Then one day the wunderbar @MattSuzaka of Chuck Norris Ate my Baby found the call for suggestions and took it upon himself to pave the way to the road to great films. And yea, he didst provide a list. And on that list was Chan-Wook Park's Oldboy. And the Rach didst watch the film and didst cry out!
"YEA! What the fuck was that???"
All did rejoice for Rach was on the path to movie salvation.
And a voice came from the @Heavenztrash (see what I did there?).
"You know its part of a trilogy?"
And Rach understood her journey had only just begun.
Note to self: if you break out into biblical verse, it is time to go to bed.
The trilogy, for those who haven't seen it, is all about vengeance. I'm not going do a synopsis for each, it's basically three different stories that all focus on different reasons for vengeance, as well as the different ways the vengeance is obtained. There's also three different types of endings, but I'll leave that for a special "spoiler" paragraph.
These films are what I like to call "slow burn" movies (see my review of Grace), and Chan-Wook Park is the slow-burn master. It's not that he "keeps you guessing", movies that keep "keep you guessing" have a use-by date. Instead, he creates a tension with such subtlety that you have no idea it's happening until the cat knocks something over and your heart stops. You find yourself watching the next film with trepidation because you realize how involved you're going to get, and what that's going to do to you after it's finished. In each case the movies leave your mind ticking over at a hundred miles. I replayed parts of each film over and over in my head, savoring it and the genius behind it.
In this age of large, blue monkeys and their flying lizard friends, 3D, explosions, effects, and every other trick designed to make you forget that movies are supposed to have a plot, the use of artistic techniques like slowly draining the color from a film (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) or minimizing background music to allow moments of genuinely awkward silence (Sympathy for Mr Vengeance) seem almost new. A breath of fresh air, if you will. I also have to mention the clever use of comedy found in the trilogy. It's a very clever way to control tension levels.
You've been warned.
The different types of vengeance shown in the trilogy. What can I say? I'm going to go through it in the order I watched it. The ending to Oldboy has already been listed as my favorite ZOMG moment in film. It's such a grey-area ending! In the same way that Oh Dae-Su is manipulated to fall for Mi-do, we are manipulated to sympathize with Oh Dae-Su. Hence the ZOMG reaction.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is very straight forward by comparison, though it would definitely have its haters. It seems to suggest that vengeance can be curative, and that there is a place for it. What I love though, is that the ending is bittersweet. The families know that they still have to live with what they have done.
Sympathy for Mr Vengeance. Phew. Bleak is the word. This movie is about vengeance out of honor more than vengeance out of any real hatred. And that makes it all the more painful to watch. When Park Dong-jin tells Ryu that he's a nice enough fella but he has to kill him anyway, it's heartbreaking.
**END OF SPOILER SECTION**
So why do I prefer Sympathy for Mr Vengeance? Well, technically I don't, I prefer to think of the trilogy as a whole, but there are a number of reasons. Firstly, the ending. I'm one of the people who prefers Empire Strikes Back because of the bleak ending. I prefer an ending to be clever more than happy. Secondly, it was the best example of a slow-burn film out of the three. So much messiness, slowly, slowly building the tension, giving you wallowing time. This is not a film for an impatient person. And lastly its the way sympathy for Ryu is built through juxtaposing the uncomfortable silences with noisy events that he can't hear.
In short, I loved Oldboy and Lady Vengeance, but Sympathy for Mr Vengeance was one of the smartest works of art I've seen.
So, I've put Thirst on my list, what other Chan-Wook Park films do I need to see?