Almost a decade later, Park Chan-wook is sharing his honest opinion about Spike Lee’s remake of “Oldboy.”
Park helmed the 2003 Korean neo-noir film that adapted a Japanese manga of the same name. The Cannes Grand Prix-winning film followed an imprisoned man (Choi Min-sik) who, upon release, tries to uncover the conspiracy behind his capture. Oscar winner Lee remade the film stateside in 2013, with Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, and Samuel L. Jackson starring.
“I did watch it, and I was left with this very curious feeling,” Park told Vulture of the reimagining. “The story was similar, but the little details were completely different, so it looked familiar but at the same time unfamiliar.”
The “Decision to Leave” director continued, “The film itself was meant to look surreal, but I think it felt extra surreal to me as the original filmmaker.”
At the time, reviews couldn’t help but compare Lee’s take to Park’s film. IndieWire’s Eric Kohn wrote that Lee’s “Oldboy” is a “capable riff on Park’s more innovative original.”
Kohn continued, “It’s quickly evident that Lee, aided by Mark Protosevich’s screenplay, has borrowed the high points of Park’s movie to construct a different kind of revenge story, one that finds him advancing similar ideas involving the confrontation of personal demons with an ultimately more Christian tale of redemption at its core…It also operates as a handy gateway to the fusion of Lee and Park’s visions.”
Park recently told IndieWire that he is open to an English-language “Decision to Leave” remake, perhaps with a Mexican femme fatale and an American protagonist to mirror the race relations in his feature with a Korean detective and a Chinese person of interest who communicate in part through a translation app.
“If the original film is already pretty well received and well known in the other country, you might say that the remake is not necessary,” Park said. “But I do think when you remake a film, and it’s made with the particular culture and perspective of the local country, it might help the local audience appreciate it better.”
He added, “When an American audience is watching it through subtitles, they have to take the time to imagine the situation that is going on on the screen. They are unable to instantaneously react to it or understand the situation, because both the Korean and Chinese language are subtitles on the screen for them.”