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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look: 11.11%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad77.78%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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Isle, The
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by Greg Muskewitz

"A wrapper film: nice surface, but nothing on the inside."
2 stars

Korean “cult” film that made waves at the Venice Film Festival supposedly because of people passing out from shock, or walking out.

The former reason seems very dubious and preposterous to me, especially considering other recent Korean films (including Tell Me Something, which was also recently part of the New York Korean Film Festival along with this) by far have the upper-hand in terms of gore and plain nastiness. The latter is easier to digest, though the need to walk out was more likely a combination of disgust mixed within the stupid context of the movie. Kim Ki-Duk’s fourth or fifth feature is about a mysterious man who shows up at a floating motel/fishing hut, where the mute caretaker develops an unhealthy crush on him. In addition to her furtively swimming around and pulling “bad” people into the water as if she were Jaws, she also keeps in her possession an ice pick, which comes in handy to stab her crush in the leg to prevent him from committing suicide. Jealousy rages back and forth when he nearly rapes her and starts shacking up with a local hooker to make her vigilant and vengeful. The Isle is nothing more than a self-made and self-proclaimed cult film, but while Ki-Duk doesn’t even seem concerned by how stupid it is, how ridiculous the movie looks as the caretaker ominously surfaces from underwater, or tramples around her deceptive affairs as if they had any impact or thrills. By “cult film,” Ki-Duk mistakenly assumes that just because there is non-linearity and shocky/schlocky gore, that it would provide the movie a universal label that it beguilingly hides under. The two main scenes that appear to have caused any and all controversy were when the man swallows his self-made fishhooks and hides underwater from the police, only to be reeled out by the caretaker; and when she repeats his gimmick when he tries to leave her, by placing the fishhooks within her vagina, prompting him to reel her back out from the water. In all actuality, it was probably more painful—not to mention embarrassing—for the actors themselves, rather than for us. Forget that we know absolutely nothing about this mystery man and that we never learn anything about him, including who or why he’s hiding from the police. We see him suffer through a bloody nightmare, but that doesn’t tell us anything or help us out. In the notes it says he’s a fugitive, but what good is it for that to be kept from being in the movie—where the audience can at least be clued in? Also according the notes, The Isle likes to think of itself as being a “feminist manifesto,” but that’s looking too deep into itself. The movie is nothing more than a wrapper film—it’s all on the surface. And granted, it has a tempting visual surface; Ki-Duk knows how to frame his scenes, setting up beautiful compositions, often reflected off of the seductive water. Suh Shikwhang’s photography is a gorgeous merit, softly capturing the mist floating over the lake, or the colors of the sun playing off of the deceitful waters. The musical accompaniment by Sang Yoonjeon is also something of a plus, reminiscent of the same style of Mychael Danna.

Final Verdict: D.

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originally posted: 09/29/01 01:09:12
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User Comments

1/14/09 Shaun Wallner Was'nt all that great! 2 stars
6/28/04 leila guimaraes A very profound experience. 5 stars
5/03/04 MattR Beautiful and curious - a treat for the eyes, but not satisying for the mind 4 stars
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Directed by
  Ki-Duk Kim

Written by
  Ki-Duk Kim

  Jae Hyun Cho
  Suh Jung
  Yoosuk Kim
  Sung-Hee Park

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