The Isle

"Bad"

The Isle Review


The Isle is lovely to look at, in a pseudo-sophisticated way. Long, meditative wide shots of a Korean fishing ground located in some middle-of-nowhere rural community are appealing, and it's a location that hasn't been seen in many other movies. Most of The Isle is photographed in and around the fishing huts floating out in the water as a beautiful, longhaired groundskeeper (Suh Jung) tends to the piggish male fishermen. Prostituting herself out to them for a few bucks, she boats herself back and forth across the bay in steely-eyed silence.

Remaining mute throughout the film, Suh Jung has a wraithlike presence, or more appropriately comes across as a waterlogged avenging angel. When one of her johns short-changes her, she sneaks up on him late into the night (when he's in the midst of taking a dump off the side of his boat; a detail filmmaker Kim Di-Duk presents from an underwater POV shot -- thanks). Knifing her offender in the side, Suh Jung drifts away, ignoring his pleas for help. It's the slasher film as directed by Shohei Imamura, who posited his latest view on Asian culture "from the waist down" in the excellent Warm Water Under a Red Bridge.

Petty provocateur and would-be filmmaker Kim Di-Duk may have made an impression at film festivals with the ugly details of his 90-minute psychosexual drama. Shock value has an immediate impact, but not necessarily an enriching or philosophical one. A tormented young man (Kim Yoo-Suk) swallows a fishhook in a failed (but gruesome) suicide attempt. His rescuer, Suh Jung, has sex with him right away to distract him from the pain. The sex and violence are eye-catching, but purposefully maudlin.

Kim Di-Duk ladles on his gallery of pain, photographing it with all the interest of an industrial video or a clinical autopsy. That would be fine if he were driving home a point deeper than, "The human condition is terminal, and all love ends in despair and tragedy." He's pared down his movie so much that the very concepts of "relationship," "love," "jealousy," and "disinterest" are as empty as his images. The rest is artful boredom, lingering on Suh Jung rowing back and forth from her cabin to Kim Yoo-Suk's boat.

A man swallows a fishhook, and later a female character shoves the same hook into her crotch and stands there bleeding, an image from the Greeks sucked clear of metaphoric power. Too restrained to be a freak show, too mercenary and obvious to be cerebral, too dull and pretentious to be engaging... The Isle defies an easy categorization. Feminists might find the brutality of his final scene to reveal a hatred of women, men might find the passivity of the male protagonist too hollow. As gruesome and as polemic as it gets, The Isle doesn't make it easy to care. And if that's the point, then there you have it.

Aka Seom.



The Isle

Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 22nd April 2000

Distributed by: Myung Film

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Fresh: 26 Rotten: 8

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Contactmusic


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