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Week of May 18, 2005

3-Iron. (R) Tae-suk (Jae Hee) has a beneficent scam. He breaks into empty houses and sets up shop: watering plants, hand-washing laundry, repairing a broken gadget. On one visit, Tae-suk enters a home and becomes absorbed in a photograph of a beautiful woman, unaware that this very woman is trailing him from room to room. He sees her only when, as he lies masturbating, she walks in. The two begin a silent dance of discovery, broken when her husband returns and beats her -- and continuing when Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon), the woman, climbs on the back of Tae-suk's motorcycle and joins him in his peculiar way of life. What is 3-Iron trying to say -- or ask? Part of its entertainment lies in puzzling over that question. The frustration is that, one senses, writer/director Kim Ki-duk is not so sure himself. A dreamy mood movie with one protagonist who never speaks and another who utters three words, 3-Iron is at times deliciously sensual, creepily somnolent, whimsically spiritual, and disturbingly violent. But it is never quite coherent. (Melissa Levine)

Mondovino. (PG-13) Reviewed in this issue. (Levine)

Oldboy. (R) Drunken sad-sack Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) wakes up one day in a seedy motel room from which he can't escape. Food is brought to him every day, but there is no window, only a television. Desperately, he begs to understand why he's there and for how long, but his jailers give no answers. Meanwhile, on the TV news, he sees that his wife has been murdered and he is the key suspect. Right when he's about to make some headway in escaping, he is released, waking up on the roof of the building. Fifteen years have passed. It really doesn't take long at all to find the culprit: a slick, spoiled-looking rich youth named Lee Woo-jin (Yoo Ji-tae). But there is a catch: If Dae-su kills him immediately, he'll never know the motive behind his imprisonment. So Dae-su goes on a quest for the truth, which is not one that he really wants to find. What follows is some truly messed-up stuff, but it's excellently presented. (Luke Y. Thompson)

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. (PG-13) Reviewed in this issue. (Thompson)

Winter Solstice. (R) Widower Jim Winters and his teenage sons live under the same roof, yet they drift through their shared space like ships on a mist-enshrouded sea, each lost in his own private fog of unhappiness. Five years after the death of his wife in a car accident, Jim (Anthony LaPaglia, terrific as always) still appears shell-shocked. He not only keeps his own grief bottled up, but provides no outlet for his sons to express theirs. Elder boy Gabe (Aaron Stanford from Tadpole) is just waiting for high school graduation to flee his quiet New Jersey suburb for a fresh start in Florida. Younger brother Pete (Mark Webber) covers his despair by acting out at school and at home. Writer/director Josh Sternfeld's feature debut moves at a deliberately slow pace that proves both appropriate and tedious. Oddly, the film's strengths -- its quiet, understated manner; its non-plot; the awkward speech patterns and uncomfortable pauses that suggest emotional isolation -- are also its weaknesses. Well acted and with a beautiful acoustic guitar score. (Jean Oppenheimer)

 
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