A love story that turns into a ghost story, 3-Iron refuses to play by the rules. And so does its main protagonist, a handsome young man who hangs delivery menus on the front doors of houses and apartments, then returns later to see if they're still there. If they are, the occupants must be out of town, so he has a place to stay that night. But this is no ordinary squatter. After helping himself to whatever's in the refrigerator and taking a nice long bath, he likes to tidy up a bit ' do the dishes, the laundry, make minor repairs. He also likes to play little practical jokes, like adjusting the bathroom scale so it looks like you've lost weight. Then, like Tinkerbell, he's off.
Did I mention that the movie's Korean? That only adds to its otherworldliness, the sense that we're not in Kansas (or Hollywood) anymore. Written, directed and edited by Kim Ki-duk, who brought a Zen-like stillness to Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring, 3-Iron is set in the real world (contemporary Seoul), but Tae-suk (Jae Hee) floats through that world like a phantom. And when he picks up a beautiful young woman along the way, she floats alongside him. Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon) was once a photographer's model. Now she's trapped in a marriage with a man who beats her. But a visit from Tae-suk shows her a whole new realm of possibility. You can be in the world but not of the world. Alternatively, you can be of the world but not in the world.
Did I mention that Tae-suk and Sun-hwa never speak to each other? Nor, except for one perfectly placed line of dialogue, do they speak to anyone else. Yet their silence speaks volumes, binding them together like the silky threads of a cocoon. Only the arrest for a crime they didn't commit can separate these two, sending the movie into a final chapter that seems out of some folk tale. You may have trouble following 3-Iron everywhere it goes ' especially the parts involving a certain golf club, which turns out to be one hell of a way to inflict punishment. Or you may readily absorb its message that we're all transients, living on borrowed time and borrowed furniture.