I know it's cliche to talk about how annoying it is to rent or buy videos at Kim's on St. Marks. Is it better/worse/as bad as it used to be at the old Avenue A location? I don't know. I hadn't been to the now closed shop in probably seven years, and until recently, I didn't really shop at Mondo's either. But when I was doing the Albert Maysles interview, I wanted to watch a bunch of his films. I didn't have time to wait for Netflix, and none of the shops near my new Brooklyn home had anything of their's. I'm including the big three of Salesman, Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter. Two Blockbusters? Nope. Some indie store on Fulton? Hell, they hadn't even heard of the Maysles or these films.
OK, so there was one place -- after walking through the Ratner wasteland and trekking over to the Blockbuster on Flatbush, I found a store called Video Edge that had Gimme Shelter. They had Grey Gardens too, but it was checked out. (If you happen to go to Video Edge, bring a utility bill. They don't accept credit cards. In order for me to sign-up for membership, since my name isn't on any utilities in my new home, they accepted -- believe it or not -- the forwarding sticker on a recent Premiere magazine I had in my bag showing my new address.)
And that led me to Kim's because I knew Kim's would have not just these three movies, but others as well. They likely would have Primary (directed by Robert Drew, but Albert Maysles was one of the camermen). And they would likely have all the Christo films. And they did. (Of course, Kim's also only allows you three rentals at a time, and since I needed more -- and their Grey Gardens was checked-out as well -- I found myself at , I found myself at Two Boots Video as well. They also had everything I needed.)
Anyway, this brings me to this weekend. My weekend in review will arrive shortly in another post, but suffice it to say, I didn't get to 10 in the theater, the Christmas rain got me frustrated and wet, and on my way home, I found myself at Kim's. One of the movies I missed earlier this year and was dying to see was Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. I absolutely loved both Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, but I never caught the first film in his thematic revenge trilogy.
So last night I was watching the disc when suddenly I see a weird jump happen. It was instantaneous and I thought nothing of it, except for the fact that it felt like something was missing. One of the main characters (Ryu) had just gone to try to buy a kidney on the black market for his sister. He would need to pay 10 Million Won (apparently around $8500, according to Filmbrain) and give-up one of his own kidneys. They're about to make the deal, and suddenly Ryu is sitting across from a doctor telling him that he's very lucky because an ideal donor organ was just discovered for his sister, but the surgery would cost 10 Million Won. So wait ... what happened? The bad guys somehow got the real doctor the organ? That makes no sense.
I knew Filmbrain had a review somewhere and in reading his synopsis, I discovered that I was missing the crucial scene where the black market people take out Ryu's kidney and then disappear, leaving him to wake-up cold and naked and out 10 Million Won ... and a kidney. I went back in the DVD and discovered that my player had jumped a full two minutes. I then slow reversed and played and was able to see Ryu wake-up, but the entire surgery sequence was gone. There was a full minute of the film that I simply couldn't access.
This happened two more times, and oddly enough, at two crucial points in the movie. The first was a missing 10 seconds -- for those who have seen the film, it was the 10 seconds during which the kidnapping takes the ultimate turn for the worse. Then, near the very end, another full minute gone -- the minute during which Park has taken Ryu out to the same lake and exacts his revenge. Looking at the bottom of the disc, I could see three small gashes. Were they the reason for the missing bits? I don't know, but it certainly seemed possible.
So ... Kim's. I bring the discs I had rented back today, and I tell the guy behind the counter that this disc has a problem. I had written down the specific time points where the disc became unwatchable before playing normally again. I didn't even ask for a credit or mention that three crucial moments in the film were lost to me.
Don't get me wrong – the guy behind the counter wasn't a complete asshole. He tried to be nice, and he said right away, "Oh, I can give you a credit for this" – as I mentioned, without me asking. But that phrase came with a "but." It came with telling me that this was a brand new pristine disc (new, maybe; pristine?). I mentioned the gashes on the bottom; he looked at it and tried to rub them away (which didn't work because they weren't smudges), and yet he continued to argue with me that maybe it was my player or something else. I said, "Look, I'm not trying to argue with you. There's something wrong with the disc and I just wanted to let you know so that you can check it and consider not renting it to others."
The conversation basically ended with him saying, "Well, I'll give you a credit," and then pulling off the little post-it with the times of the incidents written on it, crumpling it up and tossing it.
I have an entirely different story regarding the actual rental the other night, with the woman behind the counter who gave me the blankest, deadest stare that I thought I had somehow rented and already started watching Land of the Dead. Or the guy who was either an off-duty or wannabee employee who was talking about how the only critics he could stand were J Hoberman and AO Scott, and he didn't even pay them that much mind. (Obviously, because reading Scott simply makes my eyes bleed. I'm guessing this guy only reads people who don't use their entire first names, preferring to use initials.) Then there was the counter-person who decided to heartily endorse Michael Haneke's Cache, although it was two minutes later he admitted that he hadn't seen it. (I criticize his stupidity in praising something he hadn't seen; the fact is, Cache is brilliant, but watch the movie for yourself first jackass.)
So, if you're considering renting Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance from Kim's on St. Marks … check the disc. If you see three little dashlike gashes on the bottom, you might want to ask for a new copy. Of course, you then must beware those behind the counter.