NYAFF 2017: Kfc
In the poorer sections of Vietnam, the neighborhoods themselves can chew you up, if you’re not too careful and find yourself caught in their cycle of violence. That’s the clear subtext, and admittedly, the actual text, of Le Binh Giang’s Kfc. Unfolding as a series of at first disconnected, but intertwining narratives, Kfc centers on several characters trying to survive and make their way in the world, breaking off on tangents where one narrative’s secondary character will show up in the background of another character’s moment in the spotlight.
The film serves its characters well, focusing on how consumption cannot be ethical in a society where so many have so little. And no one’s hands are entirely clean, by the end. I apologize for the use of “serves” in that previous sentence, because the unintended pun here that this is a film all about unethical consumption, wherein a man eats a woman’s severed hairy armpit in extreme close-up, penises are severed and children partake of the forbidden livestock. But it’s all in service of that central theme, and it must be said, is quite successful at doing so.
Giang’s technical aptitude is readily on display here - well-framed tracking shots following the pace of a street fight, smart smash cuts that juxtapose the nauseating with the supposed-to-nauseate (specifically, a cut between father and son sucking on respective medical tubing as straws, the elder decidedly not the one drinking Pepsi/Coke out of a dead woman’s womb), and an eye for lighting a shot in dramatic and revealing ways. Giang places the camera in such a way as to shock both by filling the frame with gory detail as much as to sit back and let the scene’s banality for the characters be the shock factor. His restraint is where his skill as a director lies.
Further on the technical side, the sound design is a sure standout in Kfc. The scenes of cannibalism, if shot without the sound lent to it to Giang’s crew, would be laughable in such grimy detail as they’re presented. But the crunchy, slippery, slimy sounds that accompany the exquisite viscera are what take the grisly scenes in Kfc from something simply visually disturbing into the truly nauseating.
In no way is this film for the faint of heart or stomach. But it absolutely should be seen, if you think you’re up for it.