Park Chan-wook (born August 23, 1963) is a South Korean film director, writer, producer and former film critic. One of the most acclaimed and popular filmmakers in his native country, Park is most known for his films ‘Joint Security Area’ (2000), ‘Thirst’ (2009) and what has become known as The Vengeance Trilogy, consisting of 2002’s ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance’, ‘Oldboy’ (2003) and ‘Sympathy for Lady Vengeance’ (2005). His films are noted for their immaculate framing and often brutal subject matter.
His debut feature film was ‘The Moon is… The Sun’s Dream’ (1992), and after five years, he made his second film ‘Trio’ (1997) . Neither of his early films were successful, and he pursued a career as a film critic to make a living. Then in 2000, Park directed ‘Joint Security Area’, which was a great success both commercially and critically, at the time of its release becoming the most-watched film ever made in South Korea. This success made it possible for him to make his next film more independently – ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance’ is the result of this creative freedom.
After winning the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival for the film ‘Oldboy’ (2003), a journalist asked, “in your film, why is the vengeance repeating?”. According to Park, he decided to make three consecutive films with revenge as the central theme. Park said his films are about the utter futility of vengeance and how it wreaks havoc on the lives of everyone involved. Despite extreme violence in his films, Park is regarded as one of the most popular film directors in Korea, with three of his last five feature films all drawing audiences of over 3 million. This makes Park the director of three films in the thirty all-time highest grossing films in South Korea.
American director Quentin Tarantino is an avowed fan of Park. As the head judge in 2004 Cannes Film Festival, he personally pushed for Park’s ‘Oldboy’ to be awarded the Palme d’Or (the honor eventually went to Michael Moore’s ‘Fahrenheit 9/11). Oldboy garnered the Grand Prix, the second-highest honor in the competition. Tarantino also regards Park’s Joint Security Area to be one of “the top twenty films made since 1992.”
In 2009, Park directed his first vampire film, ‘Thirst’ (2009) which won Prix du jury along with ‘Fish Tank’, directed by Andrea Arnold at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. The film tells the story of a priest—who is in love with his friend’s wife—turning into a vampire through a failed medical experiment. Park has stated, “This film was originally called ‘The Bat’ to convey a sense of horror. After all, it is about vampires. But it is also more than that. It is about passion and a love triangle. I feel that it is unique because it is not just a thriller, and not merely a horror film, but an illicit love story as well.”
Earlier in 2011, Park said his new fantasy-horror film Paranmanjang (Night Fishing) was shot entirely on the iPhone.
I love a good revenge movie. This isn’t one… I was lied to by the quotes on the DVD cover: “At once revenge thriller and folk tale” said Screen international; “Haunting, eerily beautiful” said The Guardian… liars. It also won the Silver Bear at the 2009 Berlin film festival for ‘Outstanding Artistic Contribution’. Director Peter Strickland was nominated for a string of awards at numerous European Festivals. Ooh, an artistic revenge flick…
Set in a Carpathian mountain village, Katalin is forced to leave with her 11 year old son when the whole village learns of her secret. Her husband rejects her and she sets out for revenge… on whom and for what we are yet to find out. So far, so good… then the long drawn out in and out of focus shots start… these must be the ‘artistic’ bits I thought.
She travels a lot. She stops at various villages asking directions. She takes her time getting to where she’s going, fair enough though as she’s travelling by horse drawn cart.
To be fair the film looks great and I don’t mind the odd beauty shot, but pointless shots of grass are a bit, well pointless. Arty yes, but what’s the point and more importantly where’s the revenge..?
Well it happens after a meeting between Katalin and a stranger at a bar, they leave to have sex in an alley and Katalin beats him to death with a rock. She leaves that village and heads to another… meanwhile a couple of guys purporting to be Policemen are on her trail.
As Katalin reaches her destination she is taken in by a husband and wife. Katalin explains to the couple why she is there and who her sons’ father really is…
It is a well made film, beautifully shot and a good central performance from Hilda Peter as Katalin. I can see why critics were fawning over this at the European festivals, it’s slow, filled with pointless cutaways and subtitled.
I liked it in parts but it is not a great revenge flick; yes it’s about revenge but is way too art-house and self-important for the average DVD renter to enjoy for what it was advertised as. This isn’t ‘Kill Bill’ and to be fair doesn’t want to be. The only thing it shares with that over-blown two-parter is its own self-importance.
Quality: 3 stars
Any good: 2 stars