Archive for May, 2009

Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance

Posted in K Cinema with tags , , , , on May 27, 2009 by Cristina Blackwater

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)

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from IMDB: In Seoul, the deaf and dumb worker Ryu is very attached to his sister, who needs a transplantation of kidney. He tries to donate his own kidney to his sister, but his blood B type is not compatible with her. When Ryu is fired from Ilshin Electronics, he meets illegal dealers of organs and the criminals propose Ryu’s kidney plus ten millions Won per a kidney suitable for his sister. Ryu accepts the trade, but he does not have money to pay for the surgery. His anarchist revolutionary girlfriend Cha Young-mi convinces him to kidnap Yossun, the daughter of his former employer Park, who owns Ilshin Electronics. However, a tragedy happens, generating revenge and a series of acts of violence.

When it comes to the Vengeance trilogy, i wish i didn’t have to write about it (hence my incredibly long wait to post something on the subject) because i don’t want to ruin it with words that have most certainly already be said, written, and discussed countless of times.

So instead, let me just tell you the basics and post some pictures. Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance is a 2002 movie written and directed by (the one and only!) Park Chan-Wook. It stars and Ha-kyun Shin as Ryu, a deaf and dumb guy ready to do anything to save his sick sister, and Song Kang-ho (The Good, The Bad, The Weird, The Host, Thirst) as Park Dong-jin, Ryu’s cruel and nearly emotionless boss who becomes extremely sympathetic after experiencing the worst tragedy of all, the loss of his little daughter.

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The movie is cruel and gruesome and extremely violent, but also sad and heartbreaking and all the other conflicting emotions that come when you choose the path of Vengeance.  Ryu is dumb and deaf, and has a (really pretty) anarchic girlfriend, and they communicate thru sign language, and one of my favorite scenes is when they talk to each other on the bed, thru a mirror set in front of them.. so poetic.

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As always, Park Chan Wook challenges the audience with hard-to-swallow subjects and controversial (but sadly realistic) scenes, such as the one where a group of teenage boys are  against the apartment wall adjoining Ryu’s, furiously masturbating to the sounds of Ryu’s sister, thinking she is in the throes of orgasm. In actual fact, she is screaming in pain from her sickness, and Ryu, being deaf, is oblivious to the fact. That’s just one of the scenes that is simply just thrown in your face and hit all the right spots. And believe me when i tell you there is many, many more, but i don’t want to spoil it too much, just know that this is a masterpiece that needs to be seen regardless of your more or less appreciation for foreign cinema.

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When watching this movie, the obvious question that comes up is “who should i sympathies with?” or ” who deserves to be the victim and who deserves his revenge?” only you can answer that question. and i would love to hear your opinion about it, so feel free to drop a comment and let the debate start.

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The Host

Posted in K Cinema with tags , , , , , , , on May 11, 2009 by Cristina Blackwater

The Host (Gwoemul) – 2006

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from Imdb: On 09 February 2000, the American military base of Yongson releases toxic chemicals in the drain to the Han River under the direct order of an arrogant coroner. Six years later, a mutant squid monster leaves the water and attacks people on the side of the river. The teenager Park Hyun-seo is carried by the creature and vanishes in the river. While grieving her loss, her slow father Park Gang-du; her grandfather and owner of a bar-kiosk nearby the river Park Hie-bong; her aunt and archery medalist Park Nam-Joo; and her graduated unemployed uncle Park Nam-il are sent by the army with all the people that had some sort of contact with the monster to quarantine in a facility. During the night, Gang-du receives a phone call from Hyun-seo telling that she is alive in a big sewage nearby the river. Gang-du tell the militaries but nobody believes on his words, saying that he is delusional due to the shock of his loss. The Park family joins forces trying to find Hyun-seo and rescue her.

The Host is a 2006 movie directed by Bong Joon-ho and starring the amazing Song Kang-Ho as Park Gang-du, a devoted father who witnesses the capture of her little daughter by a mysterious monster taking over the city from the Han river.

It was a smashing hit in Korea from the get go. Also tagged as “one of the best monster movies ever made”. And i totally support the description. Hello korean Nessie! This sort of giant squid with too many tails to count and a ferocious huge mouth that leaves no mercy behind, if only for this little girl who ends up trapped in the sewers, starving and seeking for help.

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The soundtrack is amazing and creates an intense, but also really funny atmosphere. There’s a lot of dark comedy in this movie, and i couldn’t be more enthusiastic about it. Song Kang-ho is perfect for the role (as seen in The good, the bad, the weird for his funny side, and Sympathy for Mr Vengeance for the intense one) and delivers a stunning performance as usual. The movie is about family bounds, about the incompetence of the police force, about the presence of the american army in the korean system.

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A lot of comical relief is shown between moments where the director tells us about political resistance, family values, the loss of loved ones.  The characters continually walk that fine line between comedic and serious performances. Each of them have their flaws which are shown throughout the film, but in the end each get their chance to redeem themselves and sometimes they get multiple chances, often they need them too.

The Host gets his point across loud and clear, and it will move you, make you laugh, and even frustrate you.

Absolutely a must see. Just another little teaser and taste of Park Chan Wook’s favorite actors until we wait for Thirst to come out. Song Kang-Ho is the main character in both of them, so sit back, watch this movie, and learn about his talent.

Plus to get really get down to it, monsters are awesome. Try and deny it.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird

Posted in K Cinema with tags , , , , , , , on May 6, 2009 by Cristina Blackwater

The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008)

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from hancinema: With the Korean Peninsula under Japanese rule in 1930s, many Koreans flock to Manchuria for refuge. Some become bandits, some train robbers and yet others bounty hunters. While the Weird, a notorious train robber, is stealing from a Japanese train crossing the Manchurian plains, he discovers a treasure map. But the map is also sought after by the Bad, a merciless gang leader. Coincidentally, the Good, a bounty hunter, is on the train, and he is after the Bad. The three engage in a spectacular chase with the Japanese Army, the Korean independence fighters, and the Chinese bandits all looking to get their hands on the prized map.

As you all know, Park Chan Wooks new release, THIRST, came out in korean theaters this week. While we wait impatiently for a version with subtitles, i decided to shift a little from the horror, to talk about all the other amazing movies that Park’s favorite actors starred in.

So let me tell you about this one. The Good, The Bad, The Weird, is a 2008 movie directed by beloved Kim Ji-Woon (The Quiet Family, A Tale Of Two Sisters, A Bittersweet Life). The movie was inspired by Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and stars 2 of Park Chan Wook‘s top team actors, Song Kang-ho as The Weird (who’s the main actor in Thirst, and was also in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, The Quiet Family and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) and Lee Byung-hun as The Bad (Cut, A Bittersweet Life).

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These guys are so talented there’s no wonder they appear in pretty much every single good korean movie we learned to appreciate. The Good, The Bad, The Weird was welcomed with a boom by both viewers and critics, delivering a stunning and rich photography, action packed scenes, and an all-around-awesome cast.

Some people complained about the lack of depth plot-wise (you know, k-cinema craves the drama, and it’s just not there in this one although one could argue that it wasn’t presented as a dramatic movie in the first place).

It still was the most expensive movie in South Korean cinema history as per 2009, and won the box office race the entire time it was out. Now, you guys know how much i side for some intense drama paired with the bloodbath, but this movie is all about guns and action and manchurian modern-western, so i would say it already has all you could look for, if you’re in for some good old-school fun.

Unrelated question: can Lee Byung-hun get any more ridiculously good looking and can Song Kang-ho get anymore talented?