How would you identify and remember a film director called Kim, when there are only 25 family names among 65 million Koreans (north and south combined), and about 30 million are called Kim? Make an effort, and learn the name of Kim Ki-duk because the man is an extraordinary artist, an artist as in painter and an artist as in film director of unique works. Now 45, he studied art in Paris, went on to write screenplays, and just ten years ago, he made his directorial debut, A Crocodile. His major break into international markets came with Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring.
3-Iron is another very different, even startling work. The "facts" of 3-Iron are largely immaterial. If you know that a No. 3 iron, the least used golf club, has a pivotal role in the film, or that it’s "about" a strange young man (Jae Hee) breaking into homes while the occupants are away, to live there temporarily, taking good care of the property, or that Lee Seung-yeon is an abused wife who runs away with the bizarre, but good-hearted young man… all this and more will not provide a true sense of what the film is.
Taking place in a realistic urban environment, 3-Iron goes to the edge of mystic realism, but does so with integrity. A virtually silent film, it has a haunting soundtrack of music vaguely Arabic. With the poignant silence of The Red Balloon, its few words made all the more important by their scarcity, the lovers of 3-Iron never speak to each other, until the end, and even then, they do so with poignant indirection. And yet, there is nothing artsy about all the film; comedy and drama intertwine with believability and power.
There are some curious missteps against the background of overall excellence, such as the presentation of the abusive husband as a cartoon character, but otherwise it’s a film to remember, one that reinforces interest in Kim’s future work.
– Janos Gereben