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Friday, 19 February 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Thirst

As I have mentioned before, I have been intending on rounding out the year, so this is the last film review that I will be doing for at least a month. During this time I'll be working on delivering three different articles: Best and Worst Films of 2009, Best Albums Of The Decade as part my intended expansion into album reviews and Best Films Of The Decade. Each of these articles will take up a considerable amount of time and effort, and will more than make up for a lack of activity in film reviewing constantly. Quite frankly, I am zapped at playing through the monotonous routine, and this change in the routine on these three articles and a well-needed break will be exactly what I need in order to recharge my batteries and get back in action. The film that I am reviewing here is Thirst, the new film from writer-director Park Chan-wook. Now, Park Chan-wook is one of my favourite director's to emerge from Asia over the past ten years. Starting out the decade with Joint Security Area, he later went on to direct the critically-acclaimed Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance) and I'm A Cyborg But That's OK, Park has quickly become one of the most interesting and daring film-makers in the world. Thirst is being labelled his "vampire" movie. In Thirst, Catholic priest Sang-hyun, played by Song Kang-ho, volunteers for an experimental programme to find a vaccine for the Emmanuel Virus, and following a blood transfusion, recovers rapidly, in the process becoming a vampire. His recovery gets him much attention, including that from childhood friend Kang-woo, played by Shin Ha-kyun, and after coming to dinner, finds himself attracted to his friend’s wife Tae-ju, played by Kim Ok-bin. To start with what is good about the film, and there is a lot of good, the film has some very strong acting. Lead actor Song Kang-ho shines, in what is his second good film I've seen this year after The Good The Bad The Weird. Despite being a really funny and charismatic actor, it is the other side of this coin that endears us to him in this film. His acting in this film just makes Sang-hyun seem like a genuinely good person, who is trying to remain true to his human self whilst conflicted with his vampiric curse. Kang-ho endears this character to us really well, injecting both his considerable charisma and likeability with a very human poignancy in the man who struggling to maintain his humanity above of his newfound animal instincts. Also, Kim Ok-bin is excellent as Tae-ju. In contrast to the character of Sang-hyun, who remains true to himself, Tae-ju character evolves during the course of the film. In a very subtle and gradual performance, Ok-bin portrays a downtrodden human being excellently, showing little gestures and nods as to how she really feels. As the characters interact throughout the film, her performance does not show the character having instantaneously evolved: the changes are noticeable, but very subtle, with traces of her former self still there. It is only late in the film that we fully realise how far her character has come and how frightening the change in her character really is. It is only through the intelligence of her performance that this is achieved. You know, for all the slagging that women in horror movies get for more or less going topless as an acting performance, it seems that the horror movie medium paradoxically offers more opportunity for meatier performances than so-called "mainstream female-driven" movies. Hollywood really is a man's world, with either foreign language cinema, horror cinema or independent cinema offering the best opportunities. The only exception to this rule lately would have to be Angelina Jolie's performance in Changeling. With regards to Chan-wook, I think that he does a really good job of directing here. This man really knows what he is doing, having storyboarded the entire piece before shooting. This means that he has a real handle on helping the excellent cinematography by Jeong Jeong-hun. For all the murkiness and darkness of the film, it is brilliantly lit. Chan-wook really has a cinematic vision, for his films are loaded with some wonderfully cinematography and lighting. It's not like his films are just "hero" shots throughout the entire thing, but despite elements of contrast and surrealism, they are quite clearly recognisable as reality. Also, his involvement in the process of writing must be complicated. Now, the script is not fantastic, more in due time, but Chan-wook truly is a master auteur who is involved in every process of film-making, but not without letting it be the collaborative process that it needs to be. The script though really is the film's main problem. Don't get me wrong, it is quite well written, but there are a number of blip's throughout which stop the film from being as good as it could have been. At times the film does seem rather slow rather than interesting. Most of the problems with the script are structural problems. I believe that on occasion it loses direction as to where it wants to go and where it wants the audience' mood to go. I think that it tries to cover too much without weighing things up properly. Whilst the film is for the most part very nihilistic, there are elements of the romanticised view of the vampire myth as seen before. As individual scenes, particularly in the film's final scene, this works very well, with the final scene working brilliantly in the context of what has happened previously. However, the order seems messed up at different points throughout. Being a black humorist, there are elements of this in the film, and I love black humour myself, but at times they fall flat on their face. It's really like the emotional Richter scale is all over the place, for it plays some scenes wrongly in the emotional sense. Chan-wook clearly likes to play with people’s minds, but really some of Thirst is too much. At times, it seems as though he is purposely trying to play the scenes ironically or sardonically for the sake of it. Nevertheless, despite this year’s surge of vampire films, this, New Moon and Let The Right One In et al, Thirst is at least a very interesting take on vampires, with some brilliant cinematography and really strong lead performances. Yes, this is the end of the review, so toodle-oo. I would say it has been a good year, but that would be lying. At least for all the bad movies I have seen, one really good one is enough to make me feel good about reviewing movies. Gutenacht, if that's how you spell it.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 7.9/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Tired

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