3-Iron (Bin-jip) tells the story of a guy who spends his time breaking into and living in houses where he knows the owners are on vacation. He always cleans and tidies up the house, then leaves a token of appreciation behind. Inevitably he breaks into a house where someone is home, and I don’t want to say what happens next, but it’s magical. The director, Kim Ki-Duk, who directed one of my favourite movies from recent years, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, likes to create characters who develop relationships in a non-verbal manner — and he makes it work. The two main characters of this film don’t speak a single word to each other, yet we know exactly how they feel about each other. It’s pure fantasy, of course, but pure cinema, too, in that we’re drawn into the story, into the lives and feelings of the characters, simply by watching them be together. It’s magical and compelling and dramatic and tragic and funny, and I know I’m going to like this movie more every time I watch it. (The literal translation of Bin-jip is Empty Houses. I would have gone with that title instead of 3-Iron which is more likely to grab the attention of golf enthusiasts.)
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring is a movie that doesn’t rush to get to where it’s going: A Buddhist monk and his young apprentice live alone on a houseboat in the middle of a lake surrounded by hills and forest. They sweep the floor, they read, they meditate, they row a boat to shore where they pick wild herbs for making soups and teas. Then one day someone drops by looking for spiritual guidance and things begin to change. I’m not sure if the story makes any kind of sense, especially from a Buddhist perspective, but it’s still a nice place to visit. From beginning to end, there might be 5 minutes of dialogue. It’s pure cinema. I love it.