Director Showcase – Chan-wook Park
Master of Korean revenge Chan-wook Park is working on his first English language film set for release later this year. Tom takes a look at his career so far in this week’s Director Showcase.
At the turn of the millennium Korean films rarely made it to UK or American shores but Chan-Wook Park changed all that when his films caught the attention of foreign cinema fans worldwide. He has paved the way for a multitude of Korean directors and his unique brand of violence and intricate storytelling led to the creation of one of the finest trilogies of the last decade.
Park’s latest project is an English language horror film based on a script written by Wentworth Miller, (that’s right – the heavily tattooed guy from Prison Break!) which should hopefully be heading our way later on this year, and he has tried his hands at a number of genres in what has been a very promising career so far.
Sympathy for Mr Vengeance
The first part of Park’s unmissable Vengeance trilogy is an exceptional revenge drama that focuses on the misfortunes of a laid-off factory worker and his attempts to find the money and means to provide his sister with the kidney transplant she needs to survive. After a botched kidnapping attempt all hell breaks loose and copious amounts of blood is spilled as revenge takes hold of those involved. Utterly gripping from start to finish and shot with a style that denotes a director at the top of his game, this is a masterpiece of Korean cinema that many thought couldn’t be topped until the next part of the trilogy was released.
One of the finest revenge thrillers ever made, Oldboy is a classic of modern cinema that everyone with even just a passing interest in films needs to see. A man is kidnapped and held hostage for fifteen years only to be released and given five days to find the secret behind his torment. Violence ensues as he tracks down his captor and unleashes his anger in one of the finest choreographed fight scenes ever shot where a hammer is used to fend off a horde of attackers in a narrow corridor.Words cannot describe how beautifully shot Oldboy is; with slow motion scenes of violence accompanied by classical music to create a number of unforgettable moments in what is an intense and captivating story. Why on earth do we need an American remake of what is undoubtedly Park’s finest hour?
More refined that Park’s previous instalments in the Vengeance trilogy, Lady Vengeance is a gorgeous film with sumptuous visuals that fade to black and white as the story progresses. Framed for a murder she didn’t commit Geum-ja Lee spends thirteen years in prison and on her release she begins her search for redemption. With the assistance of people she met while incarcerated, Lee hunts down the real killer and plans a spectacular revenge. Utterly engrossing with a hauntingly beatiful soundtrack, Lady Vengeance is a fitting swansong to one of the finest trilogies ever made.
Joint Security Area – Opposing soldiers guarding the border between North and South Korea become friends in this intense war drama that revolves around the murder of two soldiers. As an investigation takes place to uncover the truth behind the deaths we learn more about the nature of their friendship and the intense buildup to the tragedy.
Thirst – This unique take on the vampire genre poses some intriguing questions when a devout priest is cured of a mysterious illness only to discover that he is becoming a vampire. At first he survives by stealing from a hospital blood bank but as the hunger takes hold will he be able to stave off his desire for live prey?
I’m a Cyborg But That’s Ok – This bizarre sci-fi/comedy/romance hybrid follows a young girl who checks into a mental institute under the belief that she is a cyborg. Not quite as funny as it sounds but still a riveting watch.
Three Extremes – Park directed a single segment of this twisted horror anthology alongside Fruit Chan and Takashi Miike, with his contribution the film being my personal highlight. His short takes place in a single room and bears a number of similarities to Saw with added dark humour.
Films to Avoid:
Park is one of those rare directors who hasn’t got a bad film in his resume. Although I have not seen the films he made before he put Korea on the map in the world of cinema (these are nigh on impossible to get hold of) all of his feature films from Joint Security Area onwards are well worth a watch.
About The Author – Tom Bielby
Long time film fan and aspiring film writer, Tom is a horror fanatic who wasted far too much time at University sitting through every film in the IMDB Top 250. He is partial to foreign films and cult cinema and would love to rid the world of people who rustle their popcorn during important scenes. He can be found on Twitter under the alias @filmbantha
Which Chan-wook Park films have you seen? Do you agree with our picks? Share your thoughts with us below.