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"Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" is a surprisingly poetic finale to Park's
excellent Revenge Trilogy. The film fuses the relatively low-key style
of "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" with the jet-black humor of "Oldboy,"
while adding welcome moments of poignancy and sentiment. The film is
nowhere near as violent as its predecessors, although a good deal of
mayhem takes place offscreen.
Yeong-ae Lee is outstanding as the troubled protagonist Geum-ja, the ex-convict who is seeking redemption as much as revenge. Although the supporting actors -- including several from Park's earlier films -- are uniformly fine, Lee's performance is the heart of the film.
"Lady Vengeance" is difficult to describe without revealing major plot points, as the most memorable scenes come at revelatory moments in the story. Suffice it to say that the climax blends tragedy and hilarity with a degree of success that few directors could hope to match.
Chan-Wook Park was already the Master of Dysfunction after Old Boy, now
he can add the title of King of Pain (thanks Sting) to his CV.
The depth of feeling in the second half of this film is staggering, and comes in stark contrast to the startling apathy of the first half. The masterful cinematography is something we have come to expect but the director's ability to compose the most evocative of tableaux never ceases to amaze- the final shot of the movie being a case in point.
As the above reviewer says, one must be cryptic in commenting on this film but it must be said that its final act really transforms it from a beautifully crafted work into a masterpiece.
This is a film which shocks without ever descending into gratuity, while frequently forcing a guilty laugh with its darker-than-black's-shadow humour.
Just got the Korean 2 DVD set and watched the B/W version first. All I
can say is that, this film is a masterpiece! I was very moved and if
you do one more thing in your life before you die, see this film!
Of course, I use the term "masterpiece" in its true sense, as the work which reveals an artist's achievement of "mastery" over his or her craft. Don't be confused with the latter conotation that a masterpiece is a "perfect" work. Could there ever be such a thing? Truly, this film shows the original sense of the word, such that I would be nervous seeing any subsequent films from him.
There are two versions of the film. I checked the colour version, and besides the opening credits being slightly different, and the much talked about retaining of colour throughout, it appears to be exactly the same.
I am sure your are all familiar with the premise, but I think that the less you know, the better. At it's basic level, this film follows in the classic "quest for revenge" schema. A beautiful woman is condemned to 13 and a half years of incarceration for the kidnapping and murder of a young boy. By this theme, the film connects to the previous entries in the now Vengeance "Trilogy", but it is in no way a rerun.
Just like the other two films, (Sympathy for) Lady Vengeance is gorgeous. The design in the film is extraordinary, and there are so many frames that are simply beautiful. The use of colour and light is inspirational in some parts, and I really can't think of watching any version but the "fading" one. Maybe it's because I saw that version first, but I didn't find the colour version as deeply affecting.
I think that which is better will be a personal decision for all who see this film. There are a some points where the fading version is very effective with what becomes subdued spots of colour. Yet, the characters in the film are also colourful, and fleshed out enough so that the viewer gets to know them, but not enough that they know them completely.
The past is something hidden for these characters, in many ways that is a thematic point of the film. The film is truly about redemption, and as we follow the moving drama within we may even come to understand something within ourselves. It is truly a fitting end to this three film exploration into hate remorse and revenge.
i usually don't enjoy movies that contain gore, suspense, and violence. still, sympathy for lady vengeance was undoubtedly, a movie worth watching. even for those who actively dislike movies in this certain genre, sympathy for lady vengeance is an absolute must. out of the trilogy, this one was the one i enjoyed most. there was nothing overly-excessive and/or gratuitous (which i honestly found oldboy and sympathy for mr vengeance had a bit of), and it definitely cannot be considered a brain-candy film. with an extremely intelligent and interesting plot, and visually stunning cinematography, it was a spectacular piece of art, from the start to the finish, and had me thinking about it and talking about it for days afterward.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film was just released in Seoul, South Korea. I couldn't wait too long to see the last part of the vengeance trilogy. Oh boy, if you are a fan of CW Park and enjoyed his prior part of vengeance trilogy(i.e., old boy, sympathy for Mr.vengeance), you need to add this one to your must-see list. I personally think that this is the best one out of those three because: (1) this one allows the main character to have a clear motivation to revenge, and (2)this one is the most beautifully shot film out of those three. For some who like shocking scenes (like eating octopus or pulling teeth off etc), I wanted to let you know that this film is not violent/shocking as prior ones. Well, actually some of my friends watching the movie together seemed to be a bit disappointed because their expectation for CW Park was unrealistically high. Probably my friends might have wanted more schocking/irrational stuff in this one.
I had the luxury of watching this last night and was awed by it's sheer
brilliance. I don't want to delve into the story, as you must see it
for yourself to savor the fantastic story like a glass of red wine.
The story revolves around a young woman sentence to jail due to murdering a young boy. Upon release she then embarks on a journey of redemption for the crime committed.
The cast's acting is impeccable on all sides. with sumptuous photography and a moving musical score consisting of such great composers as Vivaldi.
If you are a lover of foreign cinema this is a definite DO NOT MISS movie!
I guess it was somewhat convenient and clever for Park to have
conceived this film as the third and final installment to his two
pragmatically different films. Seeing as how Lady Vengeance shares two
similar themes of unjust imprisonment and child kidnapping with her
elder brothers Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Clearly if this
picture wouldn't have been regarded in the trilogy, many would proclaim
Park as stagnant and unable of moving away from these akin proses
dealing with revenge.
Film opens with the release of Lady Vengeance, a.k.a. "The Witch", a.k.a. "kind-hearted Geum-ja", played by the elegant Yeong-ae Lee. I was quite surprised by how heavily narrated this film was from the get-go, as I was expecting the major breakdowns and motives revealed at a much later time, lets say right before the final pinnacle. But I preferred this to how Oldboy played, in a sense that Lady Vengeance didn't largely depended on the "big shocker" to end the film and instead moved along steadily, revealing everything piece by piece.
Making comparisons with Park's past two films was much tangible here as with each beautiful classical piece mirroring one from Oldboy there was also the unexaggerated violence similar to that of SFMV. The music was again well chosen and played in melancholic and elating waves without any use of mainstream ballads or electronic beats. Some of the compositions were used multiple times and while they might come off a bit repetitive, most of them were either recurring for the sake of certain notions and themes that the characters were going through or just because.
Aside from the tight main cast, many known and capable faces of Korean cinema made appearances in short and shorter interludes throughout the film. Not much else could be said, apart from them doing just as much as the script was asking of them. While the visual and musical aspects of the film are simply splendid, the story here might cause some viewers to contend whether everything premeditated and executed by our leading lady was truly worthful.
**The following comments contain spoilers**
A lot was shown of what Geum-ja was like during the prison time where she was boldly portrayed as a calculating, 'devil in God's clothes' of a woman who had a conveniently good eye for helping those who could later help her. Geum-ja was able to put on a quite a good by finding faith and making public speeches. But she had the best part reserved for Mr. Baek, played by the powerhouse actor Min-sik Choi. Mr. Baek had betrayed Geum-ja and made her take the blame for a murder of a child that he himself committed. And if then 19 year old Geum-ja was to refuse, he would've simply killed her (illegitimate) newborn child.
More was revealed about Mr. Baek who continued working as a kindergarten teacher for when Geum-ja captured him with the help of her former cell mate, who returned her a favor by marrying Mr. Baek and coping with his demeaning ways. Apparently Mr. Baek's past crime with that child wasn't a singular case as he had a fetish for capturing little kids and taping their deaths on camera for his viewing pleasure.
After toying with Mr. Baek, but holding back from completely destroying him, Geum-ja revealed her grand plan. Standing in the middle of an abandoned school, in a classroom of irregularly filled seats, Geum-ja gathered the family members of those kids that Mr. Baek had killed. After screening the tapes, Geum-ja gave those people options to either have their way with Baek or call upon the law to deal with him instead.
Watching these characters nauseate over the tapes of their little children being tortured in a way deflated Geum-ja's arc as a character and somewhat weakened the film's final punch in my eyes. So many years spent in jail and questions surrounding the well-being of her daughter must have been undoubtedly excruciating for her, but standing next to these people, who unlike her seemed so much more humane and relatable, I felt a lot more sorrow for them than I did for Geum-ja, most likely due to how mechanical and manipulative her character was made to look, which to say the least was brave of the director, if not a bit overzealous. Her struggles with gaining forgiveness from the dead boy and the symbolism of the white cake representing her state of repentance, overshadowed the climax of the revenge, however the scenes with the family members going in one by one after Mr. Baek were the essence of the film.
**End of spoilers**
In the end I found Lady Vengeance more infatuated with itself than Oldboy, but not as fundamentally visceral and unrelenting as SFMV, which remains to be my favorite film from Park to date. Lady Vengeance felt like an amusement park, filled with hard facts mixed with dreamy imagination sequences, en route of sardonic pokes at religion and sexual deeds. A film with a little bit of everything for everyone, that's if you don't strip away its flashy overtones and comic-book-like personifications, which gracefully coat the film's otherwise improbable scheme, fantasized by a random cell-woman, unjustly imprisoned for a crime she didn't commit.
I think Park needs to make a film that will not only disassociate him from his well talked about and highly debated trilogy flicks, but will devoid him from being thrown into the pool of devaluing comparisons to Hollywood films like Kill Bill as also witnessed with the response to A Bittersweet Life from the press and movie fans. Park has all the right tools and he has shown us the many faces of revenge, now it's time for him to show us something else.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I won't be surprised to see hordes of housewives watching Sympathy for
Lady Vengeance, given the Korean drama penetration into Asian
households, especially the wildly popular Jewel In The Palace starring
the same lead actress Lee Youngae. Then again, given the theme on
revenge, filled with its fair share of blood and gore, this new movie
by Park Chanwook might appeal to just a select few.
It's easy to draw comparisons with Hollywood's recent revenge movie, Quetin Tarantino's Kill Bill. Both stars hot actresses, both movies focus on the same theme, both have children playing an integral part of the protagonist's motivation, and both were essentially screwed by a male baddie. However, Sympathy plays up the stylistic factor, as well as little art-house nuances in delivering sweet revenge.
Lee Youngae plays Lee Geumja, whom we see leaving prison after serving a sentence of 13 years for kidnap and murder. Or is it? Framed and blackmailed by her collaborators, she bears the brunt of the responsibility and blame, which sent her packing to jail. Naturally she swears vengeance upon the mastermind of the dastardly deeds, as hell as knoweth no fury like a woman who's really angry.
Playing up biblical moments in the movie by symbolizing Geumja as a devil in angel's clothing (or vice versa, depending on how you want to look at it), the movie intersperses narrative moments with essential flashbacks to her life in prison. On one hand, she's the angel to newcomers who protects them from the bad prison cell mama-san, while on the other, she's the devil who's plotting murder on the sly. She gains respect from these inmates, who play important roles when Geum-ja is released, to exact her 13 year revenge plan. One of the best scenes in demonstrating this was the making of her twin-trigger handgun, translating poetic justice straight from the pages of a suture.
The final showdown is different from Kill Bill's, without the monotonous monologue, and the imaginary Five Point Exploding Heart Palm technique. Here, it's brutal, it's violent, and somehow, satisfactory. Revenge is a dish best served cold, but only enjoyable when share with a group of like-minded diners, to classical Vivaldi music. The final 20 minutes of the show makes an interesting conversation and analytical piece, so I would not spoil anything here.
While at times the movie does plod along, it depended heavily on Youngae to shoulder this film through its slower moments. I'm not sure why, but somehow through the many close-ups, I find she has aged quite a lot from her JSA days.
Make no mistake, this film might not be for all to bear. Those who are expecting numerous gunfights and explosions will be disappointed, as Geumja does not roar and rampage like what Beatrix did. But when she finally does, in artistic style, all can be forgiven.
The final instalment of Park's Revenge Trilogy concluded well. In fact, I personally feel that it is the best out of the three film, excellent cinematography and beautiful classic music that blended perfectly well into the story. Lee Youngae gives fantastic performance in her role, a complete impression from her previous kind-hearted and sweet looking role in "Jewel in the Palace". Cold and filled with vengeance , yet she exudes fine elegance with her subtle body language and facial expression. The soundtrack works well at suitable moments, infusing classic into this art-house film. It was a pity the film didn't win any grand awards in the Venice Film Festival, Park definitely deserves recognition for his excellent works.
There I was, in Sitges' film festival, in Barcelona, where one year ago Chan-Wook Park had won his prize for the great masterpiece Old Boy. This time he was presenting his last movie "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" to end the revenge trilogy.Everyone was waiting for the movie to start, all Park's fans and the lady at the festival announced the director's arrival. There he came in, the Korean director with the translator, trying to explain the meaning of his surname in Korean, and talking about loads of stuff - except the movie. Finally he thanked people for making his movie Old Boy "win a lot of money". I think is this personality that makes Park's movies so special. Just like this last one, its a beautiful bizarre movie, like its creator. The audience was already amazed with the starting credits of unusual beauty that just took the breath away from all audience and guarantied that the movie was going to be something different. Truth is that the movie is different, at least more different than his early Old Boy. This time he had created a movie where the story didn't count as much, but maybe the visual side of it, images that contain so much beauty that just makes the movie already worthy of seeing. The story is also really good, charged with all sort of surrealism and irony that makes it extremely interesting. Also, this time the director had treated vengeance with another style, more beautifully and also comprehensive, accomplishing that the audience can identify themselves with the main character, Geumja. When it was ended, the movie received a warmly applause from an audience, including myself, that hadn't been disappointed and that thought the director had done a great and bizarre job to end his trilogy.
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