Monday, 1 March 2010

#53 Park Chan-Wook: my new favourite director

The first time I read (or to be precise saw) something on a Park Chan-Wook film was in the back of a film magazine; for his most recognised movie (excluding Thirst) Oldboy which came out in 2003. For some unknown reason when I saw Min-sik Cho as Dae-su Oh with half his face covered which his dark hair and the mysterious stranger behind him locking like someone from a Tarantino flick both staring me down I began to be interested. Apart from Oldboy the only Korean film I had seen at the time was The Host which I believe if better then Godzilla (the ‘98 outing not the brilliant ‘54) but who’s arguing. So I went I bought a copy and watched it. The first few times you watch Asian films and more importantly Korean films you need to watch them a couple times through because the’re style of film is more complex then the Weston approach because they tend to throw so much information you can get lost (this happened with me on Sympathy for Mrs Vengeance) but after you have seen enough of them you won’t even think about it. This could however all be just me but that’s how I felt.

Anyway, Park Chan-Wook is from South Korea and during his time at University his made a film club called the ‘Sogang Film Community’ and during that time wrote a number of articles on contempory cinema. At first Park wanted to be an Art critic but upon watching Hitchcock’s Virtigo he wanted to become a director. His first film was The Moon Is... the Sun's Dream however his earliest work I personally have seen was Judgment. Judgment is a great short film but can only be seen on the Cinema 16: World Short Films DVD but definitely worth checking out. Ok so here is his Filmography before I continue to ramble on-

The Moon Is... the Sun's Dream
JSA: Joint Security Area
Sympathy for Mr Vengeance
If You Where Me
Three… Extremes
Sympathy for Mrs Vengeance
I’m A Cyborg but that’s Ok

So with the exception of The Moon is… and Saminjo, I have seen everything of his (Three. Extremes is actually really extreme in content but what can you expect from Takashi Miike?). After seeing Thirst I just had to go back and watch all his other films and what a collection it is to come upon. Along with Park being one of my favorite directors, Song Kango-Ho is my new favorite actor (The Host, JSA, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance and Thirst) and the two have a Johnny Depp/Tim Burton relationship. Song is such a flexible actor and a good screen presence that everything he’s in is so interesting and different.

JSA: Joint Security Area is a story about soldiers from North Korea befriending soldiers from South Korea on the connection bridge between the tow apposing countries before turning sour and follows the story of a lady trying to uncover who shot who and who shot first. The two Sympathy for- films along with OldBoy are part of Park’s Vengeance Trilogy and are just brilliant and twisted tales of revenge. I’m A Cyborg- is probably his weakest of films but like all his movies has something init that I really like (especially the scene with Cha Young-Goon walking around shooting everything). And last film I’m going to mention is Thirst. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say Thirst was definitely my favorite Vampire film of last year (remember Let the Right on In was s big hit in my books) and I believe that Thirst was the best vampire film. I just find the decent Song’s character endures excellent. At the beginning he’s a pure virginal priest who turns into a sex maniac blood drinker. I have only seen Let the Right one in once and that was when it was released so I should go back and watch that but I think my opinion will not change.

I definitely recommend all of Park’s work to any proper movie goer and especially if you like world cinema. OldBoy is apparently being remade wit Will Smith and Steven Spielberg which just disgusts me to no end but before you see that (if it’s ever made) please check out these films. He writes and directs all of his work and the creativity and beautiful locations just make every outing of his something to watch out for. oh and lastly OldBoy has my favorite fight scene in any movie, take that Matrix.

Oliver Hunt


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