Monday, August 17, 2009

Quenched by Park Chan-Wook's 'Thirst'

I caught Park Chan-Wook's Thirst with the ghoulfriend last night and was very impressed with it (so was she!).

His last effort, I'm A Cyborg And That's OK, was not OK with me. It bored me shitless.

I wasn't a fan of Lady Vengeance, either. It was slow and went off on too many irrelevant tangents.

Thirst doesn't do that.

In fact, the film is the director's most coherent, linear work, and I was fascinated from frame one.

A priest decides to be part of a scientific experiment involving the creation of antibodies. All prior volunteers have died, so the success rate is not encouraging. Lo and behold, the priest becomes another failure statistic. He doesn't die, though. He changes into something else. A vampire.

I'm not going to synopsize the many vivid, extraordinary revelations that are presented to us. It's enough for me to highly recommend this very Korean, unrepentantly crazy and audacious horror film.

It is reasonably long, but it never stops striving for freshness, meaning, and new erotic positions.

At heart it is a love story, as some many vampire films are, and it follows a trajectory that passionate love so often takes.

Technically, the film is highly accomplished, but it doesn't throw its amazing effects in your face. Even the cinematography is low key.

Performances are all top notch.

Interestingly, the film shares stark story and thematic parallels with Shuseke Kuneko's excellent My Soul Is Slashed (Kamitsukitai/Dorakiyura yori ai-o, '91)

In my imdb review on that film, I said:

This is truly an original vampire movie that is also one of the most beautiful ever made and one of the funniest. Director Shusuke Kaneko, who has made several contemporary "Gamera" films and the wonderful "Summer Vacation 1999", ought to be lauded for creating a fantasy that balances so many diverse elements with such precision. Ken Ogata, a company man, is killed. Accidentally, he is transfused with the blood of Dracula and returned to life. A woman who is a Dracula expert (Narumi Yasuda) takes Ogata under her wing (excuse the pun, please) so she can study him.

This bare plot synopsis does no justice to the magic of this film. As Ogata was married with a daughter, he must confront the reality of his wife moving on without him. His daughter, the cute Hikari Ishida, must learn to accept her new father and reassess her grief. There are many weighty subjects explored here with great sensitivity and imagination.

The vampire baggage of the movie echoes both the Universal and Hammer approaches, as well as early Toho efforts such as "Lake of Dracula". The visuals are gorgeous and the music is sensational.

from My Soul Is Slashed aka From Dracula With Love

The romantic subplot between the resurrected Ogata and Ms. Yasuda (who is a vision of heavenly feminine beauty) is extremely moving, and the scene in which Drac puts the bite on his new love is so erotically charged it brought tears to my ears. The final sequence, where Ogata's daughter comes to terms with her father's fate, is wonderful, too. The Hong Kong 'vampire lite' drama "A Bite of Love" waded into territory similar to this, but failed because it refused to embrace all the elements necessary to produce such a potent brew of action, horror, romance, comedy and melodrama.

One of the best modern vampire movies out there with the warmest heart. Why it has not had a legitimate release outside of Japan boggles the mind.

The similarities between the two films seem more than coincidental, and certainly prevent me from overpraising Thirst's originality.

Last year Let The Right One In gave us a fresh genre transfusion.

This, year, Thirst steps up to the plate, and what a bloody, sometimes brutal, poetic plate it is.

Its depth and pacing made it feel like a novel in motion.

1 comment:

  1. Park's films leave me kind of cold, generally. I was going to pass on Thirst but I guess I'll have to give it a look after all.