Hey folks, Harry here... I generally consider myself the luckiest fuck on the planet. Because well... if you've been reading my Twitter, you know what I'm seeing today. BUT the thing is. As cool a day as I'm having, there's always somebody else out there in the world that is doing or seeing something that I would envy as much as others would envy my day. D-Cubed has seen Chan Wook Park's THIRST... his first horror film - and his review, though filled with spoilers has me frothing from my fangs for this one! Hope I see it soon!
Harry, D-Cubed here. I watched Thirst tonight. For those in the dark, Thirst is Park Chan-wook's latest, a follow-up to 2006's I'm a Cyborg, But That's Okay. Thirst is a film about a priest who becomes a vampire. Thirst is, without a doubt, the most high-profile Korean release of the year. How did I see it? Easy - I live in Seoul. I'm an American, recent college graduate. I teach conversational English to 7th, 8th and 9th graders at a middle school in Nowon-gu (wayyyyyyyy NE Seoul). I traveled to Hongdae tonight to catch the flick (Lotte Cinema, 6:00PM). Packed house. Me, dead center, fifth row from the front. Digital print. Gorgeous. I'm going to volunteer this bit of info right now - my Korean is good, not great. I studied for a semester at Yonsei University's Korean Language Institute and did another year at home. I understood the majority of what was being said and communicated, but I did not understand all of it. I'd say I caught a good 75% of the dialogue and understood the rest through context and action. If that's a problem for you, feel free to dismiss my thoughts. A bit of a prologue: Oldboy's one of the finest films I've ever seen. The craft, the construction of the scenes...simply flawless. It's a film I've screened countless times for folks known and unknown, young and old, whatever and whatever. I feel the same about the other two entries in Park's vengeance trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance). Park is a superb technician; he's an equally talented writer. He was, after all, a student of philosophy. He's a director, screenwriter, producer and novelist (got a copy of Thirst, the book, sittin' on my bed). He is an absolutely brilliant man, and I'm proud to say I've got his autograph on a copy of Crime and Punishment at home (so appropriate, right?). Expectations were high on this one. It's playing in competition at Cannes against the likes of Tarantino, Noe, Campion and others (too many great filmmakers to list here); it stars Song Kang-ho, one of the most distinguished actors working in South Korea; and it earned the Lust, Caution seal of approval for graphic sexual content (not to mention full-frontal male nudity). Like I said, high-profile in the extreme. (Word to the wise: spoilers, though not too many, from here on out.) What did I think? I walked out bewildered. I still don't know what the fuck I just saw. I know I'm going again. I'm know I'm going again as soon as humanly possible with as many people as I can find to drag along. The film moves fast. The set-up (priest volunteers to test vaccines for a new virus in South Africa; the virus creates boils or blisters or something on the skin before turning on the internal organs; the patient dies from blood loss and hemorrhaging) is quick, real quick. The priest dies, comes back to life as a vampire, and wakes up a minor celebrity (folks view his 'resurrection' as a miracle). Six months later, the priest meets an old friend from childhood. This friend, Kang-woo, is a sickly sort of momma's boy. Kang-woo's wife, Tae-joo, is fed up; she's treated like a dog and endures constant verbal lashings from Kang-woo's mother and father (who, by the way, live with the couple). Around this same time, the priest starts experiencing strange audio/visual hallucinations one can only compare to symptoms of drug withdrawal (not speaking from experience, but you know, I've seen Trainspotting). He passes out, wakes up to find his skin burning in the sunlight, and spends the rest of the day in the closet...in the dark. When next we see him, he's performing the Last Rites on a woman who seems to have suffered some sort of injury to the neck. She is covered in blood. The priest can't help but stare at the surging, pulsing, bleeding artery...and, sure enough, takes just a little taste...enough to know that what he needs is more. He siphons some off from the comatose patient in one of the hospital rooms and finds his condition vastly improved. If you've seen the trailers, you know what happens - the priest falls for his friend's wife. What you don't know is what happens next. There's a muder, a ghost, a traumatized onlooker (see Emile Zola's Therese Raquin for ideas) and much, much more. The film is long, but doesn't feel long. If anything, it feels truncated, abbreviated; too much to cover in such a short time. Thirst is a dark film. No color (except red), no fluff, no floral patterns...the visual design of the film is sparse, barren, a lot of whites and blacks and browns. It is (undoubtedly) a Park product, but it's less poppy, softer, more subtle. I didn't notice the music so much in this one, either; it was much less obtrusive. This is a vampire film in the way that Let the Right One In is a vampire film; it exists both within as well as outside of the genre. There's no garlic, no capes, no fangs, just a whole lotta blood. I wanted more reflection, though. I wanted a deeper examination of sin and redemption and desire...I wanted the Lady Vengeance of vampire films, and while I got a little of what I wanted, I felt the film could've delved deeper. The material is so rich, the characters so well developed; however, in my opinion, opportunities to really mine the material were lost. Performances are stellar all around. Song Kang-ho as the priest plays it soft, sensual; Kim Ok-bin as Tae-joo is devilish, devious. I'll say this - all the talk of nudity this and explicit that was sort of a waste. For sure, the film contains some graphic scenes, but nothing unnecessary, nothing exploitative, and nothing quite on the Tang Wei tip. Like I said, I'll see the film again. And again. And again with English subtitles. And again on DVD. I'll see the film a dozen times before I've finally decided just what I think about it and why. I know it's good. It may be great. I hope this has been informative. Until next time... -- D-Cubed