Directed by Chan-wook ParkSouth Korea | 2005
Reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s M and its famous ‘kangaroo court’ finale, the various parents involved, accompanied by Geum-ja and the detective who supervised her case, discuss the righteousness of an unofficial capital punishment… The parents let their base urges take hold, and directed by Geum-ja, they quickly agree to participate in the murder of Mr. Baek, each one taking a turn to inflict pain upon him. Though Lady Vengeance is easily the least explicitly violent of the trilogy, its underlying ideas easily make it the most unsettling.
Directed by Chan-wook ParkSouth Korea | 2003
Tying structure to theme throughout we are treated to several superb setpieces throughout. Easily the finest example is a battle between Dae-su and a hoard of enemies, shot from a side-on perspective and running uninterrupted for over three minutes. Reminiscent of John Woo’s formal concerns, the sheer complexity and bravura of the sequence doubles as a reminder of the emotional toil involved. However if Woo is out to create heroes, albeit flawed ones, then Park has very different designs. Dae-su’s efforts here are a waste as are almost all of his actions.
Directed by Jae-eun Jeong, Jin-pyo Park, Kyun-dong Yeo, Soon-rye Yim, Chan-wook Park, Kwang-su ParkSouth Korea | 2003
Closing the collection, we have the biggest name of the production: Chan-wook Park. Telling us that what we’re about to see is based on a true story, we are thrown into a black-and-white world depicting a bureaucratic nightmare on a par with Kafka’s ‘The Trial.’ Opening in Nepal, an off-screen voice asks a selection of women if they are Chandra Kumari Gurung. They each say no until one hesitantly acknowledges that this is indeed her name. Having seen the real person, we are sent back to Korea as the camera adopts a first-person perspective charting Chandra’s horrific ordeal at the hands of an uncaring and inefficient bureaucracy.
Directed by Chan-wook ParkSouth Korea | 2002
Though certainly open to critique, it’s easy to cite this as Park’s masterpiece. While it may be less ornate and immediately intriguing than the more popular Oldboy, it is also more rewarding in its various nuances. The violence and some of the other representational elements outlined previously may stagger viewers, but Park’s overall intent and carefully composed structure offer us one of cinema’s finest explorations of violence and its cost. If the cinema of Robert Bresson instilled in audiences the price of tears, then Chan-wook Park makes us fully confront the cost of blood.
Directed by Chan-wook ParkSouth Korea | 1999
If unchecked consumerist greed fed the collapse of the building then so too does it feed the callous designs of the inhabitants of the morgue. As more details are unveiled, unemployment, abandonment, corruption and so forth, it becomes clear that the memory of the deceased girl is the last thing on most everyone’s mind. Each figure represents an unfortunate failing of human nature in the wake of the tragedy; the reporter’s voyeuristic intent, the civil servant’s back-handed dealings and the profiteers’ wish to capitalise on tragedy. Finally, in a poetic twist, nature intervenes to separate the sincere from the corrupt. The idea of fate and of almost supernatural judgement stand as clear precursors to later films.
Directed by Alexandro JodorowskyMexico, Italy | 1989
Jodorowsky revels in the terrain of baroque overstatement; when his characters are angry, they get very angry, and the same goes for sensations of happiness, sexual excitement and horror. All these elemental emotions are in feisty competition in Jodorowsky’s work, making them rather turbulent experiences that are difficult to engage with emotionally. But Santa Sangre includes exalted occasions when the kaleidoscopic tone collage comes to a steady halt, leaving in its wake scenes of rich emotional poetry, such as the harrowing devastation of Goncha after her Church is bulldozed and Fenix comforts her, or the plaintive and inevitable farewell of Fenix and Alma, which feels like a missed opportunity until the two reunite later in an equally lovely scene of romantic swooning.
Directed by Joel CoenUnited States, United Kingdom | 2001
Sometimes it seems the Coens have Coenized their films as an afterthought, the usual attention paid to ennui, the sudden violence, the imperceptible shifts between comedy and grimness calling attention to themselves and creating distances, for better or worse. This film perhaps more than any other seamlessly integrates their wonted stylistics with narrative.