they wonder who What happened to it, prompts responses, “Probably went out of business. Because no one rents videos anymore.”

Redmon, as he explains, was born to teenage parents in Texas and sent to live with his grandparents when he was six. It was there that he fled to the movies, experiencing a sense of awe at the sight of “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.” He eventually set his sights on New York, where he was drawn to the East Village, lured by tales of 1980s sleaze and danger.

When he got there, most of the legendary Scully had only a memory. But what he’s got at Kim, his cornucopia of movies, his bohemian exoticism fetishism, his shelves arranged in a way that can be simultaneously random and OCD (where else would it display writer sections so you’d find Eric Romer) are a few rows above Russ Meyer. , who had an entire shelf?), a high-meets-low cinematic swamp that kept alive the New York dream of yesteryear.

“They had many things which you don’t find anywhere else,” recalls film critic Dennis Dermody. Like a bootleg of European and New York underground movies or 60s drive-in pulp. What was a headache about Kim was making connections between all these things. The shop said: Peckinpah and Carl Dreyer have more in common than any of them with John Waters and Maya Deren and “Mrs. 45,” the blockbuster infertility post-“Star Wars” landscape.

Watching “Kim’s video,” I was induced to take a queasy nostalgia trip. To my surprise, though, the film’s exploration of Kim’s glory days — what the store was like, the metaphysics of film as physical media — lasts 10 minutes. Seriously, the film could have used a little more cinematic meditation. But Redmon wastes no time in cutting to the beginning of the end: the decision to shut Kim down and find a home for her stash of VHS tapes and DVDs. The year was 2007, and the writing was already on the wall for video stores, even hipster-central ones like Kim’s. At the time, a lot of coverage was devoted to the deal which established a large stock of films in Sicily to become a well-known archive. After that, finishing the story. But what happened to Kim’s collection?

As it turns out, the real point of “Kim’s video” is a film-geek reverie that dives down a rabbit hole of underground conspiracy. The movie itself makes a sort of documentary thriller and the suspense begins with the mysterious plumbing of the man Kim owns. His name is Youngman Kim, and he’s a tall, stocky, corporate-cool South Korean immigrant who was 21 when he arrived in New York City in 1979. He started a dry-cleaning business and had an idea to keep random copies. VHS tapes on a shelf for people to rent. It turns out that video rentals are more successful than dry-cleaning. So he opened Kim’s video first.

The St. Mark’s location had 55,000 titles as well as 250,000 members when the stores caught on. So it was a tough business. But Kim remains an influential and elusive figure. In the movie, several former employees describe him as “creepy,” an assessment reinforced by a detail I’m surprised the film leaves out: The Kim store was patrolled by security guards wearing sunglasses who always made you feel like you were being watched. seeing That Jodorowsky box set. Mr. Kim sends delegates to international film festivals to find movies that have never been released; He also built his collection by requesting movies from the embassy in New York, copying and renting them.

Was it legal? no But that was part of the appeal. Kim’s video lived up to its “underground” billing. You can count on it to find copies of films like Todd Haynes’ “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” or Goddard’s “Histoire(s) du Cinema,” both of which Kim bootlegged. (You’d think Goddard would admire Kim. But no, he’d send a cease-and-desist letter to his lawyers.) Kim was eventually raided by the FBI in 2003. They took away the bootleg tapes and a few weeks later Kim replaced them with another bootleg tape.

But when he agreed to transfer his collection to Selimi, a small town in Sicily that was 43 miles from Corleone (and looked exactly like it: dusty, sunburned, and ancient), the deal looked a little shady. Redmond goes to Salemi to find out what happened to Kim’s collection, and discovers it kept in a warehouse behind the ruins of a beautiful church. There, it sits on the shelf, indifferent and ignored. Regular screening was promised; So Kim had access to members’ collections, after the films were digitized. But most of that didn’t happen. Redmon explores what happened, and the cast of characters he brings up — Vittorio Sagarbi, the former mayor of Salemi and an ally of Silvio Berlusconi; Pino Giammarinaro, a figure with Mafia ties — makes it look singularly dark.

It may be less dark than meets the eye. “Kim’s Video” turns into a lo-fi Michael Moore movie masquerading as a thriller, and what emerges is that the funds that should have been applied to Kim’s collection have been diverted by nefarious forces. This is how corruption works in Sicily: lots of bureaucratic scheming at the top. But the real point that emerges from “Kim’s Video” is that when it came to the fate of Kim’s collection, the world moved on — but David Redmon, who saw his entire life as a movie, didn’t. He thought it was his destiny to save Kim.

And guess what? She did. “Kim’s Video” with Redmon, inspired by “Argo” (of all films), plotting a way to get the collection back, turns into a frantic search for Mukrekar turned rescue mission. How? He steals! Which is pretty brave, given all the power of the Sicilian mob, although I’d be more into the action if the film didn’t make you feel that its presentation of events was a little sketchy.

“Kim’s Video” is a flack-out, one-of-a-kind film obsession story with a happy ending. The entire collection is housed in a sprawling lobby of the new Alamo Drafthouse in Manhattan. I saw it there for the first time about a year ago and it was terrifying. There were posters, VHS tapes, DVDs, and mostly plastic sleeve files of the movie, which are now available to rent for free. And there, Kim’s vibe was more intact than ever. Before though, I felt like I was in a video store. Now I feel like I’m in a museum. What was there has become rare. What was underground went under the hot display lights. Even in the streaming age, you can watch Kim’s movies. But they cannot go back to where they once were.

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