Monday, August 07, 2006

Quick Film Review--3-Iron (2004)

1. Kim Ki-Duk is a true master of cinema. We need more of his movies distributed over here. I have seen 2--3-Iron and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring. While the plots are about as far apart as you can get, the movies are tied together by Kim's analysis of the modern world. In Spring, Kim takes us to a Buddhist monastery deep in the Korean mountains to show us the peace we can have away from society and the suffering we face when we leave that peace to enter life. 3-Iron focuses on a couple who enter people's empty homes and live there, fixing things and never speaking. It's a love story and a story about alienation from modern Korea. If people treated each other fairly and decently, there would be no problems. But as they break into people's homes, the modern world, unaccepting of this alternative lifestyle, closes in and eventually the lead character gets framed for murder. Only having seen 2 of Kim's films, I don't know if this theme runs throughout his work but, while I am personally by no means an antimodernist, his take on modern Korea is powerful.

2. 3-Iron fits well into the weird spirituality of some Asian cinema. When most people think of Asian movies, my guess is that they think of either Hong Kong martial arts films or the films of Akira Kurosawa. Both are worthy, particularly the latter. And certainly spirituality finds its way into some of the Hong Kong stuff. But the odd ending of 3-Iron, where you're not sure if the lead character is living or dead, or whether the woman is living in reality or fantasy, reminds me of such films as Mizoguchi's Ugestu, where there was a lot of interesting things going on but I didn't really know what they meant because I was not familiar with Japanese mythology and ghost stories. To me, this is fascinating stuff. Kim's 2 films that I've seen also fit into a Korean tradition of mixing film with Buddhism. Along with Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East this represents at least a strong theme within Korean cinema to show Buddhism on film. This is particularly interesting to me because in the year I spent in Korea, I was amazed at how un-Buddhist the place seemed to be. But it could be that Buddhists just don't talk about it very much, as opposed to the Christians over there who couldn't shut up about their religion.

3. There is a lot to say for quiet cinema. So much in film today is about jump cuts, fast action, witty talk, etc. This can be good. But like the films of Yasujiro Ozu, Kim's films take things very slowly. Not a lot of talk. In fact, not too much happens at all. But at the same time, everything is happening at once. These kind of films allow the viewer to relax and think while they are watching the film, contemplating the everyday actions of the characters. Sadly, this kind of film is all too rare in the United States. Instead of watching every Scorsese and Tarantino movie 28 times, film students here really should only watch those films 27 times and spend some of their time checking out these quieter Asian films. They could learn a lot.