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The Mass Media

Thirst A Little Dry on Material

Yes, director Chan-wook Park made a movie earlier this decade called “Oldboy” which is a truly artistic work, containing what I consider to be the most beautiful and moving fight scene ever put to film. It’s a film of remarkable writing, editing, visual aestheticism, and wonder; full of musings on the value of revenge. The plot is complex and difficult without the defect of being complicated and unbelievable. It’s a fun movie, but, more than that, it is a movie’s movie.

However, “Thirst” isn’t that movie. In fact, the only film that Park has made that deserves any deep recognition is “Oldboy,” – the middle of his “revenge” trilogy. The other two, “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and “Lady Vengeance” do little but reiterate the themes in “Oldboy,” but less spectacularly.

I think I know what part of the problem is. Park has trouble writing characters that you want to feel sympathy for. In “Oldboy,” it’s easy enough to feel such powerful sympathy for the protagonist. However, every single character in his movies otherwise tend to be morally compromised – leaving me completely indifferent to their success and development in the films. In “Thirst,” I wanted little more than for the protagonist to be finished off as early as possible.

And this truly disappoints me, because “Thirst” could have been a beautiful film examining the role of Christianity in the growing world of Science where kids seem to be more drawn to carnal desires and quick fixes than by temperance and the pursuit of wisdom. I think that’s what he was going for, anyway. But it falls apart. There’s just far too much sex and blood.

You see, I simply don’t understand these modern art-house films that parade around with overt sexuality as profundity… as something intellectually impressive. It’s dull and a complete waste of time. This movie essentially left me with the opposite feeling of porno – rather than the story being the boring in-between, the sex and action sequences left me with a longing to return to story, which is (like any good porno) ultimately unsatisfying and unrewarding.

He gets sidetracked too easily, too. There’s that nice but unrealized theme of Christianity vs. Science and Desire, but then he throws in this digression about the haunt of those you murder. Park attempts to make his film a moral play by having his female lead fall apart as her conscience (which has no precedent and certainly no hold on her character as you soon learn), but mars it with poor development and – once again – boring and morally compromised characters.

Visually the film is above standard, but it doesn’t compare to his masterwork “Oldboy.” And as far as vampire films go, last year’s “Let the Right One In” still remains the paragon example of how to do it right. Vampires are overdone these days, and “Right One” got that. “Thirst” spends too much time trying to be plausible and explanatory (both of which are utterly botched attempts), whereas “Right One” understands itself as nothing more than a musing on relationships sprinkled with vampires on top and just gets plain to the story. So just go see “Oldboy” and “Let the Right One In” and pretend like they met. You don’t need to see Chan-wook Park’s new film.