Archive for chan-wook park

DUNGEON DIRECTOR PROJECT: My 50 Favourite Directors #30 – #26

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , on July 18, 2012 by goregirl

My 50 Favourite Directors #30 – #26

*NOTE: I did not include any made for TV movies in the numbers I used for each director’s full-length feature films.*

This list takes me to the mid-point of my project! A few well known directors here; A South Korean, A New Zealander and 3 Americans…

**********

#30. Chan-Wook Park

What I’ve Seen: Joint Security Area (2000), Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), Oldboy (2003), Lady Vengeance (2005), I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006), Thirst (2009)

South Korean director Chan-Wook Park has contributed some extremely impressive entries for just 9 full length feature films. Oldboy is one of the best films of the past decade or EVER for that matter! Also top notch films I gave high marks to; the unflinching Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, the serenely violent Lady Vengeance, the quirky love story I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Ok, the war thriller Joint Security Area and the delicious vampire tale Thirst. In other words, I thoroughly enjoyed all six of Park’s 9 entries I’ve seen. I look forward to seeing anything by Park but I am a little perplexed by his upcoming film. Park just completed the film Stoker which was not written by him (all 6 of Park’s films I’ve seen were written by him) and appears to have been filmed in Tennessee and has no South Korean actors/actresses in it. I will certainly be seeing it nonetheless. Park’s intelligent, violent, well-acted and beautifully filmed stories are worth their weight in gold.

**********

#29. Peter Jackson

What I’ve Seen: Bad Taste (1987), Meet the Feebles (1989), Braindead (1992), Heavenly Creatures (1994), The Frighteners (1996), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), King Kong (2005), The Lovely Bones (2009)

I have seen all 10 of New Zealand director Peter Jackson’s 10 full length feature films. Jackson currently has two Hobbit films in pre-production and Tintin was just announced. I wish I could get more excited about Jackson’s newer films. It is all about his first five films for me. His films Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles and Dead Alive (aka Braindead) are what landed him on this list. Low budget but big hearted extravaganzas of gore, goo, brain eating, foul-mouthed puppets, bad mothers, nasty aliens and lawnmower massacres. So much seriously fantastic fun! Than came the excellent Heavenly Creatures based on a real murder case starring a young Kate Winslet which he followed up with the wonderfully energetic The Frighteners. His attention turned towards fantasy with the epic 3 part trilogy based on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Apparently he is a massive fan of Tolkien’s book and this was a dream project. I just am not really in to the fantasy thing. I can certainly appreciate the achievement particularly where the visuals are concerned, and the Wargs are pretty cool, as are most of the other creatures. I really enjoyed the walking trees! With two Hobbit films in the making I guess he is going to be sticking to this fantasy shtick for a while. I was impressed with the visuals in King Kong and thought Naomi Watts was a great choice in the lead role but was disappointed by the film overall. I felt much the same about The Lovely Bones. I wonder if Jackson would ever go back to basics after these epic projects. Well, it seems unlikely but we will always have Dead Alive. Always.

**********

#28. Francis Ford Coppola

What I’ve Seen: The Terror (1963), Dementia 13 (1963), Finian’s Rainbow (1968), The Rain People (1969), The Godfather (1972), The Conversation (1974), The Godfather: Part II (1974), Apocalypse Now (1979), One from the Heart (1982), Rumble Fish (1983), The Outsiders (1983), The Cotton Club (1984), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Gardens of Stone (1987), Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), The Godfather: Part III (1990), Dracula (1992), Supernova (2000), Youth Without Youth (2007), Tetro (2009)

Francis Ford Coppola is the first director so far to have one of my favourite of all time and one of my most loathed of all films on his list. The Godfather and its brilliant sequel are so mighty they easily excuse Supernova as merely a pimple. The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, Rumble Fish and The Outsiders are all Coppola films I love and adore. That is an impressive sextet of entries! A good chunk of this list is adapted from books which is always an iffy business. Seems like when you adapt from a beloved book you open yourself to additional criticism. I don’t think any book was more beloved by my classmates and me as a child than S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I loved this movie and seen it at the theatre 4 times! And of course the epic The Godfather 1 & 2 based on Mario Puzo’s book whom also co-wrote the screenplay. Probably a big part of the reason it is one of the best book to screen adaptations of all time. I have seen 19 of Coppola’s 28 full length feature films. I will admit there are films on this list (other than Supernova) that I am not crazy about, but the awesomeness of the entries I do dig (Hello! The mother-fucking Godfather!) gives Coppola solid footing.

**********

#27. Quentin Tarantino

What I’ve Seen: Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), Jackie Brown (1997), Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004), Sin City (2005), Grindhouse/Death Proof (2007), Inglourious Basterds (2009)

I have seen all 10 full length feature films directed by Quentin Tarantino. One of these 10 credits however notes him as a “guest director” (Sin City). What the hell does that mean? Did he direct half of the film? Did he just give his opinion? What the hell? In any case, I really dig Tarantino’s flicks. Reservoir Dogs was my first and is still my favourite, but Kill Bill, its sequel and Pulp Fiction also received perfect marks from me. Tarantino helped to breathe new life into American made films with plenty of retro ideals. Tarantino made old, new again and he even gave one of my favourite actresses of the 70s a lead role in Jackie Brown. It certainly was awesome to see the fabulous Ms. Pam Grier rocking a pantsuit again! Not to mention a great charismatic performance from the lovely actress! SPOILER** I really enjoyed the scene in Jackie Brown where Louis (Robert DeNiro) shoots Melanie (Bridget Fonda)! One of the funniest scenes EVER! I have yet to see a Tarantino film I did not like, although I did have some issues with Death Proof. I found the mess of “super cool” female characters (particular in the first half) rather unlikable. I should have felt bad about what happened to the gals, and just did not. I sure did enjoy Kurt Russell, his bad ass car and the delightful Zoe Bell though! While Quentin Tarantino does “borrow” from days gone by he always makes it his own; intriguing characters grace Tarantino’s quirky, violent, crime capers and revenge flicks and each one is a real treat. I will definitely be seeing Tarantino’s upcoming film Django Unchained in the theatre and Kill Bill Vol. 3 is also listed as “announced” on IMDB! Keep on keeping on my man!

**********

#26. Stanley Kubrick

What I’ve Seen: Killer’s Kiss (1955), The Killing (1956), Paths of Glory (1957), Spartacus (1960), Lolita (1962), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Barry Lyndon (1975), The Shining (1980), Full Metal Jacket (1987), Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

I’ve seen 12 of Stanley Kubrick’s 13 full length feature films. 13?! The man’s career began in the 50s and continued until his death March 7, 1999 at the age of 70. I assume based on the quantity and quality of successful features Kubrick directed he probably could have pumped out a film every year and someone would have financed it. Clearly the man was serious about his work and the end product reflects that. Strange, disturbing, violent, biographical, hilarious thoughtful and always original; each one of Kubrick’s films have left their mark on me (well, okay, not Eyes Wide Shut…but every OTHER one). The list at its weakest point is good and at its strongest point, monumental and epic! The Shining is one of the best horror films ever made, and Dr Strangelove is one of the best comedies and Full Metal Jacket one of the best of the war flicks. A Clockwork Orange, Lolita and The Killing are also films I rank highly! He took filmmaking to all new groundbreaking levels and it is no wonder he is admired by so many. I suspect Mr. Kubrick is on many film fans favourite lists, as he should be. Kubrick is brilliant. That is all.

**********

THIRST (2009) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in horror, Korea, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2011 by goregirl

Thirst has been on my “to see” list for quite some time. I really enjoyed director Chan-wook Park’s Vengeance Trilogy and his segment Cut from Three…Extremes. I was intrigued to see what he would do with a vampire film. The problem is there have been far too many wishy-washy vampire films with romance at their core. What can I say? I just haven’t been very excited about this sub-genre lately. However, having recently checked out Jim Mickle’s excellent Stake Land I am feeling reinvigorated about bloodsuckers. Add a month of non-stop zombie flicks and I was finally ready to check out Thirst. While a love story may be at Thirst’s core, I’m pleased to tell you that it still manages to have some bite!

Priest Sang-hyeon martyrs himself as a test subject for an experimental vaccine. He dies from the disease but a blood transfusion returns him from the dead. Sang-hyeon finds himself overcome with sinful desires and a thirst for blood.


Priest Sang-hyeon goes through a discovery period with his infliction that is fairly par for the course. He discovers his power, abilities and his thirst for blood and needless to say faces some moral quandaries about the whole business. The character is a priest after all so questioning of religion and morality does come into play. If he was really all that torn up about it he could have ended it all immediately by just walking out into the daylight. But than we wouldn’t have a movie would we? Is it possible our priest is actually enjoying his new found power? Of course a priest returning from the dead does attract some attention. Some of the locals hound Sang-hyeon believing he received a gift from god. Sang-hyeon, despite his act of martyrdom early in the film seemed cold as a priest. He seems to develop a more genuine empathy for human beings as a vampire than he ever did as a priest. For all Thirst’s character development I did question some of Sang-hyeon’s decisions. He seems to have a reasonable grasp on his infliction and is very careful in respect to his bloodletting but when it comes to taking his friends wife as a lover he seems to fold like a cheap suit.

A childhood friend invites Sang-hyeon to join a weekly Mah Jong game which is where he meets his friend’s wife Tae-ju. Tae-ju is morbidly unhappy in her loveless marriage. She runs late at night through the city streets in her bare feet as an outlet from her oppressive life. Sang-Hyeon is clearly attracted to Tae-ju on sight. The stage is set for forbidden love. Sang-hyeon and Tae-ju have sex that is messy, kinky, ravenous and sweetly passionate. The sex scenes manage to be as tender as they are violent. This is a film for grown-ups so you can expect full frontal nudity and sex scenes that are actually sexy. The chemistry between these two characters is absolutely electric. Of course a forbidden relationship between a vampire priest and his friend’s wife is bound to have consequences.

Sang-hyeon divulges to Tae-ju that he is a vampire. She is initially horrified but is soon begging Sang-hyeon to turn her. Tae-ju is full of pent-up aggression and an overwhelming need to be free from her life. Despite their intimate connection Tae-ju and Sang-hyeon are clearly a bad match. Sang-hyeon knows Tae-ju is not afraid to lie and manipulate to get what she needs. It wouldn’t be a stretch for Tae-ju to kill for what she needs either. Sang-hyeon nonetheless turns Tae-ju and not surprisingly she adapts quickly to vampire life and wreaks unholy hell. Tae-ju cheekily says to Sang-hyeon “A willing victim? What’s the point of that?”

Chan-wook Park’s approach is not at all heavy handed and is, in fact, full of darkly comic moments. Thirst is downright playful at times. Tae-ju’s character becomes positively giddy about being a vampire and adds a lot of energy and fun to the proceedings. The film becomes a more or less straight-up horror film in the second half. Thirst ended up being more of a horror-oriented film than I was expecting from the director. The effects looked good and there is no lack of the red stuff once it starts flowing. Thirst also benefits a great deal from its performances. Kang-ho Song is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors. He was outstanding in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, The Host and The Good, the Bad, the Weird. Song gives another amazing and memorable performance as Priest Sang-hyeon in Thirst. Ok-bin Kim is stellar as Tae-ju. Kim only has a handful of acting credits but handles herself like a pro with a genuineness and confidence. Besides a minor issue with some of Sang-hyeon’s decisions I did find the ending a tad anticlimactic. The ending was pretty much inevitable and would have surprised me had it ended any other way.

I expected the film to get bogged down at some point with its two hour plus runtime but the film kept me enthralled throughout. Thirst apparently was “inspired” by the book Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola. I have never read the book but I did pull this summary from Wikipedia which is more or less identical to Thirst’s basic plot. (Taken from Wikipedia) Thérèse Raquin tells the story of a young woman, unhappily married to her first cousin by an overbearing aunt who may seem to be well-intentioned but in many ways is deeply selfish. Therese’s husband, Camille, is sickly and egocentric, and when the opportunity arises, Thérèse enters into a turbulent and sordidly passionate affair with one of Camille’s friends, Laurent.” I haven’t mentioned the mother of Tae-ju’s husband but as previously noted, this plot summary is practically identical to Thirst’s. Zola’s story is not about vampires of course, that is a twist Park added. Thirst is a thoroughly modern tale and Zola’s book was written in 1867 so I suspect outside of the basic plot there wouldn’t be too many parallels one could draw. But like I said, I have never read the book.

I wouldn’t say Chan-wook Park reinvents the wheel with Thirst. The vampire mystique is pretty standard cinematic fare. Nonetheless Thirst is an engrossing vampire tale full of dark humour, tragedy, beauty and violence. Excellent performances from its two leads Kang-ho Song and Ok-bin Kim are worth the price of admission. Highly recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Chan-wook Park

Starring: Kang-ho Song, Ok-bin Kim, Eriq Ebouaney, Hae-sook Kim, Ha-kyun Shin, In-hwan Park, Dal-su Oh, Young-chang Song, Seung-dae, Mercedes Cabral