Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring

South Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk made a name for himself on the festival circuit with The Isle (2000), a sexual psychodrama whose scenes of genital self-mutilation I found more excruciating than enlightening. This superb 2003 feature forced me to revise my opinion of the director: wise, gentle, and simply constructed, it follows the deepening relationship between a little boy and an old Buddhist monk, who inhabit a houseboat floating on a lake surrounded by a vast, tree-lined valley. The story unfolds in five chapters as the boy reaches manhood and then old age, yet the expected theme of natural renewal is complicated by a story of sexual need and moral darkness that's reminiscent of the earlier film. In Korean with subtitles. R, 103 min.

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