The Thirst for Park Chan-wook

As per Variety, Park Chan-wook's vampire film Thirst will receive financial backing from Universal / Focus Features USA to keep his project afloat. It's a great outreach to one of the region's strongest directors, a filmmaker who has shown up on almost every film enthusiast's radar for roughly five years now. Now, he's (re) teaming up with Memories of Murder star Song Kang-ho to make a movie about a priest who delves into the world of vampires to extract an experimental cure. Sounds a little like The Exorcist, only with bloodsuckers, science, and a Korean directorial genius involved.

Once you've discovered Park Chan-wook's Vengeance trilogy, there's no going back. No matter which one you start with, the Korean mastermind's signature style burns images into your mind. I remember the first time I watched Oldboy. A few colleagues had raved about how solid it was, claiming that it twisted and turned around a plotline that really messes with your mind. Of course, anything that tries to tap into your brain power always intrigues me. Little would I realize what I had stumple upon.

Oldboy evokes Shakespearen levels of dramaturgy, knotting into benchmark after benchmark of emotional torture for both the audience and its hero. It's the story of a man imprisoned for fifteen years with no explanation, then released with a suit on his back, a cell phone in his pocket, and a malignant voice on the other end pushing him towards discovery. Park Chan-wook's film takes this idea of discovery and laces it with deconstructive properties, placing the main character Oh Dae-su under a microscope as he breaks down into a psychotically deranged, adrenaline-fueled predator with little more than the hunger for knowledge and retribution in his mind. I consider very few films to be masterworks, but Oldboy's script construction and performance properties more than surmount anything required for being a pinnacle of terse and emotional filmmaking.

With most, Oldboy is the starting point: from there, it's typical to go backwards and find the first of his trilogy. This happens to be Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, a coarsely energetic film starting Song Kang-ho. His talents clearly stand strong from the start as he renders a film with a thrashing, disparate entity as its hero. He sparks his controversial vein with this story, rendering a tale about Ryu and his sister who kidnap his ex-employer's child for ransom money the sister needs for an organ transplant. It pushes boundaries, especially with the Memories of Murder star behind its painfully blunt potency. We see the roots of Park Chan-wook's directorial prowess, illustrating how he can strain a character to wit's end and force them to make moral decision in a state of exhaustive turmoil.

The only one left is Park Chan-wook's trilogy conclusion, the marvelous Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. If Oldboy is his Shakespearean tragedy and Mr. Vengaence his hard-boiled gritty exposition, then Lady Vengeance would be his brutally beautiful poetic prose. Inventive and whimsical imagery litter this story of maternal revenge, as well as a more skilfull and genteel hand behind the director's style. It conflagrated several of the Vengeance trilogy's themes into one film, painting a portrait of a retribution-seeking revamped woman wrongfully imprisoned for the kidnapping and morder of a young boy. Most notable for Lady Vengeance is the obvious: the inclusion of a female character as the focal hero. Lee Geum-ja's remarkable performance as "the lady" instills a haunting effervescence into an excrucuating work of brutally poignant cinema.

His other works, namely Joint Security Area and I'm A Cyborg, work for entirely different reasons. He's an incredibly talented director, which shows by his capacity to branch out into different genres and rhythms, such as JSA's warzone energy or Cyborg's comedic morbidity. Now, he's pushing to have a vampire film in our hands. One of the key differences between his previous ventures into different -- read: less grim -- genres was the lack of core torment that the characters endured. Park Chan-wook is at his best when he meddles with the emotionality of the audience, wreaking havoc in their guts with razorblade tension. If he can bring that kind of energy to a vampire film with Thirst, then color me ten shades of excited.

Listening to: The Album Leaf - The Outer Banks (Album)
via FoxyTunes


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