FILM: THIRST [KOREA] Dir. Chan-wook Park

In Gupter Puncher/Oli Johns on February 18, 2010 at 2:37 pm


THIRST *****     The loneliness of the long distance Korean… [Spoilers?] 

Director: Chan-wook Park

Starring: Kang-ho Song, Ok-bin Kim, Rodney Dangerfield

This is the kind of film that takes me a while to watch. In fact, I still have the director’s last film, Oldboy, on my shelf, unopened. It’s not that I don’t want to watch it, I do, and I know it’ll be good, but for some reason I’d rather watch shit like Wolverine first. It doesn’t really make much sense…it reminds me of the time I had Raging Bull and Showtime in my hands, and I watched Showtime first. It’s not logical. But that’s the way it is with films you know will be good, but will take mental energy to watch. And that’s the kind of film I thought Thirst would be.

   And it kind of is that kind of film. I mean, it’s slow-paced, and there aren’t many characters in it, and as I wrote in one of my stories here, the Korea in this is so fucking lonely…the whole world the director puts the characters in is almost devoid of any other people, except an oppressive mother figure, and a dull pair of friends who play cards with them sometimes. And by them, I’m talking about the two main characters, the Priest who’s a vampire, and the wife of his friend, who he starts fucking about forty-five minutes in…I probably should’ve described them first, but the loneliness of Korea was more striking, I guess…

   So, the plot is pretty simple, and a loose adaptation of some Zola novel I’ve never heard of…the Priest is a decent guy who’s trying to help people, but then some virus turns him into a vamp and he has to try and control his urge to eat people…it’s not like Buffy where a demon takes over the human, it’s a human that has this insatiable urge…I guess this part has been done before, but then, every part of the vampire myth has been done before…there’s really nothing new you can add to it anymore…so, the director doesn’t even try…the Priest is still unable to walk around in sunlight, he still wants to drink human blood…and he even sleeps in a coffin, or upturned cupboard…I’m not really sure what it is, but he’s in it, and no one seems to notice…

   Okay, so this film is pretty fucking amazing…first off, there’s the director. I haven’t seen Oldboy, but I was searching for scenes of the main guy fucking his daughter on youtube, and I found some parts of the film [not the ones I was looking for, fucking youtube!] which were beautiful, and the pacing of the images was so fast…and this is what happens here…the scenes change quickly, and there are a lot of scenes with the Priest and Tae-Ju [the wacko wife/love interest] where nothing is said, and the action moves along quickly…the first time they have sex is quite a long scene, but straight after it, we’re into another sex scene, as if the rest of the world doesn’t matter and the most important thing is to see these two having sex again and again…and it makes sense…you get a sex scene then a quick shot of Tae-Ju in the oppressive family home making a dress and staring off into the distance, imagining the next fuck, and then you have the next fuck…and then, as quickly as they come, the sex scenes stop, and we’re into murder land…yup, they plot to kill the idiot husband, and I don’t think that’s too much of a spoiler as I’ve seen it mentioned in other reviews…and it’s pretty clear that he’s gonna die, and, okay, I’ll ruin it for you and tell you, yes, he does…

   And the direction just gets even better…after the murder, things become weird as the Priest and Tae-Ju try to have sex again, but are haunted by the husband, dripping wet and loopy as fuck…and it’s not in some kind of weak flashback or fixed image of the husband pointing at them like Hamlet’s Dad, it’s scene after scene of him physically lying on top of them and in between…and it leads to one of the best images of the film…the Priest, naked, on top of and fucking Tae-Ju, but with the dead husband between them, so when the camera pulls back it comes out as some bizarre threesome, when actually it’s just all in their heads…

   I should stop talking about the director, but I can’t…it’s his baby, and I love the choices he makes in this…I mean, there were moments where it felt a little slow, but it’s the kind of film where you look at the clock to see how long’s left, but as soon as it’s finished and for the next few days it doesn’t leave your head…like The Fearless Vampire Killers, where you think, God, this isn’t funny, when’s it gonna end? But as soon as it’s over you think back and remember Polanski and the old Professor running across the top of the snowy castle for almost five minutes, and it seems like the most amazing thing…and I get the same feeling about this film, I cannot stop thinking about it…and that’s down to the director and the way he makes it so surreal…I’m not sure if surreal sums it up…I’ve been trying to think of a term for it, but I don’t know if I can…I guess what he does is drag fantasy into reality, kind of like they did in District 9 last year…you know, going round an alien refugee camp, getting them to sign migration papers…the same kind of dynamic is happening here…the director makes these vampires real, and the things they do seem wacky, but they’re exactly what you would probably do if you were a vampire…and the best example of this comes at the end, where one of the two does some funny fucking things to try and stay alive…in fact, the tone of the ending is like nothing you’ve seen…I felt depressed for two days after watching it, thinking, God, their world is so fucking empty, everything is so fucking empty…but at the same time, it’s funny…I love this director, I really do…

   I should talk about the acting a bit…the Priest guy is probably one of the sexiest fucking vampires ever put on screen, and he’s a fat, middle-aged Korean guy…the way they’ve done his hair, like he’s a shaggy dog, is perfect…and the blank expression he has for pretty much the whole film, and the scene where he stands in the hallway in that white shirt as a woman runs terrified towards him…he is cool in a way that Rob Pattison will never be…and then there’s Tae-Ju, the put upon housewife…I think she’s a famous singer in Korea, but you wouldn’t know it from this…she has no make-up on, she looks pale and frumpy, but she’s still fucking beautiful…so beautiful that I want to become famous just so I can go to a party in Korea and meet her…and she’s wicked too, frustratingly wicked…more than wicked maybe, she’s probably a sociopath…I mean, at first you think she’s the empowered victim, but then she twists and turns and you start to hate her a little, but it’s only because she can’t be controlled, and what does that say about me if I want her to be controlled? Man, that’s an uncomfortable thought…am I a misogynist? Are other guys misogynists too? I don’t know, maybe I am, but I still want the Priest to be able to control her, and this is where the film’s tension comes from…he’s a decent guy, and he’s fighting to control himself, so we know him, but she is slipping further and further away into murder, and you don’t want her to slip too far so he can’t get her back again…

 What else? The director is unlike any other director out there, the acting is first-class, the setting is fucking depressing and empty and really suits the story…I don’t know what else to say about this film, but I feel like there’s a lot more to be said…I guess I’m hindered by the rules of reviewing…I can’t talk about everything, can’t give the second half of the film away, although I probably already have…did I? Well, sorry, if I have, but I’m not trained in writing so I don’t really know what I’m doing, and I was never any good at structure anyway…so, final thought, this film is incredible, and you should sit down and force yourself to watch it if you’re the kind of person who watches Showtime before Raging Bull.

  1. I will have to check this out.

  2. I hated this film. I thought it made the vampires boring, and I thought that all of the characters were 2 dimensional and unlikeable. By unlikeable I don’t mean “not nice.” You can have a character who is a complete piece of shit, and they can still be likeable in the way that you can relate to something about them. The characters in this film are cardboard.

    Oli, you should watch Dead Girl — I hated it, but I think you might like it re: themes of control and misogyny etc.

  3. Daize, i’m glad you posted that.

    I don’t know if i was convinced by the characters…I can’t really remember…but i iked the feel of the film and the images and the choices the director made. It’s like ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’…i didn’t laugh once the entire film, but afterwards I remembered a lot of it and liked what I remembered. And the same with ‘Synedoche, New York’…i was bored in the last hour of that, but when I look back, i remember the ideas and like it.

    You could argue I don’t really like these movies, but the movies I made out of the movies…does that make sense? Like ‘The Wings of the Dove’…he doesn’t love the dying woman when she’s alive, but he falls in love with the memory of her.


  4. Okay, that’s one big vote against it.

  5. I thought this film one of the best of the year, if not up there with perhaps my favorite EVER vamp film (with Interview, of course, i was born in the 60’s)
    This director is a MASTER of screen space. He leaves his characters up to act and doesn’t mess around too much with the camera unless it is to show or reveal or underline something. Like the way he uses visual effects. The girl and vamp meeting outside when she has run barefoot contains shots where there are slashes or swaths of out of focus planes… this could look out of place. It works. It works cause it makes sense in the moment. Like the shooting style of the big murder-out makes sense (the stark, white stuff, the no frills almost video feel) very Lynch all of a sudden. No matter what sudden turn the plot or visual style takes, it all makes sense. You are never thrown from the story.

    It is like the director paints with the camera

    Oh and YEAH. Bring on the amazing sex scenes. Wow man, bring passion back to the big screen. Like, rip-your-flipping-hair-out-and-look-funny-cause-you-are-so-intensely-enjoying-something passion. Grrrrrrrr these sex scenes SO do it for MOI! This man sexy? Oh yeah Mr out of shape older korean yes DO me! And the brat girl. Naughty naughty girl. Insolent/victim she needs tying up to tame her fierce little come and get me, no wait i will come and get YOU girl….(sweat, steam)..
    okay, stopping now.
    But seriously. This film moved me a few times to quite a number of emotions. And yes. It is both funny and depressing.

    When my best mate and indie film collaborator in crime went to see it, he called me to say we are not ever going to make a film cause he just saw such a good film, we could never ever come close to doing anything as amazing as that.
    The film that ended my career before it has even started

  6. and a big vote for it.

    PD, you have a decision to make.

    Btw, if you wanna see what Elissa is capable of doing herself, go here:

    It’s like Jacob’s Ladder meets…Jacob’s Ladder.


  7. I’ll probably give it a watch and make up my own mind.

  8. You might actually like it, bro — these guys know what they’re talking about, whereas I’m just generally filled with hate for almost everything.

    • I find we have very similar tastes. We both liked Let the Right One in. I can’t believe you hate everything.

      (Check your email, if you haven’t.)

  9. Sweet-glazed baby Jesus, Let The Right One In is so fucking fantastic, isn’t it? I don’t hate everything, just “almost” everything. I’ll go check my mail now.

  10. You’re a short film maker aren’t you, Daize?

    That’s more than me. I know nothing about film really.

    Elissa did go to film school, though it doesn’t mean she’s right.

    Buffy is the best thing there’s ever been about vamps. But not the film. That was the worst. Near Dark was good. Bill Paxton slashing throats with his boot spurs…


    • I loved Buffy. I couldn’t watch the last couple seasons because my (soon ex-)wife was jealous.

      Bill Paxton was probably the best thing about Near Dark.

      My top 4 vamp movies were probably,
      1. Let the Right One In (they’re working on a US remake yuck)
      2. The Hunger (Beautiful as the stars Deneuve, Sarandon, Bowie)
      3. 30 Days of Night (This is a maybe for third place)
      4. The TV miniseries of Salam’s Lot (Not the old tv movie with David Soule, that was horrible, in the wrong way.)

  11. ooooooohhhhh Yeah! The Hunger! Loved it! Totally forgotaboudit.

  12. I haven’t seen any of your four vamp movies. I think i watched some of ‘The Hunger’ once, but not enough.

    I heard ‘Let the right one in’ was good. I have a feeling that the best vamp film out there is probably foreign, and not Van Helsing.

    Buffy was great apart from the melodrama. Whedon could subvert it sometimes, like in that Xander episode, where the melodrama with Buffy, Angel and an apocalypse is all in the background while Xander tries to stop those other guys blowing up the school…but other times he couldn’t help himself and you’d have all the characters having the reflection scenes at the end of the episode where they’d apologise or talk about what had just happened to them in the episode and how it made them feel…krist.

    But most importantly, Buffy was great because it had a sense of humour.


    • I totally forgot about the first vampire movie ever, and probably the best. Nosferatu. The silent German version. That has to go at the top of the list.

  13. my friend did his master’s thesis on Buffy

  14. Ha, yes i did.

    You do mean me, right?


  15. oh SHIT! NOOOOOO ! I KNEW you and KEON had to meet. NOW it is IMPERATIVE.
    No, i actually meant my friend KEON!

    too too too strange. and yar, Buffy is funny and she is hot. It was once debated that women who were funny somehow lost their sex appeal, that women were not ‘allowed’ to be funny.
    I think the modren (yes i spelled it incorrectly) man is ready for a smart sexy funny woman.
    Thanks buff

  16. Buffy was OK, a little mawkish for me.

    Vamp films:

    1. Let The Right One In (the most beautiful film I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m going to read the novel, which I’m sure will be the most beautiful book I’ve ever read in my life.)

    2. 30 Days of Night (fucking bad-ass motherfuckers.)

    3. Fright Night (just for that one scene where the vampire turns Charlie’s friend Evil into a vampire in the alley. The speech he gives him is fucking incredible.)

    That’s all I got. They’re mostly lame. I’m flummoxed at how people turn something as cool as a vampire into something so lame.

    • Re: Buffy, every third or fourth episode it would redeem itself.

      I intend to read the book Let the Right One In as well. I have a used copy on order. From discussions I’ve had elsewhere with people who read it, the book fills in a lot of empty spaces from the movie. It explains more about the vampire’s history, and his/her relationship with the previous caregiver.

      But I don’t think I will watch the US remake. US remakes are horrible ripoffs. The original movie was beautifully done; I don’t want to see what Hollywood does to that.

      Yes, there are a lot of crappy vampire movies out there.

      We moved to Appalachian Kentucky when my daughter entered 8th grade. The kids looked on her as an outsider. She was going through a goth vampire phase at the time and she told a few kids that she was a vampire, just kidding. They treated her so badly I pulled her out of school and home-schooled her for two years, until we moved out of there. She wasn’t getting an education anyway. Her eighth grade class had the same social studies book she used in 4th grade up in Michigan. But I digress.

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