By now, it should be readily acknowledged that Park Chan-wook’s films, for all their maker’s talents as a visual stylist, are a bit moronic. Remove the comparatively dense and ethically ambiguous Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance from his oeuvre, and the rest of the lot seem hardly worth the effort of watching, much less devoting serious consideration to. Supremely bombastic and marred by a wildly suspect moral calculus (both in terms of diegesis and Park’s questionable commitment to unpacking the concept of vengeance as opposed to just exploiting its nastiness), Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance only surprised in that they found any traction at all—and we won’t even touch his abhorrent chapter of Three…Extremes and the nonsensical Korean studio stiffy JSA: Joint Security Area. Park is to Asian genre film what Sam Mendes is to middle-budget American prestige pictures—full of sound and fury. You know the rest.
Park’s latest, Thirst, is a vampire film, coming at a time when consumers seem at peak hunger for such things. This savvy befits a filmmaker who populates his movies with Xtreme incident to maintain outsider cachet, while still slavishly remaining in thrall to convention and trend. It’s also, given Park’s—and much of recent South Korean cinema’s—tendency towards narrative excess (witness the variety of half considered subplots that run huffing and puffing alongside the main narratives of The Host, Save the Green Planet, The Chaser), a heaving love story, a riff on Double Indemnity, a movie about faith and feminine empowerment, and yes, a bloody vampire flick. Click here to read the rest of Jeff Reichert’s review of Thirst.