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If you love Chan-wook Park, you know what to expect. His films are
brutal, poetic, tragic, and artistic, with splashes of very grim humor.
THIRST is clearly Park's style, and I loved every second of it, from
the cinematography (every shot is gorgeous and creative) to the story,
which blends Shakespearean tragedy, murderous love, Gothic horror, and
layered character drama. The characters are complex and there is plenty
of moral ambiguity to go around. Even the most sociopathic character
evokes sympathy. The direction is restrained and the performances are
nuanced - like SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, there are too many
subtleties to take in on the first viewing. Chan-wook Park is an
intelligent, bold, consistently surprising filmmaker. It's
unpredictable - scenes go from brutal and heart-wrenching to
laugh-out-loud hilarious in an instant. This is closer to LADY
VENGEANCE then SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE as far as being over-the-top
and comical. But, like LADY VENGEANCE, it's incredibly rich,
thought-provoking, and rewarding.
If you like beautifully told vampire stories (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN) or are a fan of Chan-wook Park, seeing THIRST should be obvious. Easily one of the best films of 2009.
Not for the squeamish, but the number of twists, inventive uses of
situations using vampire mythology, gorgeous visual extremes, together
with interesting and quirky characters make this one of the most
stunning horror films I've ever seen. It descends into utter madness
along with characters, but never seems exploitative or horrific without
purpose. There are copious amounts of bloodletting accompanied by some
nasty sucking and squishing sounds, but also subtle moments where you
laugh out loud. As he tends to do, Chan-wook Park keeps you off center
with leaps in time and plot and situation that you have to fill in for
yourself forcing your involvement in the story and characters.
And there's a lot of literal leaping. Keeping in the vein of vampire myth (pun intended), they have superhuman strength and can nearly leap tall buildings in a single bound (to coin a phrase). The first time our heroine is carried by the across the tops of buildings by the troubled vampire priest, it has all the magical romance of Lois Lane and Superman - but this romance becomes increasingly disturbing - but driven by a strange and conflicted 'love affair' not by mere horror.
The acting is superb, particularly OK-vin Kim, the gorgeous actress in the female lead role who, at 22, shows a range that is remarkable. The character borders on a kind of black widow film noir type. She careens from innocent to impish to vixen to demon with utter conviction. This is a really smooth and nervy performance.
If you love real art in horror, or are a fan of Oldboy - don't wait for the video, see it immediately.
I won't bore you with any synopsis, chances are you already know them.
And hopefully you are already familiar with Park Chan-Wook's work.
I STRONGLY disagree with some of the other commentators in saying that "Park has not moved on from the vengeance trilogy blah blah blah." Because you know what? He HAS!!! The vengeance trilogy were different from each other in style to begin with, how can you even compare the sombreness and subtlety of "Sympathy For Mr Vengeance" with the frantic and extravagance of "Oldboy"? Park Chan-Wook has incredible style, but his movies don't all share the SAME style! That has been true and remains true with the release of "Thirst".
"Thirst" is an incredible picture, it literally has EVERYTHING you want in a movie. Jaw-dropping violence, tasteful gore, great humour, incredible suspense and even very realistic sex scenes. The story is so crazy that at no point can you guess what will happen next. I'm so happy to say that Park is back in top form with this fantastic dark-comic-vampire-love-story. Watch it as soon as you can!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Viewed at the Festival de Cannes 2009
Sang-hyun, a beloved and admired priest in a small town serves devotedly at a local hospital. He goes to Africa to volunteer as a test subject, is infected by a deadly virus and dies. A blood transfusion brings him back to life and turns him into a vampire. Word spreads that he is a healer and people flock to him. Among them is an old friend, Kang-woo, and his wife, Tae-ju. She and Sang-hyun begin a love affair, which soon spins off into murder. While Sang-hyun tries to hold onto his humanity (he refuses to kill and has a novel way of getting the blood he needs), Tae-ju really gets into this whole vampire thing, whereupon Sang-hyun realises something has to be done.
Fans of Park Chan-Wook will have no trouble with this film. Yes, all his visual tricks and techniques are there, but he sets them in scene as skillfully as ever.
The performances, every single one of them, are all top notch. The blood, when it comes, is red and raw. At the same time, this is still very much the thinking person's vampire film. If you're into wooden stakes, bats, garlic, holy water, decapitations etc. then this isn't the film for you. If you enjoyed, for example, Abel Ferrera's The Addiction (1995), then it most definitely is.
Typically for a park Chan-Wook film, especially coming on the heels of I'm A Cyborg, But That's OK, there is a lot of humour; black, mordant and very funny, both visual and verbal. The audience at the press screening laughed frequently and often loudly.
The fact it's a vampire film may deter some viewers, which would be a pity. It makes me want to say "It's a vampire film, but ..." and then tell them why, if that's a problem, they should overcome it and give the film a chance. It would also be unfair to call Thirst (to use its international title) a horror film, given the connotations associated with that label. If you can accept Master And Commander as a buddy / relationship film, as well as an action-adventure, then I hope you know what I'm trying to say.
If I have one criticism to level against this film, it's the length. 133 minutes are just too many. It could lose quite a few of them with no harm to the narrative or characterisations. But that is not a reason not to seek out the latest film from this excellent Korean writer-director.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Now that I have seen it, it was NOT what I was expecting, at least not until the very END. I read some of the other reviews before picking up a used copy of this from Amazon and was glad I did. Having been first introduced to Park's work via Oldboy, I was curious to how he'd treat the genre and was rather pleased at the clever manner in which he executed it. I think Park has matured in terms of presentation because while Oldboy and some of his other work has very nice and deliberate camera work, he has some nice innovations in Bakjwi that I had not seen in other vamp movies. For example the scene where Father Hyeon is realizing the "beast" growing within him as he gives his shoes to the always barefoot Tae-ju and he is able to SEE the blood pumping through Tae-ju's skin and his eye's widen in blood-lust for it. That was a nice effect. I was also happy that Park did not CG the crap out of the movie and the is in fact very little CG at all. I came away from Bakjwi being totally set up to think one thing was going to happen and get taken for a ride in true Park fashion. Additionally, I liked that Park played with a little symbolism and reversal whereas we don't usually get this is Asia cinema. During the beginning of the movie we see the plot develop slowly and get to know the characters and you feel like an invisible observer to the thing that are transpiring. Park treats you a little like Ghost of Christmas future coming to show you, albeit a bit boringly, what life is like outside your world. Ah, but then we start to feel a little kinship with the befallen Father and his burgeoning lust for Tae-ju and conflict with duty as a priest. We almost start to root for them even until Park not so nicely slaps us back into reality and we really see that in the end Bakjwi is a movie about moral dilemma and right and wrong. It won't spoil it if I tell you to watch Bakjwi from the mindset of a priest and I think you'll come away from it with what Park wants you to come away with. Don't expect Oldboy and stylization because that's not what you'll get here. A very interesting take on the genre indeed. Those who missed the MANY literary elements and religious allusions watched some other movie, not Bakjwi. After Bakjwi, watch Let The Right One IN, it's also not what you'll expect either.
Talk about getting your socks knocked off, this newest amazing movie from Park Chan-wook's would be my favorite new take on the vampire genre, if not for "Let the Right One In", which still remains my fav, but this one is right behind it. A Catholic Priest volunteers for some radical medical experiments, that turn him into a vampire. He tries his best to be a good vampire, and not kill anybody, but it's pretty clear, that's going to be rather difficult. Park mixes in some black comedy into this one, just as he does in most of his earlier films, but the subject matter is dead serious. It also has one of the best vampire sex scenes I have ever seen. The vampire Priest steals blood from hospitals and anywhere he can find it, but when he meets his new lover, things pretty much go downhill, when she wants to become a vampire too. This is an excellent entry into the vampire genre, and continues Park Chan-wook's amazing body of work. This is not to be missed, every minute of the 134 min running time is entertaining as hell.
Chan-wook Park, you have to hand it to the guy. In my eyes, he's not
only a brilliant director but a brilliant director who can turn his
hand to any genre and often provides something refreshing yet still
Thirst is, essentially, a vampire tale but one that plays fast and loose with some of the "rules" of the subgenre. Kang-ho Song plays Father Sang-hyeon, a man who unselfishly gives himself over to a research program and then unselfishly kind of catches the disease they are trying to cure, dies and comes back. All thanks to the blood he was transfused with. Being the only one of the subjects to survive, he becomes quite the celebrity to those who know him and all he wants is to get back to normal. Normal, however, now involves being able to leap great distances without injury, wanting to drink blood and getting severely hot under the collar when rays of sun get on his skin. It's not long before he's living with a rather dysfunctional family unit who knew him in his childhood and while he hides his new, strange lifestyle he finds himself drawn into a complex love triangle, becoming more acceptable of darker thoughts and sliding down a slippery slope that could lead him from man to beast to monster.
Deftly blending a number of genres, Park's movie felt much fresher and more original to me than Let The Right One In (to use a recent example) and genuinely impressed me with it's approach to material that could easily have felt as well-worn and rehashed as any number of other vampire movies we've seen over the years. It's a mixture of horror, melodrama and comedy while also pondering ideas such as strength of faith, the power over life and death, the downside of immortality, etc, etc.
Some people have complained that this genre-blending approach weakens the movie but I personally found that it was a lively, entertaining and always enjoyable movie helped by a great central performance from Song as the tortured priest and fantastic turns from a supporting cast with no weak links. Many characters get to move through a range of emotions and all do so with skill and believability, especially the young woman (played by OK-vin Kim) who becomes the object of the priest's love, lust and affection.
Fans of Asian cinema (and Park in particular) and also fans of Poe's "The Tell-tale Heart" (watch and learn) should lap this up, it's yet another classy movie from a man who seems to take everything in his stride and always manages to put out nothing less than solid entertainment.
See this if you like: Cronos, Near Dark, Dellamorte Dellamore AKA Cemetery Man.
From the director of Oldboy comes this slick vampire flick. Kang-ho Song stars as a priest who is accidentally changed into a vampire while being cured of a deadly, mysterious virus. His vampirism and priesthood are quite at conflict, but he is able to survive by robbing the hospital's blood bank and unconscious patients who might not mind some siphoned blood. Because of his supposedly miraculous survival, he comes into the lives of Ha-kyun Shin's family. Shin has cancer, and his mother believes that Song can cure it. Unfortunately, Song's vampirism raises his levels of lust to a height where he can't help but fall for Shin's young wife, OK-vin Kim. Kim is intensely interested in the world of vampirism, and the two become lovers. The film from there goes in weird directions that I think one should experience for themselves. What really should be mentioned is Chan-wook Park's mastery of the medium of cinema. My God, I've rarely seen such a masterful visual artist at the peak of his powers. The major flaw of the film is that it's a little incoherent, especially near the beginning. Park is interested in telling his stories mostly in the visuals, which can be difficult to follow at times. But when it works, man, does it fly. The film is also perversely hilarious. The final sequence, easily one of the best of the decade, is simultaneously heartbreaking and delightfully ridiculous. OK-vin Kim should become a worldwide star after this film. She gives one of the best performances of the year.
After watching Oldboy I was a little disappointed by the rest of Park's
work, some of it is good but it never approaches the level of humour
and originality that Oldboy had. This one does, it is nothing like
Oldboy in plot or style but the same level of quality is there.
The acting is good with Kang-ho Song, OK-bin Kim and Ha-kyun Shin delivering excellent performances. Kim in particular manages to swap from the creepy horror scenes to the surreal comedy without the slightest misstep.
The plot is strange with lots of twists and turns and takes a big swipe at the vampire clichés.
The directing is spot on with tons of pace and humour throughout and some of the most memorable scenes I have ever seen. It does boast what is probably the weirdest love scene you will ever see.
This is just a great film.
No pun intended. I'm not going to spoil anything about the story, but
it's safe to assume that you already know, what kind of character the
main actor portrays. And of course being a priest while being "naughty"
exaggerates all that. Plus this is the most erotic movie from Park Chan
If you have seen Wook's previous works/movies you know he is very visual (in a good way) and it shows again here. While it strays away from the vengeance theme of his prior movies on the surface, it still has quite some heat hidden underneath. And when that boils, quite a few bad things start to happen. But through all that dark, there also moments of light (fun) to be had too. A very stylistic and though provoking movie, that lives outside the mainstream and does a very good job ...
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