Film Review: Moebius

Crazy is as Kim Ki-duk does in this dialogue-free Korean thriller about castration, incest, rape, sadomasochism and much, much more. While Kim has more on his mind than gross-out exploitation, many male viewers will be hard-put to stick around and find

Director Kim Ki-duk wastes no time getting the narrative of Moebius rolling: Enraged that her husband (Cho Jae-hyun) is receiving a phone call at home from his tarty mistress (Lee Eun-woo), a frustrated housewife and mother (also Lee) attempts to castrate him in front of their sweet-faced, teenage son (Seo Young-ju), who placidly continues eating breakfast. It appears that the large bust of a serene Buddha on display in the nameless family's tidy apartment is no match for the psychosexual rage seething beneath their blandly normal exteriors, and the mother's rage is quickly turned on her son. She not only unmans him successfully, but swallows his severed organ as well, then disappears until the movie's one-hour mark.

Men, don't bother uncrossing your legs, because there's more to come: Once the mutilated youngster is well enough to go back to school, his casually cruel classmates delight in tormenting him, puling down his pants to reveal his shortcoming. The father, of whose hand-to-hand combat skills the best one can say is that he fights like a girl, is unable to protect his son, but compensates by having his own member surgically removed in hopes that a transplant may save the boy from a lifetime of sexless frustration. A small gang of local thugs takes some sort of shine to lad and alternates between knocking him around and beating the bejesus out of the bullies, while his desperate dad starts investigating masochism as a non-genital route to orgasm…and let's just say that weirdness never stops and generally involves baroque violence to men's nether parts, including the one that gets squished by a car as its newly gelded owner tries desperately to retrieve it.
As the title suggests, the story is an infinite loop of sexual transgressions; the question is whether it's a bleak joke or a jokey pit of despair. The answer, as is generally the case with Kim's films—U.S. releases include The Isle (2000), Samaritan Girl and 3-Iron (both 2004)—is both. And as is the case with many Asian films, it's not always easy for Western viewers to square up the mix of grindhouse surface and art-movie subtext. That said, Kim would be an acquired and specialized taste no matter what the circumstances, and any recommendation is inevitably colored by caveats. So let the viewer beware: Moebius' rubbernecking appeal is hard to resist, but you run the risk of winding up feeling like a mouse caught in the hypnotic snare of a snake's unblinking gaze.

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