Jump to content

Recommended Posts

So I finally caught OldBoy last night, after eagerly looking forward to it for the past few months. I've always appreciated Park Chan-Wook's films, though not to the extent that I was raving about them a la Harry Knowles (who picked Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance as his fave film of 2002, I believe). However, OldBoy is easily Park's most accomplished film, not to mention his darkest and most brutal. Stylistically, it's way ahead of his previous movies (at least, the 2 I've seen), with plenty of slick style and atmosphere, and some great editing and camerawork.

The plot is based on a Japanese comic book and deals with a seemingly average guy named Oh Daesu. While returning home for his daughter's birthday, he's kidnapped and awakes in a dingy hotel room, where he spends the next 15 years of his life with only a TV to keep him company. During his imprisonment, he's gassed every night, journals religiously about every sin he's every committed and person he's wrong, and finds out his wife has been murdered and he's been framed. When he's finally released, he's no longer a human, but more like an animal, obsessed with tracking down and killing whoever destroyed his life. Or as Tarantino puts it, he goes on a "roaring rampage of revenge".

It's not hard to see why Tarantino (a long-time Asian film afficianado) picked OldBoy to sceen at Cannes (where it won second place honors). However, unlike the vengeance-themed Kill Bill films, which were essentially homages to the films Tarantino grew up with as a kid, OldBoy plays more like a Shakespearean tragedy. It's a very difficult film to watch in place, and not just because of the violence, but because of the ravages that Daesu undergoes, both by those who are seeking revenge on him and by his own quest for vengeance.

I've heard Park often compared to David Fincher, and I can see that. The Kafka-esque plot does bear certain similarities to The Game, and the film's style has a couple of Fight Club-esque moments (one, in particular, reminded me of Fight Club's IKEA apartment scene). However, Park has plenty of brilliantly unique moments of his own. There's an amazing fight scene that consists of Daesu taking on a whole gang in a cramped hallway, and which is shot all in one take with one long tracking shot (which only heightens the brutality). And there's a very haunting sequence where Park cuts back between the Daesu and him as a child as he (literally) races through his memories trying to figure out who did this to him.

One thing Park has that Fincher doesn't is Choi Min-Sik, who delivers an absolutely devastating performance as Daesu. And it's not just things he does (like devouring a live octopus), but the thing he becomes over the course of the film. Early in the movie, when he's just been released, he looks like he could take on a whole squad of Green Berets and win. But as the movie progresses, he becomes increasingly pathetic, pitiful, and tragic (again, in almost Shakespearean terms) as he realizes his vengeance only makes him a pawn, and yet he can't turn back. There's one scene, where Daesu is grovelling before his captor, that is one of the most gutwrenching things I've seen in a long time... I kept thinking to myself that I'd never see any Hollywood actor go to these lengths, or generate this sort of intensity.

Unfortunately, the movie (which comes in a very nice package) is only available in Region 3 format, though I think I've read rumors that they're trying to get a domestic release. However, I know you can rent Joint Security Area (the film that really broke Park into the limelight) from NetFlix. It's a pretty decent film, and gives some inkling of Park's blend of violence (which is never played for sheer adrenaline, but always as something tragic and horrible) and tragedy. However, it's really nothing compared to OldBoy.

Unfortunately, the movie's official site seems to be gone, but here are a few related sites...

- Photo Gallery

- Park Chan-Wook Interview

And I found this "Director's Statement" on another site...

"'Old Boy' is a story about 'Vengeance' that I also described in my previous film, 'Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance'. The two films may look very similar, but I wanted to deliver different perspective of 'Vengeance' through 'Old Boy'; the positive side to let people feel catharsis through the act of 'Vengeance'. To me, 'Vengeance' is the most dramatic subject in the world."

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...
  • Replies 64
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but I just posted my full review, along with some stills.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

Interesting article about Park Chan-Wook's latest film, a 30-minute piece entitled "Cut" that's part of a trilogy of short horror films. Fruit Chan (Public Toilet) and Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi The Killer) are directing the other 2.

"I wanted to explore the moment when a person has to make the most difficult decision of their life,'' said Park in a news conference after a preview screening of the film last week. "So my film is basically about when people are thrown into a severe dilemma.''

I've seen the trailer, and it definitely looks like a fairly twisted little piece.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites
Glad you bumped this. I'll be seeing Oldboy in a few days and will report back.

Cool... where are you seeing it at?

I'm interested in what others on the forum think about the film (from what little I've seen of Ferrara's movie, I'm almost tempted to compare OldBoy to Bad Lieutenant, and Choi Min-Sik certainly has a Harvey Keitel-ish quality to him). Unfortunately, the fact the film is only available on Region 3 DVD, or on the festival circuit, sort of limits it's accessibility.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

Just saw this on Twitch... OldBoy is getting a (presumably limited) theatrical release in February 2005.

I can't wait to see what Movieguide thinks of this one. Heh heh heh... menacegrin.gif

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites

Not a bad trailer. I'm thinking I need to watch the movie again. The English press for it seems to have put a different emphasis on the plot than the one I picked up when I watched it. (The whole 5 days thing... I didn't really even recall that, it was so minor.)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

Loved this movie and it was quite something to behold and experience. The ending, well that just leaves you shaken in many ways.

I got a chance to interview Park and it was quite and interesting talk. Shakespeare certainly did inspire him among others. He said he definitely seeks to make the audience squirm in terms of the violence, the reality of it.

Fascinating guy though I got the feeling he was rather bored with what was something of the 7 one on one interview...this with a website reporter (which I never finished much to my shame...)

Link to post
Share on other sites

[i'm interested in what others on the forum think about the film (from what little I've seen of Ferrara's movie, I'm almost tempted to compare OldBoy to Bad Lieutenant, and Choi Min-Sik certainly has a Harvey Keitel-ish quality to him). Unfortunately, the fact the film is only available on Region 3 DVD, or on the festival circuit, sort of limits it's accessibility.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

The trailer for the North American release is now up at IGN. Click here...

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...
Here are the dates and locations for the upcoming North American release.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites

NYTimes Interview With Park Chan-Wook (registration required)

"The reason I want to show shocking things is that they always pose an ethical question," Mr. Park said. "When we are confronted with extreme situations, we forget about moral issues, we simply act and must then accept the consequences. I want to show the moral issues involved in everyday life by heightening them."

I didn't know this, but Park was raised as a Roman Catholic, and was encouraged to enter seminary by his parents. However, he chose to study philosophy at a Jesuit school before moving onto directing.

Edited by opus

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw Old Boy a while back (my brother lives in Korea) and thought it was full of extraordinary cinematic moments; Oh Daesu's arrival at the police station in the rain, the montage of world events while he's in captivity, that fight in the hallway cited above; the dentistry sequence; the begging for mercy at the end and the simply beautiful finish which reminded me for some reason of Kitano's Hana-bi. Choi min sik is brilliant and the whole thing had all the kinetic energy and variety that Kill Bill was striving for but never seemed to attain because it was forcing it a bit too much. However, I'm not sure if there is any great underlying moral or ethical vision to it. It struck me more as a Manga comic written by a genius, for all the technique on display the fundamental vision seems kind of childish. That whole teenage schoolgirl thing seemed a bit sickly and sentimental to be honest, like something taken from one of those John Hughes teenage films. Which isn't to say it's not a good movie, just that there may be ultimately less there meets the eye. Though I could be wrong.

Link to post
Share on other sites

That's definitely been a criticism of Park's, ever since JSA, that for all of the moral and ethical aspects of his films, they are ultimately more style than anything else. And that would be doubly so in the case of OldBoy. It's easily Park's most stylish, visually arresting movie to date (at least of the ones I've seen).

I think there is some morality play stuff going on in there, namely what happens when you take revenge to its ultimate extreme, and the inherent self-destructiveness and corruption of man (even though Oh Daesu achieves some peace in the end, it is horribly tainted and twisted

by the fact that it's his daughter that he ends up with - she doesn't know it, and he doesn't know it any longer thanks to the hypnotism

.

That being said, I definitely understand where you're coming from. The first half of OldBoy is easily the best, most visceral part of the film - after awhile, when the twists and revelations start coming, they do get a bit overwhelmed by the style.

I really need to see the film again.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites

(Spoilers ahead)

The reason I think the first half is so much better is because all of these fantastical elements-- the unexplained imprisonment, the unique prison, the ant in the subway-- occur in the first half. There's this great glimmer of hope that Park has used his spellbinding visual style to make some sort of Kafkaesque film about the bigger things. When it all unspools to be a ridiculously contrived rich guy's revenge plot, the film collapses into unintended absurdity. For me.

I can't say whether it's attributable to being a dad, or just attributable to being human, but that's one of the most hateful endings I've ever seen.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Link to post
Share on other sites
That being said, I definitely understand where you're coming from.  The first half of OldBoy is easily the best, most visceral part of the film - after awhile, when the twists and revelations start coming, they do get a bit overwhelmed by the style.

I remember thinking this during Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. The first part of the film was full of beautiful cinematography, great pacing, good plot points, etc. The second half of the film completely fell apart. It went from a heartwarming tale of family love to an incredibly dark and unflinching story of violence in the space of a few minutes. I hated the film for it, briefly... it seemed like such a waste of potential since it was shaping up to be an excellent film. But I realized that the change was completely intentional and served to further the film's point... that nobody wins when revenge is involved.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if the director was trying to do the same thing with Oldboy. Both films share the same philosophical core, but Oldboy takes a more cerebral view of the issue and ends up being the subtler of the two movies, believe it or not.

If I recall correctly, both Park Chan Wook and Kim Ki-Duk have stated that one of their motivations to make films is to start dialogue in their culture about issues that are typically surpressed. I think this is perhaps why Oldboy may seem like it's lacking in substance... it's a conversation starter, not a conversation finisher.

Edited by theoddone33
Link to post
Share on other sites
I remember thinking this during Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.  The first part of the film was full of beautiful cinematography, great pacing, good plot points, etc.  The second half of the film completely fell apart.  It went from a heartwarming tale of family love to an incredibly dark and unflinching story of violence in the space of a few minutes.  I hated the film for it, briefly... it seemed like such a waste of potential since it was shaping up to be an excellent film.  But I realized that the change was completely intentional and served to further the film's point... that nobody wins when revenge is involved.

It's been awhile since I've seen Sympathy. My first viewing was a bit disjointed. My roommate was watching it when I got home, and so I ended up watching the rest of the film without having seen the first 15 minutes or so. I went back and watched the opening scenes, but it sort of threw me for a loop. As such, I didn't quite have the reaction I thought, since I wasn't able to fully "enter" the story (if that makes any sense).

If I recall correctly, both Park Chan Wook and Kim Ki-Duk have stated that one of their motivations to make films is to start dialogue in their culture about issues that are typically surpressed.  I think this is perhaps why Oldboy may seem like it's lacking in substance... it's a conversation starter, not a conversation finisher.

Hmmm... it'll be very interesting to see how he continues the conversation when Sympathy For Lady Vengeance comes out.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow... just read Rex Reed's review (note, the review contains some potential spoilers), and he doesn't like it at all. This excerpt is particular surprising.

For sewage in a cocktail shaker, there is Oldboy, a noxious helping of Korean Grand Guignol as pointless as it is shocking. What else can you expect from a nation weaned on kimchi, a mixture of raw garlic and cabbage buried underground until it rots, dug up from the grave and then served in earthenware pots sold at the Seoul airport as souvenirs?

I also find it somewhat dismaying that he writes off all of Korean cinema, referring to the country as a "nation of emerging cinematic schlock". I wonder if he's seen Friend, Musa, JSA, etc.

Altogether, it's one of those reviews that so vitriolic that it's almost incomprehensible (not to mention the fact that he gets certain details wrong - if you want to be really picky). And it doesn't help that he admits to leaving before the film's final act. Not that staying through the entire film would have changed his opinion, but even so... that somewhat invalidates his opinion in my book.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
Opus, Twitter, Facebook

Link to post
Share on other sites

Joe Morganstern blurbed this film at the end of his WSJ column today (no link without web subscription). Likes it, likes the principals and was impressed with Park. Must be opening today in New York. I'm curious about this film.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Is this film ever going to get a wide release?

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

Twitter.
Letterboxd.

Reviews and essays at Three Brothers Film.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I also find it somewhat dismaying that he writes off all of Korean cinema, referring to the country as a "nation of emerging cinematic schlock".  I wonder if he's seen Friend, Musa, JSA, etc.

The funny part about that is that for the last five years or so, Korea has been producing some of the best films worldwide. I don't really have time for racists, though... film reviewers or not.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the deal with Rex Reed isn't that he's a racist, it's that he tends to react with violent outrage every time he's confronted with an artsy, unusual film. This is, after all, the same guy who wrote:

And so I [Heart] Huckabees may not be the worst movie ever made, depending on how you feel about such hollow, juvenile and superficial trash as Brewster McCloud, Hudson Hawk, Punch-Drunk Love, Mulholland Drive, The Royal Tenenbaums, Lost Highway, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses and... well, as they said in Hollywood during the McCarthy witch hunts, "the list goes on."

Sounds like he's just a grouchy old jerk.

(In all fairness, though, the man did star in Myra Breckinridge when he was younger, and if half of the things I've heard about that film are true, I can understand how it would leave him paranoid about all unconvential filmmaking. )

(But it still doesn't explain how he got from The Royal Tenenbaums and Eternal Sunshine to Hudson Hawk and House of 1000 Corpses...)

Kent Brockman: Now, here are the results from our phone-in poll. 95% of the people think Homer Simpson is guilty. Of course, this is just a television poll, which is not legally binding. Unless Proposition 304 passes, and we all pray it will.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Folks, has Rex Reed been a relevant critical voice since sound was added to motion pictures? I have my own reservations about the film, but if Rex Reed was replaced by an animatronic facsimile which was programmed only to read recipes in Swahili, I doubt that anyone would notice.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...