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 | 2000
What is so remarkable in J.S.A. is that this story of male friendship is not forged in the thick of combat, the romantic notion of so many war films, nor is it specifically destroyed by it, the reserve of that other type of war story. Instead, though they meet their ends through violence, what is pointedly asserted is that the patriotism, base dehumanisation, and otherness espoused by the military prevented anything from blooming from the seeds the men sowed. Their work was for nought while it destroyed them. Even as Major Jean discovers the truth, she recognises it must be obscured and buried. What greater tragedy could one imagine? Like seeing the Berlin Wall come toppling down only to see no one willing to step over the divide.
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.
South Korean director Park Chan Wook just premiered his latest thirty minute film, Paranmanjang, which officially premiered Monday, will have the distinction of being the first “professional” film shot entirely on the iPhone. Regardless of Paranmanjang’s quality (I obviously haven’t seen it), I can’t help but feeling a bit of chauvinistic pride that the first “real” iPhone flick is a horror movie. But then, we horror fans are naturally defensive of our genre. After all, for years it was looked down upon as the exclusive domain of weirdos.