3-Iron

Save for several scenes of torture by golf ball, Kim Ki-duk's Venice Film Festival winner is mercifully free of the often sickening violence for which the Korean director is infamous. Instead, it's a strange, marvelously romantic escapade about an unusual young man with an even more unusual pastime. Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon) posts noodle-shop flyers on the...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Save for several scenes of torture by golf ball, Kim Ki-duk's Venice Film Festival winner is mercifully free of the often sickening violence for which the Korean director is infamous. Instead, it's a strange, marvelously romantic escapade about an unusual young man with an even more unusual pastime. Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon) posts noodle-shop flyers on the doorknobs of houses and apartments, then later retraces his route to see which menus haven't been removed — a pretty good sign that the occupants are away. Sun-hwa then breaks in, but instead of looting, he showers, makes himself a snack and even hand-washes a few of the occupants' clothes. He also takes photos of himself in front of pictures and family portraits, and makes slight adjustments to certain objects and appliances that probably won't be immediately noticed. Then, just as he hears car doors slam or a key turning in the front door lock, Sun-hwa slips out, undetected. That is, until the day he sneaks into an elegant house that isn't as empty as Sun-hwa first thinks. Cowering quietly in a bedroom corner is Tae-suk (Jae Hee), the battered and miserable wife of brutal businessman Min-kyu (Kwon Hyuk-ho). Instead of calling the police, Tae-suk silently shadows Sun-hwa like a badly bruised ghost, watching him pore through an album of nude photos of herself and practicing his golf swing in Min-kyu's backyard driving range. When Sun-hwa finally realizes he's not alone he flees, only to return later that night, just moments before Min-kyu's sleek BMW pulls into the driveway. Sun-hwa watches through a window as Min-kyu abuses the silent Tae-suk, then lures him outside, where he drives enough golf balls into Min-kyu's gut and throat to leave him unconscious and gasping on the backyard lawn. Sun-hwa then mounts his bike and, with Tae-suk sitting behind him, drives off into the Seoul night. For the next few days, Tae-suk joins Sun-hwa in his bizarre tour. Though they never speak, they form a deep, romantic attachment broken only when they enter a shabby flat that's not only occupied, but occupied by a freshly dead corpse. The film is reminiscent of both Wong Kar-wai's CHUNGKING EXPRESS, in which a young woman repeatedly breaks into the apartment of the stranger she loves to briefly inhabit his world, and John Cheever's ghostly swimmer, who passes though the lives of his neighbors by swimming in their pools. The almost supernatural turn which Kim's lovely film takes during its final act, however, is totally unexpected, and just one reason why Kim ranks as one of the most justly celebrated talents in contemporary Korean cinema.

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