A slow-witted woman suffers repeated rapes and miscarriages in "Iri," the latest exercise in attenuated emptiness from rapidly descending fest darling Zhang Lu.

A slow-witted woman suffers repeated rapes and miscarriages in “Iri,” the latest exercise in attenuated emptiness from rapidly descending fest darling Zhang Lu. The Chinese-Korean helmer’s first film in South Korea is set in the industrial city of Iksan, called Iri before a devastating 1977 train station explosion whose anniversary is the starting point for a purported glimpse at a society still struggling with the aftermath — here deliberately conflated with the country’s economic explosion. Dull and unemotional, pic is unlikely to travel as widely as Zhang’s previous efforts.

Born shortly after the disaster 30 years ago, Jin-seo (Yoon Jin-seo) has the mental capabilities of a child. She lives with her cabbie brother Tae-woong (Eum Tae-woong) atop a Chinese-language school and works as a cleaner in a retirement home. An easy prey to men, Jin-seo — presumably a metaphor for South Korea — is less bothered by the rapes than her brother is; he ultimately gets pushed to the limits of endurance. “Iri” was originally planned as part of Zhang’s earlier, unreleased “Chongqing,” but the producers decided to split them in two. Visuals stick to his usual static shots, drained of emotion.

Iri

South Korea

Production

A KTB Capital, Sponge presentation of a Gyro Pictures, Sponge production. (International sales: Fine Cut, Seoul.) Produced by Yun Byung-ki, David Cho. Executive producers, Shin Jin-ho, Cho Eun-un. Co-producers, Park Jin-won, Kim Seong-tae. Directed by Zhang Lu. Screenplay, Zhang, Kim Seong-tae.

Crew

Camera (color), Kim Sung-tai; editor, Im Sun-kyong; production designer, Kim Sung-kyu; costume designer, Kim Yun-hee. Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (competing), Oct. 28, 2008. Running time: 107 MIN.

With

Yoon Jin-seo, Eum Tae-woong, Yu Young-kyu, Mohammed Jano, Ko Wool-hwon, Choi Eun-jung, Kim Jun-sung, Hong Ji-yeon, Do Ye-jin, Son Kyu-sik, Park Chung-yoon, Kim Dong-ho, Chung Ji-young, Guo Ke-yu.
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