All posts by rawler

3-Iron Review

3-Iron, directed by Kim Ki-duk, has won many prestigious awards including the Little Golden Lion award at the 2004 Venice International Film Festival and the Golden Spike Award at the Valladolid Film Festival in 2004. The uniqueness and allure of the film comes from the glaring lack of conversation that almost always exists between the characters. Through silence, the film discusses the importance of facial expressions to convey an idea or a sentiment, how the display of emotions, especially tenderness and love, can be conveyed more poignantly than if the emotions were verbalized, and how the absence of sound can more starkly contrast different people’s lifestyles.

The film focuses around the journey of a lost soul named Tae-suk, played by actor “Hyun-kyoon Lee”, and an abused wife who runs away with Tae-suk, named Sun-Hwa, played by actress “Seung-yeon Lee”, as they quietly live in other people’s homes. They are squatters, people who slip in and out of the house and leave no trace as if they were never there. They do not steal from the owners and what they touch they put back or even fix, if it was broken. Many movies have an abused wife, like Fried Green Tomatoes or Punch Lady, but the fact that she becomes a squatter with a younger man is something new and refreshing.  This bizarre twist is one of the many hooks for the film.

The movie is filled with unspoken emotions, as these emotions are explored instead through silence. This would seem rather hard to do, but with his innate skill, Kim Ki-duk pushed his actors to express their actions through facial expressions, or lack thereof, and deliberate actions. Tae-suk’s signature smile is probably one of the best aspects of the movie. It held so much emotion and displayed so much of the character’s personality. The smile is used in many scenes throughout the entire film, but in each scene it takes on a different meaning. The smile shows compassion towards Sun-hwa and is also used to taunt the police who are trying to get information out of Tae-suk. Hyun-kyoon Lee is able to perfect Tae-suk’s smile so that it almost seems to speak for Tae-suk.

Kim Ki-duk shows that love and solace can be found in the gentlest touches and does need words to validate it. This can be seen in the fact that the love between the protagonists is the strongest emotion displayed in the film. In one particular scene, we see Tae-suk lay his head in the crook of Sun-hwa’s neck and she strokes his head as his tears fall. The love between them shines comfortingly and honestly. No words are spoken, but a shoulder to cry on and the reassuring pressure on his head is enough to express her feelings for him and show that she is by his side.

The silence of the Tae-suk and Sun-hwa contrasts starkly with the talkative families that inhabit the houses where the protagonists stay. The talking between the family members is nothing out of the ordinary, it merely shows conventional familiar relationships from sweet talking to fighting. However, it does further separate the two main characters from the everyday reality that the talking people represent. It creates the feeling that the protagonists are on a different plane of reality from the other characters, because it feels like they are looking in on the normal lives, not living them. The protagonists just lurk in the corners of normalcy trying to feed off of the people by occupying their houses, but in the end they never truly assimilate. But, together they are able to make their own life system, even though it is nothing like the other families, it makes them happy. Going from house to house, sleeping and eating together, not talking but affectionately touching each other, and taking pictures in others’ homes is what makes them satisfied even if they differ from the ‘normal’ families in whose houses they stay. This is a contrast, but their life style is not necessarily a bad thing because they seem to enjoy it, as long as they have each other.

Kim Ki-duk seems to be neither condoning nor condemning silence. He shows what the absence of sound can reveal. It can tell everything from how people truly feel about each other to what it can reveal about different life styles. Kim Ki-duk has his main characters embrace silence as a medium to portray the protagonists’ story of their life together.

Seven Samurai Review

Shichinin no Samurai, or Seven Samurai, is a film directed by the late Akira Kurosawa. He gained initial fame with “Rashomon,” which won the Golden Lion award at Venice in 1951 and brought him international acclaim. The film is action based, character driven with well-developed individuals, and shows the struggles of two opposite groups working to fight together for a common cause.

The film itself was made nine years after WWII and three years after the end of US occupation of Japan. During the US occupation, films like Seven Samurai were banned due to themes of feudal culture and militarism. However, this film was a huge international and domestic success. The film spent well over budget as Akira Kurosawa preferred to focus on perfecting the film first and then the budget. Because the film was so long, he was able to take the time to fully develop his characters. The film has many main characters which Akira Kurosawa meticulously describes and never over-simplifies. This is exemplified as each character is introduced to the audience one by one, and through their various introductions we see their personalities, further developed, refined, and expanded on throughout the rest of the film.

The movie begins with a group of bandits about to raid a small farming village that is on the verge of starvation. This prepares the audience for a vast range of emotions that are sure to follow such a striking setting. With the blessing of the village elder, three farmers go to a neighboring village to try to hire samurai to help protect their village. They meet Kambei, who becomes the leader against the bandits. He tricks a kidnapper to save the life of a young child and through this act, the audience sees that Kambei is smart and able man who is very resourceful. Kambei then recruits young and naïve Katsushirō, an old comrade called Shichirōji, two skilled and friendly fighters named Gorobei and Heihachi, and perfection-driven Kyūzō. Lastly there is Kikuchiyo, who is not a samurai, but relentlessly follows the rag tag group to the village and eventually is allowed into the group due to his resilience and reckless charm.

Throughout the movie Kikuchiyo plays the role of a bridge as he connects the samurai to the farmers, as his father was a farmer. He often soothes the irritation that arises from the contradicting value and goals of the samurai and farmers. A bond is formed between the lethal samurai and the, at first, timid and confused farmers. The bond is seen when a gaggle of young farm kids follow Kikuchiyo around the village or when the farmers share their meager portions of food with the samurai. The film focuses on the group over the individual, but individuality is still important for the dynamic of the group.

This unlikely bond forms a tight barricade against the raiding bandits. The classic theme of the weak helping the poor takes a twist as the farmers learn to help and defend themselves and play key roles in the final battles. Akira Kurosawa effectively portrays different groups and peoples in feudal Japan, from the farmers to the bandits who are both starving, and how they interact with each other. The similarities and differences between the groups and peoples that pushes them together and pulls them apart is also well-presented.

This film has something for everyone which helps add to its allure and explains its appeal to its far-reaching audience. Romance and passion blooms between Katsushirō and Manō’s daughter Shino. Action and violence occur, especially in the final skirmish, as the farmers, bandits, and samurai, clash on the battlefield. Comedy is present, especially surrounding Kikuchiyo, who constantly makes a fool of himself and makes funny faces mocking people that the farming children love. Sadness and loss also permeate the film for war is not without its price. In short, whatever you are looking for, “Seven Samurai” is sure to have it and it will be delivered in a masterful way that only Akira Kurosawa can do.