Combustible Celluloid
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With: Han Yeo-reum, Jeon Seong-hwang, Seo Si-jeok
Written by: Kim Ki-duk
Directed by: Kim Ki-duk
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Korean with English subtitles
Running Time: 90
Date: 05/12/2005

The Bow (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Shock the Boat

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The twelfth film by the much loved -- and much hated -- Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring, 3-Iron) brushes close to offensive material, but it has an unexpected sweetness and skill that keeps it from toppling over the edge. An old man (Jeon Seong-hwang) operates a fishing boat and raises a young girl (Han Yeo-reum), for whom he has apparently cared since she was a baby. She has apparently never left the boat, but seems happy, smiling her full-lipped smile. The old man can tell fortunes by firing arrows into the image of a goddess painted on the side of the boat, but while the girl sways in a swing back and forth in front of it. As she approaches her 17th birthday, the old man prepares to marry her. Meanwhile, if any randy fishermen flirt with her in any way, he fires an arrow into their seats. One day, a young man (Seo Si-jeok) boards the boat, and predictably, he and the girl find themselves attracted to one another. The battle of wits that follows is all the more arresting given that neither the old man nor the girl ever speaks one word (they are able to talk, as they are seen whispering, but they very simply choose not to talk). Kim also confines the entire movie to the boat, and his largely silent sequences allows him a kind of breathing room; the film unfolds at the perfect pace for such a small story without getting too sweet or ambitious. The ending may be a bit bizarre for most viewers, but that's Kim for you.

DVD Details: Tartan's 2007 DVD comes with a making-of featurette, a photo gallery and lots of trailers for this and other Tartan releases.

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