Kim Jong Il on Cinema: Another Book Report

08/20/2006 04:14 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Well, ever since I reviewed "Kim Jong Il on Opera" people have been urging me to examine some of his other works.

Okay, no one actually urged me to do this. Not even one person.

But after reading Kim Jong Il's official bio I was taken by the fact that he claims to have written 1500 books during his college years. As a writer who just took a whole year to finish my latest book, I was mightily impressed. That's a book a day! And all of them are in the state library! So I thought I might be able to learn something about being more successful by analyzing a few of these volumes.
Fortunately for me, a few were all that were for sale on Amazon.

BOOK REPORT # 2: KIM JONG IL ON CINEMA.
Most of us know of Kim Jong Il as the maniacal ruler of North Korea who, when he isn't stockpiling missiles, does things like supply his impoverished fellow countrymen with recipes for eating grass while simultaneously employing a specially trained sushi chef to make him shark's fin soup, import caviar from Iran and guarantee that the grains of rice he is served are all of uniform size and color. (As well as maintain his 10,000 bottle collection of rare cognac, sake and Johnnie Walker Swing.)
But how many of us knew that Mr. Il is also the Syd Field of North Korea?

WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT FILM MAKING FROM KIM JONG IL
1. Kim Jong Il points out to us that " Sound is art. Many sounds rouse people's emotions because of their connections with life. People can become emotional when they hear beautiful sounds of nature."
This brings us to Kim Jong Il Screenwriting Quiz Question One:
" When hearing the song of the skylark, the harbinger of spring," what does Kim Jong Il say that people most commonly think about :
a. Romance
b. The fleeting nature of time and the cruel beauty of the life cycle
c. ploughing.
(answer: C)

2. Kim Jong Il warns us that "Language is extremely important in literature. Words must be filled with meaning and should always be clear and easy to understand. A lengthy crude or intricate jumble of difficult words which lack real meaning is quite useless." This is certainly a good point, and best illustrated by the following paragraph,also by Kim Jong Il.
" Just as form is inconceivable to content, so is content without form. The content determines and restricts the form and the form follows and expresses the content. The content can only be expressed correctly thru an appropriate form and a good form that suits the content positively reacts back on the latter by expressing it clearly."
Interestingly enough, here we see Kim Jong Il, the writer and teacher, again employing some of the same technique as my father, the late Gerry Markoe. In particular I am reminded of a time when I listened to him (my father, not Kim Jong Il) explain to my boyfriend, then a well known talk show host, how to turn on a radio, "This is the on/off switch. And here is your volume. Turn it right to make it louder, and left to make it softer. Now this here is your channel selector. Use it to pick the station ."

3. Kim Jong Il reminds us that " Creative work must always be original. Art is only interesting when it is original because originality is the essence of creativity. Art must always be varied and original; Creativity is by nature original and not repetitive"
All that sounds kind of good, (if perhaps a little bit unvaried and repetitive, ) This brings us to Kim Jong Il Screenwriting Quiz Question Two:
What is a good example of this outstanding varied and original creativity of which Dear Leader speaks? Is it:
a.The films of Federico Fellini
b.The combined oevre of Wim Wenders
c.The film "When We Pick Apples" which shows "a serious ideological contradiction between 2 sisters. The younger sister considers it shocking to see so many fallen apples rotting on the ground and makes up her mind to save more of them for the people, as required by the party. The older sister leads an easy going life and seems unperturbed, her selfish attitude regarding as paramount one's own personal comfort while paying no heed to the waste of property belonging to the country and the people."
(answer: C)

4.Kim Jong Il cautions the student of cinema to "Compose the plot correctly."
Kim Jong Il Screenwriting Quiz Question # 3: What is a good example of cinematic plot? Is it:
a." Citizen Kane"
b." Chinatown"
c. "The Flourishing Village" in which "the reporter convincingly underlines the parties policy as he closely examines the process of revolutionization of those who, under the influence of egoism and selfishness, have not lived their lives as they should."
(answer: C)

5. Kim Jong Il advises us that "A movie must always start small and end big. Some screen writers try to do this backwards." This is best observed in that immortal work The Sea of Blood, (often mentioned as an opera in Kim Jong Il's other book. Apparently also a film.) in which " the underground political worker from the anti Japanese guerilla army explains to Won Nam's mother that the ill treated and oppressed poor can only win back the country and avenge their blood when all of them work for the revolution."

6.According to Kim Jong Il, who "is so sincere and loves life so ardently because their emotions are more profound and humane than those of other people.":
a. Paris Hilton
b.Beck
c. Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump
d. Communists
(answer: D)

7.Kim Jong Il is careful to point out that "The creative individuality of writers and artists can only flower when freed from the restriction of the individual by repressive power and encroachment upon human rights by money, "
Oddly enough, a lot of people who run studios and large production facilities in Hollywood give Kim Jong Il a thumbs up on this point.

In closing, it's interesting to note that Mr. Il wrote this book in 1973, five years before he had South Korean director Shin-Sang-ok and his actress wife Choe Eun-hui kidnapped in order to force them to make movies for him. When they finally escaped in 1986 they reported that Mr. Il's personal film library contains 15,000 movies, his favorites being "Friday the Thirteenth," " Rambo" and "James Bond." So perhaps if he updates this volume someday he will want to revise the section in which he advises film makers that "the tendency to make life appear excessively glamorous and luxurious or to caricature people in a way which is contrary to the simple cultured yet militant aesthetic tastes of the working people is the exact opposite of the kind of art which people need."
Although, why would it not surprise me if he doesn't get around to it.