When Korean émigré Yongman Kim opened Mondo Kim’s on St. Marks Place a decade ago, it was a scruffy indie shrine. But now the movie-rental business is in decline, and Kim is trying to give away his archive of 55,000 movies—many of which are next to impossible to find elsewhere. It’s the end of an institution: Harmony Korine and Spike Lee were customers; Quentin Tarantino, a regular when he was in town, thanked Kim’s at the end of Kill Bill Vol. 1. “We were the first to carry Krzysztof Kieslowski,” says Frank Tarzi, a former Kim’s film buyer. “We had Alejandro Jodorowsky and Jean-Pierre Melville before everyone rediscovered them. We carried Hong Kong cinema way before it became mainstream. Our collection of Godard was unmatched.” And the clerks were entitled to be snotty. “Where else are you going to find people who have an encyclopedic knowledge of the pornography of a particular country?” says Matt Singer, the host of IFC News and a Kim’s alum. “There was some attitude, but a lot of it just came from passion.” Another former Kim’s clerk, film critic Steve Erickson, remembers a co-worker who only recommended Michelangelo Antonioni: “A customer would ask for a comedy, and he’d recommend Red Desert.” Kim wants the collection to stay intact—“NYU wanted just 8,000 titles,” he says glumly—and available to the public, which complicates the hunt for a new home. More difficult, the deep selection sometimes came from sources that, as Tarzi says, “probably weren’t 100 percent legal.” Kim is talking to Yeshiva University, Film Forum, Wesleyan, and the New School.
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