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Taking a swing with "3-Iron"

Posted at 1:15 PM on February 12, 2007 by Euan Kerr

I seem to stumble across Ki-Duk Kim's work, but it always leaves me thinking, and aiming to go out and see more. He's the Korean director who creates stunningly beautiful, contemplative films which can shake you to your core.

I first saw "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" a couple of years ago, but images from the doomed love affair set on a tiny floating buddhist shrine have stuck with me.

Over the weekend I took in "3-Iron," the tale of a young man (Hee Jae) who breaks into houses while their occupants are away. He uses the people's possessions, and helps himself from the fridge. He also does the laundry he finds lying around the place and fixes broken appliances. He also leaves everything neat and tidy.

Things change when he goes into a house and discovers he is being watched by a young woman (Seung-yeon Lee.) It's her home, but she is looking for a way out of an abusive marriage, so when he leaves, she goes along.

The story could go in so many different ways, but Ki-Duk Kim's script keeps twisting off in unexpected directions. The mystery is deepened by the fact that neither the man nor the woman speak to one another. We never really learn what either of them really desire, and what they hope to accomplish. This leaves audience members the opportunity to make their own understanding, and also how to interpret the deliciously ambiguous ending.

Now, I am left with a quandary: Ki-Duk Kim has made a dozen movies, some which are just a few hundred yards from my living room in the local video emporium. Do I go scoop them up now, or wait until I stumble across another title? The former option is really tempting, but there will be more enjoyment I bet in the second.

One other note on the title. The English translation of the original title "Bin-jip" is "Empty Houses." It's an evocative title. However the the distributors went with '3-Iron,' a reference to how a couple of the main characters obsessively practice their golf swings, (although we never see them playing the game.) A cynic might wonder if they were trying to dupe a few folk into thinking they are picking up a golf flick.

February 2007
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