Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Last year YC was pushing me to watch this Korean film called Old Boy. It made a lot of noise at the Cannes Film Festival and Quentin Tarantino was praising it in the papers. I gave it a shot and it was a shocking movie. The 1st reaction after finishing the movie was one of horror. It was a movie unlike what I've seen before. I took some time to digest the movie and watched it again. There was no doubt Park Chan Wook had made a masterpiece.

Lady Vengeance is the final film in Park Chan Wook's revenge trilogy. The first, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance was a dark humour film about the tragedy of vengeance. Old boy is a one of a kind movie that can never be surpassed with an even more tragic tale of vengeance.

Lady Vengeance is a tale of girl who ends up in prison and after 13 years years is released and is seeking vengeance. The 1st half of the film covers Lady Vengeance's back story and life in female prison. There's a lot of trademark Pack Chan Wook dark humour here including the most disgusting/funny orgasm scene ever.

The problem with the 1st act is that its more about the other inmates of the prison than Lady Vengeance herself. I find myself more interested in the backstory of her fellow convicts rather than Lady Vengeance and the sad thing is that they do not figure into the 2nd half of the movie which is about the revenge.

I won't spoil the 2nd half of the movie but the revelation and what Lady Vengeance did with the knowledge put a smile to my face. To put it cyptically, the 2nd half is like a Takashi Miike film but nowhere as scary as audition and less cheesy than Ichi.

However it must be said that this film is beautifully shot and scored. Korean films in terms of cinematography is so much better than HK and Japan. Korean films have the technical expertise to make great films. If only they'd do less melodrama movies.

Out of the four Park Chan Wook movies, I'd rate this one the lowest with Old Boy at no.1 and JSA second. Lady Vengeance is a well executed movie but I find the mix of themes of revenge and redemption are too jarring. However, I love the way the how Lady Vengeance gets both at the end.

Lady Vengeance is still a decent movie, just not as good as the other 3 that I've seen including JSA. Ultimately the problem with Lady Vengeance is threefold: Firstly the narrative of the film is weak. Its a film not really about Lady Vengeance but the film spends a lot of time on her with scenes that are not really entertaining nor move the plot forward.

Secondly, there's no climax at the end and the epilogue scene is way too long.

Thirdly, I just don't feel no sympathy for Lady Vengence, especially compared with the characters in the 1st two revenge films.

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