Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2005 2:13 pm 
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Park Chan-wook: Lady Vengeance/Chin-jeol-han-geun-ja-ssi (Souith Korea 2005) 112 minutes. Tartan Films release. New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, September 30 2005.

The dish has been served up too often

It began with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Park then got hold of the story of Oldboy, another revenge fantasy, and decided to shoot it -- with acclaim at Cannes as a result. Then, as if on a dare, he made a third revenge movie -- about a woman jailed for thirteen years for a kidnapping. She was only the accomplice of a schoolteacher, Mr. Baek (Oldboy's Choi Min-skik) and he's gone free, so... An important twist comes when the freed prisoner Geun-ja (Lee Yeong-ae) finds out Baek has other crimes, and she consequently ends up turning over revenge to the group of bereaved parents. Lady Vengeance, which isn't quite as gruesome as its two predecessors despite the bloody group killing at the end, has sparse, elegant titles and a baroque-sounding string score that suggests Peter Greenaway. Park's technique is dazzling and his jaw-dropping storytelling method involving endless successions of shots, scene changes, and angles is so intricate that if you blink you may miss a major plot development. This kind of filmmaking is like those Korean restaurants where they set down twenty plates of food on the table in front of you all at once. By revenge movie number three, it's beginning to look as though the dish best eaten cold may have been served up once too often. But Park is an intelligent guy and he has things to say; his films aren't just special effects frenzies. Talking to the press at the NYFF Park suggested that he's critiquing the contrast between The Count of Monte Cristo, where the revenge perpetrator gets wealth, happiness, and the girl of his dreams, and Asian martial arts revenge movies where things generally end badly. Lady Vengeance gets a bit of both, but she does bake a cake to celebrate at the end. The actress Lee Yeung-ae was previously famous for a TV series about a poor girl who becomes cook in the royal palace. People differ on whether this Korean director is a genius or a menace, but if he continues his genre-busting streak he's only going to get more and more famous.

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