Time Out says
Tue Jul 12 2005The ambitious, provocative film-maker Kim Ki-Duk has somehow found himself the best-loved face of the vibrant new South Korean cinema. But he still divides the critics: the best thing since sliced deok or the emperor with no clothes? Purveyor of gratuitous violence (‘Bad Guy’) and misogyny (‘The Isle’) or idiosyncratic translator of Buddhist truths for a de-spiritualised Western audience (‘Spring, Summer…’)? One thing is certain, and that’s his ability to imbue his films with a striking visual quality, a tradition successfully continued by his latest cinematographer, Jang Seong-Back, in this often amusingly off-beat metaphysical love story, not least in Jang’s series of finely shot interiors of the string of Seoul apartments and houses through which our hero journeys.The story follows a taciturn drifter Tae-Suk (the attractive Jae Hee) as he motorbikes around town placing pizza ads on doorhandles, later taking temporary occupancy of the houses where they are left. Kim casts the early parts of the movie as a mystery, letting us watch this cool-looking but silent young man’s every move, trying to figure out what he’s about. (He turns out to be a Zen kind of guy, cleaning up and serving himself exquisite, ritualised dinners.) After he teams up with abused wife Sun-Hwa (Lee Seung-Yeon) – having dispatched her husband with balls clubbed by the man’s own three-iron – the movie segues into thriller territory mixed with philosophical parable. Kim attempts to convey ideas about identity, belonging and social change through this premise, as Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang did so movingly in ‘Vive L’Amour’, and partly succeeds before holes in his own screenplay fatally threaten our suspension of disbelief, marooning the characters and denying the thriller element any credibility in the process. Whether you buy the film’s final leapfrog into a further metaphysical dimension is up to you, but it sure undermines the movie’s earlier guilty voyeuristic pleasures.