Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thirst (2009)

I guess that many that will see Chan-wook Park's Thirst will be a bit disappointed. It's not the twist-in-the-end-rollercoaster like Old Boy, or the smart warm comedy like I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK, or the surrealistic Lady Vengeance. When it comes to style, Thirst is more like Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and very far from the typical vampire-movie. I really don't want to tell anything about the story, but as you might know, Kang-ho Song plays a catholic priest that decides to be a guinea pig in Africa, to help solve a plague that only attacks Caucasians and Asians. He dies, but wakes up and suddenly is worship by a lot of people. What they don't know, and he slowly realize, is that he's become a vampire. Not the usual vampire - because he's visible in mirrors and have no problems with religious artifacts. He's just getting very thirsty... for blood, and for sex...

Thirst is such an original movie. It stays away from all the boring vampire-clichés and I think we're all happy that the vampires in this movie don't grow any fangs. This is more a black drama - with a lot of humor - that deals with catholic guilt... and yes, that kinda guilt everyone probably would have after killing someone, good or bad. The priest gets super-powers, but there's no martial arts. He can fly, but never really uses it. It deals with the priests fight against his newborn thirst of blood, power and sex. Because he's such a nice guy he steals blood in the night from coma-patients or when ever he gets a chance to licks someones wounds. Another priest gives him blood, but in exchange to make him a vampire too. 

Most of the movie also deals with the family, and especially the young step-daughter, that the priest befriends and starts to manipulates to get more access to the willing daughter. This is a very disturbed family, very old fashioned, who totally breaks when the priest comes into their life. It's hard to describe the story, and that's good. It can be abstract sometime, but never looses it's energy or or intelligence. This is a high class product, and it's probably the best movie Chan-wook Park has directed since Old Boy.

It's far from a splatter movie, but has a lot of disturbing and bloody moments that even I had a hard time watching. It's violent and uncomfortable, and very politically incorrect. For being a movie from South Korea, this has quite strong scenes of sex and nudity - which feels very fresh and natural too. Kang-ho Song as the priest makes a helluva performance, and so all the other actors - and I think you all would agree that Ok-bin Kim as the daughter is as perfect as she can be. She's born in '86 and he in '67, so I guess the scenes of sex and cause some controversy for those that are very sensitive about these kinda subjects.

But Thirst is also very funny and absurd, as you should know from watching Park's other movies, and it's a joy to see how creative and smart the script is. It's hard to know what to expect in the next scene, and even surreal moments shows up which probably just are ghosts of the characters angst and guilt.

I loved Thirst. I could say it's a masterpiece, and one of the finest cinematic experiences I had from South Korean-cinema in quite a long while. So check it out and be surprised... or disappointed.


Jack J said...

I haven't watched this yet but I'm not so sure too many people will be disappointed. Park was interviewed in the new issue of "Asian Trash Cinema" (#64) and THIRST was reviewed. The reviewer said: "There are more creative ideas in Thirst than in all the American vampire movies I've seen in the past three years combined". Park says in the interview that the film has completely divided the Seoul audience. I certainly look forward to getting hold of it.

Ninja Dixon said...

I've read quite many reviews where people are disappointed. They expect something else, but this is not like something else, and we should be happy about that :)

CiNEZiLLA said...

Cool. I really really really want to see this movie. Park's movies are all completely stunning, and I have high hopes for this one, and if you state it to be closer to Mr. Vengance, then nobdy will be happier than me. That is a fantastic film. I have to ask though... Are there any SWEDEN references in it? A lot of his early movies had Sweden connections in one way or another (I think JSA has a friggin Carola song in the endcredits even). It's one of those details that always anoys the fuck out of me when Swedish Journalists get the chance to interveiw him and only know the shit they read off the pressrelease. If I'd meet him, I'd definately dig up the Sweden fetish and find out what the heck it's all about.

Wouldn't you?

Which release did you pick up? UK or Asian import?

Take care, and keep up the great work!