S. Korea

Thirst, Ceci est mon sang

Park Chan-wook :: South Korea :: 2008 :: 2h13

Sang-hyun (Song Kang-Ho) is a modern catholic priest. He is both rational and motivated by a selfless desire to help and to do the right thing. He volunteers for a risky medical experiment to find the cure for a deadly virus, in which he ends up receiving donor blood from an unknown source. He miraculously survives the virus, but the blood transfusion changed him, strengthened him even. Unfortunately, the flip-side of his new strength quickly becomes apparent, when he realises that to stay healthy, he needs to drink human blood. He has de facto become a vampire.

Sang-hyun survives his affliction without compromising his integrity, too much. But along with his craving for blood, came his lust for carnal pleasure too. From there it does not take long for his eyes to fall on the young Tae-Joo (Kim Ok-bin), married to a mildly retarded childhood friend of his. Treading with tenderness and care, he manages to seduce her. Tae-Joo, who was practically living as a family slave, reawakens as a femme fatale, challenging her lover well off the right path. The film swings from dark humour to sexy and from absurd to scary and all that in an aesthetically rich environment. Thrist is a great new twist on the vampire theme, even if it wonders off a little at times. It is funny to note that the marketing boys also had a tough time placing the film.

The French release poster has Kim Ok-bin’s character hanging upside-down from the Priest’s neck like a bat, exposing a lot of rosy hued skin in a darkness. It is a pure aesthetic, with a clear sensual feel, which has a “mainstream” look, as if the film plays down its foreign-ness and its originality to attract its audience. It is immediately visible that Sang-hyun is a priest, offering the intrigue. Any doubt you might have is taken away with the title “Ceci est mon sang” which has a religious ring, and the merit of mentioning “blood”. The film is actually more original and more horror laden than the poster would suggest.

Thirst Korean poster

Notice the difference with the Korean poster. It is as a scene from a faded film, where the female character’s near-panic is contrasted with the male character’s more controlled fear. The two characters are in full view, almost filling the entire poster, although the twist that Sang-hyun is a priest remains hidden. The two characters are white with a fear of something external, even though, on closer inspection, it is Sang-hyun himself who has blood on his lips! Although such an existential fear is not really the subject matter of the film, the poster does suggest fear and blood in old-school cinema. This is not only an accurate description, but also targets the audience who would most appreciate the film. If it is you, do not hesitate – Thirst is a great film.





Kim Ki-duk :: S. Korea :: 2006 :: 1h37

Ji-woo has been with his girlfriend See-hee for two years. When she sees him looking or talking to other girls See-hee feels over-whelmed with a jealousy and a fear that their love is over. He assures her that it is not, but she can not be convinced. In her mounting fury, she convinces herself that he is no longer interested in looking at her. Then one day: she’s gone, leaving Ji-woo heartbroken.

Lost, Ji-woo does not know what to do with his life. With his crude friends they roll themselves into Seoul’s singles’ merry-go-round. When he finally meets a girl he likes and could fall in love with, he gets a note from See-hee announcing her return. Bizarrely enough, when she shows up in the café, she is masked with a photo of her own face covering her own. The heartbroken Ji-woo does not know what to feel in the confusion staring at his love. See-hee masks a secret and a reborn jealousy but this time not of others but of … herself.

The funny and challenging movie addresses a interchangeability issue, based on a premise of human superficiality, but unfortunately misses its target. Most of the blame is to be carried by a badly written script which looses the actors and the audience along the way by its lack of credibility. Far fetched ideas can be a real pleasure to watch, but deviating from human understanding, as this plot does, leaves us nowhere. Even if at first we can manage to muster enough sympathy for Ji-woo to deal with his loss, a little further into the film it is just no longer tenable. The impossibility of  the plot soon flips over onto See-hee who can no longer be human. I do not see how this film could have been saved other than just going back to the drawing board. A pity, considering the originality of the project at the outset, when Kim Ki-duk was no doubt sitting at a café table laughing about the idea with his friends…

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Jin-Ho Hur :: South Korea :: 2005 :: 1h45

A man and a woman who were having an affair crash their car against another killing a young man. Their respective spouses find them in a coma in hospital and have to deal with the consequences. Their pain of betrayal, the tragedy of death and coma, and on top of that the frustration of not being able to talk to their partners, brings the two closer together. Fine-tuned with great attention to detail, both in script as in visual execution, enhances the credibility, painting a very intimate portrait of a blossoming love. It would be a pity to elaborate on the fine details worked out in the movie, as that is the charm of watching. Try going in with little more pre-knowledge than that the director takes on the ‘In the Mood for Love’-type theme and see where he takes you from there. Highly recommended.