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Isle, The

The notion that modern Korean films blur the distinction between ‘art-house’ and genre cinema is borne out by this beautifully composed shocker, which caused ructions at home but became a favourite on the international festival circuit after premiering in competition at Venice. The evocative setting of The Isle is an isolated, mist-shrouded lake, where men come to fish on anchored rafts. Running a little bait-and-tackle shop is the silent Hee-jin, who sometimes sells herself for a price to horny fishermen. At the centre of the film is the woman’s relationship with a morose, suicidal youth. The couple’s intense and destructive affair ends in some very disturbing scenes of self-mutilation, with fish-hooks being inserted into delicate orifices. As another study in the extremes of human relationships as conjured up in an enclosed, other-worldly setting, The Isle is at once shocking and cruelly comic. It’s main strengths are the ravishingly beautiful images (director Kim Ki-Kuk studied as a painter in Paris) and the brilliant use of a location that seems a perfect setting for primitive passions. Intending viewers are warned that strong stomachs are required for some scenes.
2000. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 85 min.

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