Godsend (신의 선물)

Godsend (신의 선물) – ★★★☆☆

Godsend (신의 선물)

Godsend (신의 선물)

When teenager So-young belatedly discovers she is pregnant, her attempt to get an abortion is dismissed by a doctor as too dangerous. Overhearing their conversation however is middle-aged Seung-yeon who, after several years of trying and failing to become pregnant, offers So-young a deal – the baby for an expensive foreign car. As the two women head into the country for the final months of So-young’s pregnancy, they form a close relationship, supporting each other through the unusual circumstances. Yet they are beset by problems from Seung-yeon’s selfish husband, and a group of three hunters with a penchant for rape. All the while, a secretive gardener watches the events unfold.

Godsend (신의 선물)

The women bond over simple chores

As the title implies, Godsend is intended as something of a contemporary nativity story, expressed through the unique visions of Kim Ki-duk – here on writing and producing duties – and protege director Moon Si-hyun (문시현). Kim Ki-duk’s methodology of employing amoral, misogynistic characters to explore social problems is quite apparent throughout the film, yet Godsend is also lighter than most projects he is involved with, presumably due to director Moon. Indeed, the portrayal and character development ascribed to unlikely duo So-young and Seung-yeon is quite charming, arguably even empowering, in the early stages of the film as the twosome attempt to complete their unorthodox deal without the aid of men. Bonding scenes, which include driving lessons and growing vegetables, are sweet natured and sincere. That is, before the inclusion of men. The male characters within Godsend are appalling beasts, and the threat of rape is constantly present throughout the film which often makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Seung-yeon is constantly abused by her selfish husband

Seung-yeon is constantly abused by her selfish husband

While early sex scenes between Seung-yeon and her husband convey an impersonal and unloving relationship very well, the theme of ‘sex as duty’ and his later consistent attempts to rape his own wife despite her proclamations to stop emphasise the intense misogyny laced within the story. This is further compounded by the three hillbilly hunters who lay sexual siege to the women, while So-young’s ex simply wants to receive a share of the money. In each predicament Seung-yeon and So-young are routinely blamed and ‘punished’ for stepping outside of traditional patriarchal ‘boundaries’, often to shocking – and infuriating – effect. While Kim Ki-duk certainly has his flaws, his depictions of misogyny are usually quite insightful on both character-driven and cultural levels. Such depth is not contained within Godsend, and as such the later attempts to change such morally vacuous males into upstanding gentlemen rings ridiculously hollow.

Yet Godsend is very engaging whenever the story returns to the developing sisterhood between Seung-yeon and So-young. Critics often lament Kim Ki-duk’s characters for taking huge and arguably illogical leaps within his narratives, and director Moon Si-hyun overcomes such concerns through non-linear editing.  Initially the film jumps from So-young’s disgust at the proposed exchange to her journey with Seung-yeon into the countryside, yet director Moon fills in the gaps with flashbacks which works wonderfully in terms of character development, with their burgeoning relationship easily the heart and soul of the film.

As a modern nativity however, Godsend falls flat. While the first half of the film sets up events well, the second half provides an overabundance of sexist sub-plots that detract from the journey the women undertake. The constant misogyny and threat of rape constructs a perverse nativity as opposed to an exploration of contemporary pregnancy and childbirth issues. Thankfully the religious themes are not overt however, while the developing relationship between So-young and Seung-yeon makes Godsend an interesting and oft-compelling drama.

Seung-yeon's husband listens to 'gift of God' in So-young's tummy

Seung-yeon’s husband listens to the ‘gift of God’ in So-young’s tummy

Verdict:

Godsend is a compelling attempt at a contemporary nativity story of sorts, based on a screenplay by Kim Ki-duk and directed by one of his proteges, Moon Si-hyun. Exploring the issues of pregnancy and surrogacy, the film shines when depicting the burgeoning relationship between the two central female protagonists as they bond during their unorthodox deal. However the inclusion of atrocious male characters, who perpetuate a constant threat of rape, often makes for uncomfortable viewing.

★★★☆☆

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Busan International Film Festival (제18회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Festivals 2013 Reviews
Rough Play (배우는 배우다)

Rough Play (배우는 배우다) to Receive World Premiere at Busan

Rough Play (배우는 배우다)

Rough Play (배우는 배우다)

Rough Play (배우는 배우다), the latest film by director Shin Yeon-shick, is due to receive its world premiere at the 8th Busan International Film Festival in October.

The drama is based on an idea by renowned director Kim Ki-duk, and acts as a companion piece or sequel of sorts to Jang Hoon’s Rough Cut (영화는 영화다), also from the mind of director Kim. Whereas Rough Cut blurred the lines between the film world and the real world, Rough Play looks set to focus more on the actors and the psychological disturbances that occur due to life in the spotlight.

Rough Play is also notable or casting Kpop idol Lee Joon from MBLAQ in the lead role. Director Kim and his proteges are no strangers to employing young and popular stars in demanding roles, and Lee Joon’s status will undoubtedly help in procuring a wider audience.

Furthermore, Rough Play is not only director Shin’s fourth film but also his fourth invitation to BIFF following A Great Actor (좋은 배우) (2005), A Fair Love (페어 러브) (2009), and The Russian Novel (러시안 소설) (2012), a quite remarkable achievement.

Please see below for the trailer.

Film News
Han-gi forced himself upon Sun-hwa, despite her boyfriend's objections

Bad Guy (나쁜 남자) – ★★★☆☆

Bad Guy (나쁜 남자)

Bad Guy (나쁜 남자)

Within intense drama Bad Guy (나쁜 남자), celebrated-yet-reviled auteur Kim Ki-duk (김기덕) continues to explore the themes that simultaneously make him such a fascinating and disturbing filmmaker. For this installment the director dissects the class divide, misogyny and his own unique brand of ‘Han’ by shining a spotlight on the inhabitants of a red light district within Seoul, and the relative ease in which people find themselves employed there.

As is often the case with the auteur, Bad Guy controversially blurs and straddles the lines of morality in locating love within bleak environments, again employing a mute protagonist in emphasising the importance, or ‘truth’, of action over words. The result is an interesting exploration of an oft-ignored area in society, one that – due to the voyeuristic perversity within – will certainly not win over feminists, and is not for the faint hearted.

While walking the streets of Seoul one day, mute pimp Han-gi (Jo Jae-hyeon (조재현) comes across the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, art student Sun-hwa (Seo-won (서원). Despite the presence of Sun-hwa’s boyfriend, Han-gi forces himself upon her for a kiss, shocking the local public and resulting in a beating from a group of soldiers passing by. Disgraced and humiliated, Han-gi seeks revenge and entraps Sun-hwa into taking out an unsecured loan. When she fails to fulfill the extensive payments, Sun-hwa finds herself working in a red-light district using her body to pay the debt, all the while watched by Han-gi.

Han-gi forced himself upon Sun-hwa, despite her boyfriend's objections

Han-gi forces himself upon Sun-hwa, despite her boyfriend’s objections

Bad Guy is arguably Kim Ki-duk’s most extensive exploration of class within Korean culture, as criminal Han-gi, who occupies the dark underworld of society, is seemingly at odds with the middle class veneer inhabited by Sun-hwa. Yet the director routinely alludes to the similarities between the two central protagonists, with the severity of crime the marked difference. Han-gi may well be a violent pimp, but Sun-hwa also rips pages from books in stores rather than paying, and also steals money from a wallet rather than hand it to the relevant authorities. As Sun-hwa’s crimes are generally more acceptable, as well as conveying purity and innocence as a virginal university student, Han-gi simultaneously desires and reviles her believing himself unworthy of such a woman. His conflicting psychology ultimately leads to the most controversial aspect of the film – Han-gi voyeuristically watching through a two-way mirror as Sun-hwa, reluctant to commit to life as a prostitute, is routinely raped by clients. The way in which Kim Ki-duk frames such sequences are interesting as in order to view the atrocities Han-gi must part a curtain much in the same way as a cinema screen before the start of a film, and as such the director implicates the audience as sharing the same voyeuristic, perverse, sexual desires and feelings of inadequacy as Han-gi, much in the same way as Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960) and Alred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). However despite the technical and narrative achievements, there is also no escaping the notion of the male rape fantasy at play as with Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible (2002), as a young beautiful middle class woman is repeatedly violated until she accepts her position as a sexual slave.

Sun-hwa finds herself working in a red-light district, alone and abused

Sun-hwa finds herself working in a red-light district, alone and abused

Despite the ways in which Kim Ki-duk attempts to symbolically unify Han-gi and Sun-hwa – through photographs of a couple with faces removed and displays of protection and obsession and so forth – it is still requires a leap of believability to accept the co-dependency and love that rather rapidly appears between them. Such an event will certainly not please feminists particularly as their relationship as prostitute and pimp continues even after true emotions have been declared enforcing archaic patriarchal ideology. Yet Han-gi’s refusal to touch her as he believes he is not worthy is quite endearing, although quite why he would continue to employ his love as a sexual slave is also baffling.

Jo Jae-hyeon performs the role of mute pimp Han-gi incredibly well and is highly convincing as the brute thug. His inability to speak symbolised through an horrific scar across his throat forces the actor to convey his emotions physically, and he not only succeeds but is compelling as well making such a vile ‘bad guy’ a sympathetic, albeit appalling, character.

As student-turned prostitute Sun-hwa, Seo-won is captivating. Despite the title, Bad Guy is her story and the actress is excellent in conveying the spoilt bourgeois traits of the character that gradually evolve into a lack of self-worth and co-dependency. Seo-won’s performance during the horrific rape scenes are powerful and disturbing, building incredible empathy with the character so that tragedy is keenly felt when she begins to embrace her new career.

Han-gi and Sun-hwa develop a bizarre co-dependency

Han-gi and Sun-hwa develop a bizarre co-dependency

Verdict:

As is to be expected with auteur Kim Ki-duk, Bad Guy contains an explosive and controversial mix of social, gendered and sexual relationships. His artistic merits are not as pronounced as with his other work such as The Isle or Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…and Spring, yet the challenging narrative is as interesting as ever and explores the issues of the red-light district well, especially the ease in which people can find themselves working in the sex trade. The misogynistic content will not win over feminists or critics of his work, yet Bad Guy remains a simultaneously fascinating and appalling viewing experience.

★★★☆☆

Reviews
The relationship between Hee-jin and Hyeon-sik becomes obsessive

The Isle (섬) – ★★★☆☆

The Isle (섬)

The Isle (섬)

Director Kim Ki-duk (김기덕) has, like Alfred Hitchcock before him, a reputation for misogyny and misogynistic violence. And, again as with Hitchcock, Kim Ki-duk locates such archaic principles within patriarchal figures and psychologically disturbed men, simultaneously presenting and critiquing the gender inequality within a socio-cultural context. For feminist film critics the submersion of violent sexism within such protagonists serves to absolve the directors of the ‘pleasures’ derived through representations of violence against women, displacing their desires and naturalising sex and violence as one and the same. Accusations such as these aimed at Kim Ki-duk are largely founded due to the release of The Isle (섬).

The Isle is an art house film that, due to the nature of violence, sex and animal cruelty within, has been the subject of controversy ever since its inception and the resultant vomiting and fainting of foreign critics. As such The Isle joined – or rather, was a founder of – the list of films unfortunately promoted as ‘extreme’ Asian filmmaking. For his part, Kim Ki-duk claimed that the film is simply another representation of his obsession with ‘han’ – the feeling of oppression, isolation, and injustice – and the love that can blossom under such circumstances.

Hee-jin (Seo Jeong (서정) is the patron of a fishing resort deep in the Korean countryside, owning several floating huts on a portion of a river. As a mute, she silently ferries customers from the shore to the huts and takes care of any requests ranging from snacks to coffee, and even sex. This service is also supplied by the ‘coffee girls’ from the local brothel whom she also reluctantly ferries, and Hee-jin’s life of servitude continues in this monotonous fashion. Her interest is piqued however when murderer-on-the-run Hyeon-sik (Kim Yoo-seok (김유석) arrives to rent a hut, in need of solitude to lay low while police officers attempt to track him down. Tormented by his past deeds Hyeon-sik attempts suicide yet is stopped by Hee-jin and the pair begin to develop a relationship, one that becomes incredibly intense and obsessive through the bizarre games they play, and actions from which threaten to engulf them both.

The cinematography in The Isle emulates traditional paintings

The cinematography in The Isle emulates traditional paintings

The Isle is best viewed as an art house film, as the symbolism and cinematography are sumptuous throughout. The composition of shots, particularly of the landscape, are quite beautiful and exemplify Kim Ki-duk’s former calling as an artist. The incredible scenery is matched by the isolation conveyed by the fishing huts and Hee-jin’s meagre existence, while the surreal other-worldly weather instills sadness and longing. Within this framework are Hee-jin and Hyeon-sik, two protagonists akin to wandering lost souls in the ethereal landscape that lack purpose or direction, giving the lake a purgatorial sensibility. As with other Kim Ki-duk protagonists, Hee-jin is mute and utilises her physicality to convey her psychological state which publicly tends to represent that of a stereotypical meek woman in patriarchal culture; she serves patrons snacks, coffee and sex without question, acting as ‘servant’ and ‘whore’, an apparent victim of the indomitable phallus. Yet Hee-jin’s genuine character is revealed when abused, as when her earnings from sleeping with a customer are thrown into the water, she calculatingly stabs him in the dark of the night with her own, arguably much more dangerous, penetrative device. Interestingly, Hee-jin’s employs her ‘detachable phallus’ in order to save Hyeon-sik as she startles him during a suicide attempt, an act he repays in making models from wire. The Isle is ultimately concerned with the articulation of archaic notions of gendered ‘power’, and a relationship that develops between a man and a woman in such an unequal vacuum; when Hee-jin expresses kindness and innocence Hyeon-sik responds through attempted rape.

The infamous fish hook scenes also exemplify gendered notions of power. Afraid of being arrested by police and with no other utensils available, Hyeon-sik swallows fishing hooks and pulls sharply. In doing so Hyeon-sik self-mutilates his orifice of power – his commanding, masculine voice, which ironically had been somewhat castrated by his (coded-feminine) sensitivity. Concurrently, when Hee-jin is threatened by Hyeon-sik’s departure, she places the hooks within her vagina and pulls sharply, self-mutilating her orifice of power – her ability to engage in sex, intimacy, or procreation. Both protagonists are subconsciously aware of their gendered abilities, and employ them for selfish results. The self-mutilation also allows for striking imagery as they are reeled in by the fishing rod, symbolically drawn to each other through pleasure and pain. Viewed in this symbolic art-house context, The Isle is an interesting exploration of the inequalities of gender in Korean society, and hardly necessitates the vomiting and fainting that so afflicted foreign critics.

The relationship between Hee-jin and Hyeon-sik becomes obsessive

The relationship between Hee-jin and Hyeon-sik becomes obsessive

In terms of performance The Isle conveys an array of emotional and neurotic states through the physicality of the actors, while verbal exchanges tend to be fraught with lies, pain and cursing. Seo Jeong is incredibly intense as Hee-jin, with facial expressions full of rage, jealousy, angst and heartache all portrayed with vehemence. However Hee-jin’s actions are often perplexing at times with motivations that are difficult to comprehend, which adds to the assumption that she may well be mentally ill or suffering from a prior trauma. Kim Yoo-seok as Hyeon-sik also exhibits such a difficulty in suspending disbelief, as he initially is kind and sweet-natured yet later becomes an abhorrent example of misogyny and chauvinism. Despite this, Kim Yoo-seok’s performance is competent in portraying the murderer whose morals dissipate. Both protagonists are flawed and psychologically unbalanced, yet still attempt to create the idealised perception of a couple in establishing a relationship and moving into a house (fishing hut) in the countryside.

The animal cruelty has been a source of controversy which are difficult to disagree with, yet such scenes are loaded with symbolism that convey the emotional distress of the protagonists. Frustrations are expressed through the chopping of live fish; the desire to change identity is conveyed through skinning a frog alive; and the reluctance to continue living the same existence is depicted through the stubbornness of a dog forcibly dragged onto a boat despite being petrified of water.

Hee-jin and Hyeon-sik's relationship has a sadomasochistic  edge

Hee-jin and Hyeon-sik’s relationship is both sadomasochistic and erotic

Verdict:

The Isle is an intense art-house film that explores – and graphically presents – misogynistic violence, sadomasochism, and animal cruelty in the foundation of a couple’s relationship where such savage acts and severe gender inequality is considered normal. The controversy it has courted is warranted, more so if not approached with symbolism in mind, yet despite this the social issues presented with stark realism by Kim Ki-duk are damning regarding patriarchy and the treatment of women and as such further instigates an important area of debate. The Isle will certainly not be to everyone’s taste, but if scrutinized for the artistic content and social debates within – rather than the fabricated notion of ‘extreme’ Asian filmmaking – The Isle offers a unique viewing experience.

★★★☆☆

Reviews
The intimacy is created through honest action, rather than empty promises

Poongsan (풍산개) – ★★★☆☆

Poongsan (풍산개)

Poongsan (풍산개)

There has been a noticeable ideological shift in the representation between North and South Korea in recent cinematic productions. While the late ’90s inaugurated a period where the differences between the people were rendered moot (as exemplified by Shiri (쉬리)JSA – Joint Security Area (공동경비구역 JSA)  and Taegukgi (태극기 휘날리며), the past few years have appropriated a nihilistic approach that represents both sides as equally corrupt. The Front Line (고지전)Dance Town (댄스 타운) and even insanely popular TV drama City Hunter (시티헌터) have all subscribed to such representations, depicting government and military officials, and even citizens, as either equally underhanded or worse than their northern counterparts. Poongsan (풍산개) joins this trend, examining the lives of those caught between the ideological conflict in an interesting, albeit haphazard, style.

Poongsan tells the story of an unnamed man who regularly risks his life by crossing the De-Militarized Zone at the request of families on either side. He becomes know as ‘Poongsan’ (Yoon Kye-sang (윤계상) after the brand of cigarettes he smokes, and passes letters, videos, trinkets, and in special cases, people. Concurrently South Korean agents are pressuring a high ranking North Korean defector (Kim Jong-soo (김종수) for information, which he claims he cannot provide without his girlfriend In-ok (Kim Gyoo-ri (김규리) who still lives in The People’s Republic. The agents charge the DMZ runner with finding and retrieving the woman, yet on their dangerous return an unshakeable bond forms between them. On their arrival in the South,the double-crossing South Korean agents and North Korean spies vie for control over the lives of the defector, his girlfriend and the runner, leading to a deadly showdown.

Poongsan and In-ok cross the DMZ to the South

Poongsan and In-ok cross the DMZ to the South

While directed by his protege Juhn Jai-hong (전재홍), Kim Ki-duk’s (김기덕) indelible stamp is firmly cemented in Poongsan due to his dual role as writer/producer. The nameless DMZ runner, who never utters a word of dialogue during the entire course of the film, has more than a little in common with the lead in prior film 3-Iron (빈집). ‘Poongsan’ never talks, rather allowing his actions to convey his personality and pure intentions. If there is an ‘enemy’ in the film it would be ‘words’. The spies within the film continually offer empty promises and the rhetoric they spout is interchangeable. Worse still is that once the rhetoric has finished, both sides engage in horrific barbarous torture methods that reveal a twisted sadism within the agents. Even the past times of the agents are the same; the southern agents visit a hostess bar for the northern prostitutes, and the northern agents frequent a bar for southern working girls. The high ranking North Korean defector is portrayed similarly, initially conveying love and adoration for his girlfriend which later reveals itself as passive-aggressive misogyny. His vital report is also of note, as the defector understands the nature of his situation – once his document is submitted, his own life will be forfeit despite the security insisting otherwise. Only the silent ‘Poongsan’ and In-ok are represented as innocent and genuine, the true victims of the ideological warfare that continues to divide the populace.

Poongsan, In-ok, and the defector are caught between agents from both countries

Poongsan, In-ok, and the defector are caught between agents from both countries

As is often Kim Ki-duk’s style, the narrative veers in different directions unexpectedly yet still serves to emphasise the underlying socio-cultural critique. A wide array of alternating generic features are employed to this end, however they tend to distract from the deconstruction of the north/south opposition rather than enhance it. In addition, leaps are taken with suspension of disbelief in several areas. For example, the romance between ‘Poongsan’ and In-ok begins organically enough yet somehow jumps into a timeless intimate love; similarly, ‘Poongsan’ is a veritable one-man army who seemingly recovers from grave wounds with ease. The final showdown involves the highly idealised event of locking both factions of agents in a room to settle the dispute once and for all, which is an interesting premise yet merely serves to highlight their cowardice and lacks intensity. As the chief protagonist, Yoon Kye-sang (윤계상) gives a competent performance as ‘Poongsan’, a difficult task given the inherent stoicism. Unfortunately ‘Poongsan’ is, in the latter half of the film, relegated to being a supporting actor as the political themes take precedence.

The intimacy is created through honest action, rather than empty promises

The intimacy is created through honest action, rather than empty promises

Verdict:

Poongsan is a very interesting nihilistic examination of the north/south divide, one that embraces wholeheartedly the similarities between both sides in an incredibly pessimistic context. The deconstruction of the agencies of both countries, and the use of language as a tool/enemy is wonderfully executed and brings a new dimension to the political debate within the cinematic realm. The lead protagonists however lack the depth required for them to be believable and fully attract empathy, and in addition to other frivolous/whimsical uses of generic conventions and audience disbelief, detract from the construction of this statement. Poongsan will no doubt be hailed in future discussions of Korean cinema as a film that brought a new dimension to an old debate and is an entertaining, though occasionally disjointed, film.

★★★☆☆

Reviews
Sun-hwa may be trapped in her marriage, but her heart belongs to the invisible Tae-suk

3-Iron (빈집) – ★★★★☆

3-Iron (빈집)

3-Iron (빈집)

It’s a tragic fact that auteur Kim Ki-duk (김기덕) is not particularly revered in his home country. Despite his phenomenal success at international film festivals, and his arguably unparalleled contribution in heightening the awareness of Korean cinema, he is disliked regardless. Some claim Kim Ki-duk is perverse due to the appearance of sexual and violent scenes, while others applaud him for highlighting sensitive socio-cultural issues.

With 3-Iron (빈집), the infamous director eschews such overtly confrontational content and crafts a delicate, poignant romance story. Tae-suk (Jae Hee (재희) is a poor drifter who posts adverts over doors as a day job. At night, he returns to the area and breaks in to an abode that appears vacant. Rather than vandalise, Tae-suk merely requires a place to bathe and sleep, in return performing household chores for the unaware owner(s) as payment. After entering a luxurious house, Tae-suk continues his usual routine; that is until beaten housewife Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon (이승연) catches him in the act. In the confrontations that follow, Tae-suk proves to Sun-hwa that he is a better man than her abusive husband (Kwon Hyeok-ho (권혁호), and the two run away together and form a relationship despite the odds.

Drifter Tae-suk is caught by abused house-wife Sun-hwa

Drifter Tae-suk is caught by abused house-wife Sun-hwa

The touching relationship between Tae-suk and Sun-hwa develops organically and respectfully, bonding together as they move from one empty house to the next. Astonishingly, neither protagonist talks during the entire development of their relationship. Instead, subtle moments of kindness and intimacy become powerful symbols of love and respect, and allow their love to bloom in an innocent, almost naive style. The acting by both leads is incredible, conveying their evolving personalities through only facial expressions and gestures. Jae Hee is particularly impressive as his eyes convey a power and intensity that belie his gentle mannerisms. Kwon Hyeok-ho, as Sun-hwa’s villainous husband, is also terrific as his character turns from doting husband to abusive misogynist with ease. But by far the most poignant, even magical, performance is due to Lee Seung-yeon who transforms from a passive victim into a strong, vibrant woman as she discovers her identity.

Tae-suk's (태숙) time in prison equips him with a new skill - invisibility

Tae-suk’s time in prison equips him with a new skill – invisibility

As with all Kim Ki-duk’s films, the socio-cultural analogies are rife and highly critical. With 3-Iron such debates are gendered, as the auteur probes the nature of contemporary relationships. Sun-hwa is a former model, and photographs of her beautiful face and naked body adorn many of the homes that Tae-suk visits. Kim Ki-duk employs postmodernist themes in representing and deconstructing Sun-hwa, as she exists merely as an image of perfection which is continually contrasted with her bruised, older reflection whenever she looks in the mirror. Sun-hwa is first and foremost a trophy wife; she married a rich businessman, as is common in Korea for people of equal status and success to wed. But it was a marriage built on image – both personal and societal – and hides the dark truth of abusive patriarchy as Sun-hwa is beaten and told to ‘be still’ as she is sexually assaulted.

Tae-suk functions as the antithesis of such archaic patriarchal ideology. While he may be a criminal, he is constantly respectful and gentle not only to Sun-hwa but also within any home he visits. Despite his etiquette and chivalry, Tae-suk is routinely beaten and insulted by those threatened by him, and even accused of murder. With his innocence proven, a corrupt sadistic policeman (Joo Jin-mo, 주진모) continues to beat Tae-suk simply to provoke a reaction, which results in a jail term. The representation of prison in 3-Iron is horrendous and inhumane, yet during this time Tae-suk trains to be truly invisible. Tae-suk conveys the ethics of an older, more humble Korea; he is kind, gentle and understands the value of manual labour. He is the epitome of chivalry despite his lower economic status, highlighting the lack of ethics and principles in contemporary Korean men who appear only concerned with image, money and violence.

Sun-hwa may be trapped in her marriage, but her heart belongs to the invisible Tae-suk

Sun-hwa may be trapped in her marriage, but her heart belongs to the invisible Tae-suk

Verdict:

3-Iron is an incredibly romantic, even dream-like film with a highly critical core of contemporary Korean masculinity. The Korean title ‘빈집’ actually means ‘vacant house’, denoting both the abodes Tae-suk frequents as well as the vacuum of ethics within modern men. Director Kim Ki-duk has crafted his critique within a powerful and passionate, yet fragile and endearing romance that offers a unique and refreshing tale on the tenderness of love.

★★★★☆

Reviews
Stockholm International Film Festival 2011

Stockholm International Film Festival to Screen 6 Korean Films

From the 9-20th of November, the Stockholm International Film Festival (SIFF) will showcase over 170 films from 44 different countries.

Stockholm International Film Festival 2011

Stockholm International Film Festival 2011

According to the official press release, festival director Git Scheynius claimed the 22nd edition of the event,

“is the meeting point for next generation’s film creators. Our 22nd program is fully loaded with strong titles and fresh newcomers and this year we are happy to present more female directors than ever.”

As part of the ‘Asian Images’ category, 4 films will represent the Korean industry. Kim Ki Duk‘s Arirang (아리랑), which won the ‘Un Certain Regard’ at Cannes earlier this year, will be screened alongside Dance Town (댄스 타운), The Day He Arrives (북촌 방향), and The Yellow Sea (황해). All 4 of these films have been touring the international festival circuit this year, and are being well received by audiences and critics alike.

In the ‘Twilight Zone’ category, tongue-in-cheek B-movie Invasion of the Alien Bikini (에일리언 비키니) will be screened, as well as action/comedy Bloody Fight in Iron Rock Valley (철암계곡의 혈투).

Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy will open the festival, while Pedro Almodóvar‘s The Skin I Live In will close it.

Isabelle Huppert will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award alongside her new film, and Alejandro González Iñárritu will claim the Visionary Award.

For more information, visit the official site (here), the facebook page (here), and the official Kobiz report (here).

For a cheeky bit of fun, see below for the trailer of Invasion of Alien Bikini.

Festival News Festivals 2011