The Isle became something of a cult item after it left audiences at the Venice and Sundance film festivals a little on the queasy side. Indeed, the film’s infamous fishhook-down-the-throat sequence could be the most repulsive image put to film since Pasolini fashioned feces as a lunch snack for his Salo kids. The Isle works neither as a parable for crippled male/female relationships nor as a study of isolation and fatal attractions. If the material feels like second-rate Oshima or third-rate Imamura, there’s a reason: director Kim Ki-Duk is provocateur first and poet second. A mute-prostitute-cum-boat-proprietress is the liaison between a network of whores and the johns that live inside a series of colored fishing-shacks that float gently atop a mist-covered bay. While The Isle is both preposterous and thoroughly misogynistic, its vistas are incredibly beautiful to look at (a boat breaks through the mist and the boats nearby bob up in down as if on cue). Ki-Duk’s use of the long shot is every bit as impressive as the means by which he juxtaposes the National Geographic snapshots with vulgar shock jolts. Though there isn’t any obvious evolutionary discourse at play here, Ki-Duk does draw a fascinating parallel between his wounded protagonists and the fish that swims away after half its body is cut off and turned into an impromptu sushi snack.
- Empire Pictures
- 89 min
- Kim Ki-Duk
- Kim Ki-Duk
- Suh Jung, Kim Yoo-Suk, Park Sung-Hee, Cho Jae-Hyun, Jang Hang-Sun
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: