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Bin-Jip's 3-Iron drive on the festival circuit

Bin-Jip/3-Iron

Korean

95 minutes

South Korea

Color

2004



Kim Ki-duk

Kim Ki-duk Film/Cineclick Asia

Director Kim Ki-duk

Screenplay Kim Ki-duk

Director of Photography Jang Seung-beck

Editor Kim Ki-duk

Cast

Lee Seung-yeon
Jae Hee
Kwon Hyuk-ho
Joo Jin-mo
Costume Designer Koo Hea-heon

Art Director Joo Jin-mo

Music Slvian


Synopsis


Tae-suk drives his motorcycle around Seoul, papering neighborhood doors with advertising flyers. He is not interested in making money. If the flyer remains posted, he breaks into and enters the empty house -- an uninvited house sitter who might do the owner’s laundry or mist a few plants before settling down for the night. Tension rises when the drifter discovers that he’s not in one home alone. He befriends the woman bearing bruises from her abusive husband. They run off together, staying in empty homes until they get caught.



Director



Kim Ki-duk was born in South Korea in 1960, and moved to France after serving five years in the South Korean Army. He studied fine arts in Paris and sold his paintings in the south of France before becoming a filmmaker. Kim produced, wrote, directed and edited “Bin-Jip/3-Iron” (drama), which won the Best Director Award and FIPRESCI Best Film Award at the Venice International Film Festival, and the Golden Spike (Best Film) at the Valladolid Film Festival, both in 2004. The film played at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2004 and the Sundance Film Festival and San Francisco International Film Festival in 2005.



Filmography



2004 “Bin-Jip/3-Iron”

2004 “Samaria/Samaritan Girl”

2003 “Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom/Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring”

2002 “Hae anseon/The Coast Guard”

2002 “Nabbeun namja/Bad Guy”


Review


South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk has emerged as a unique voice, even though his films are virtually silent. With last year’s sublime “Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring,” he blended art-film aesthetics with universal themes that speak to everyone without much need for dialogue. But “Bin-Jip/3-Iron” could use a verbal tip or two. As the title suggests, some of the symbolism is very specific. If you don’t know that a 3-iron club is the least used in a golf bag, then you’re not going to be at the top of your interpretative game.


Often it’s best not to know much about a film, so that you can meet it for the first time without expectations and simply surrender to its magic. Kim’s drama does pique your curiosity and cast a mesmerizing spell. A mysterious young man credited as Tae-suk (Jae Hee) papers neighborhood doors with advertising flyers. He’s not interested in making money. If the flyer remains posted, he breaks into and enters the empty house -- an uninvited house sitter of sorts who might do the owner’s laundry or mist a few plants before settling down for the night.


Tension rises when the drifter discovers that he’s not in one home alone. Battered and bruised by her wealthy husband, a woman (Lee Seung-yeon) surreptitiously watches him practice his golf swing in the backyard, fix a broken scale and crawl into bed caressing her nude photograph published in a coffee-table book. She’s an empty shell, not unlike the empty homes that Tae-suk fills. And she seems in need of rescue. The narrative grows more and more murky as she leaves with the knight-on-motorbike, willingly taking up the squatter’s lifestyle.


Mixed messages undermine the poetic lyricism of the pacing and images, and are particularly troubling because they deal with domestic violence. Stuck in an abusive relationship? Kim’s solution is hopeful but surprising and extremely simplistic. Instead of exploring the complex dynamics and deep wounds of the married couple, Kim contrives a miracle cure. Perhaps the battered wife just needs to change her attitude and joyously submit to a life of servitude.


This ambiguous, nonverbal Korean New Wave film seems to criticize those who have acquired material wealth at the expense of humanity and spirituality. They have lost their way within a consumer culture that commodifies people and prizes possessions. Closing with the suggestion that “It’s hard to tell if this world we live in is either reality or a dream,” Kim Ki-duk’s exercise may intrigue but ultimately proves more puzzling than profound.



Susan Tavernetti

Tavernetti is a San Francisco Bay Area journalist.

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