Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Before I Die #553: 3-iron (2004)

This is the 553rd I've watched of the 1,162 films on the "Before You Die" list that I'm gradually working my way through...

Original Korean Title: Bin-jip

Director: Ki-duk Kim

A captivating and wonderfully unique film, even if it is one with a somewhat whimsical resolution.

3-iron follows Tae-suk, a young drifter who breaks into people's homes while they are away on vacation. The incredibly crafty Tae-suk never steals more than a little bit of food and a bed for the night, and he always repays by thoroughly cleaning the dwelling and fixing any malfunctioning machinery they may have. This odd little ghost one day breaks into the home of a wealthy, bullying businessman, whose wife, Sun-hwa, Tae-suk finds beaten and alone. Tae-suk becomes taken with Sun-hwa to the point that he confronts her husband and beats him by pelting him with golf balls. Tae-suk and Sun-hwa leave together and become partners of sorts, continuing the pattern of using others' homes with the least amount of invasiveness possible. Serious problems do arise, though, once the couple eventually are captured by police.

Sun-hwa looks on as Tae-suk whiles away some time with
his own strange form of golf practice. Their peculiar,
meditative relationship is hypnotic.
This movie is far more artistic than a mere plot synopsis can convey. The most immediately amazing thing is that the protagonist Tae-suk does not utter a single word during the entire movie. Given that he is in nearly every scene, this is quite a feat, and it meant that director Ki-duk Kim had to rely on a lot of visual storytelling. He does this in a fashion that would impress every major director, right back to the silent film era. Through nothing more than careful direction and camerawork, the odd behavior of the wordless Tae-suk is given meaning that becomes deeper and more profound as the film spins on. By film's end, Tae-suk becomes a sort of transcendent, soulful evolution of the classic "Little Tramp" character of Chaplin's. I'm no great fan of Chaplin, but I found Tae-suk to have all of the charm are far more depth than the Tramp ever did.

The movie is probably not for those who do not enjoy "foreign movies," to use the stereotypical pejorative form of that phrase. 3-iron is slow, subtle, heartfelt, and admittedly a tad sentimental. Some viewers may just see the actions of Tae-suk and Sun-hwa too peculiar to find enchanting. As one who enjoys visual storytelling, I thoroughly enjoyed this rather singular tale.

That's 533 down. Only 609 films to go before I can die.