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This movie has enough novelty to age well.
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Sang Hyun (Song Kang-Ho, The Host, Memories of Murder) is a Catholic priest who volunteers in a local hospital. He provides last rites when necessary as well emotional support to its patients. Father Hyun is well-respected but he secretly suffers from emotions that can be defined as doubt, as he witnesses the dark world around him. Yet, he cherishes life, so he volunteers to take part in an experiment to eradicate the lethal EV virus, which is a threat to every Caucasian and Asian male. Father Hyun becomes stricken with the deadly virus and a blood transfusion is ordered up for him to save his life; in turn he becomes the first survivor of the deadly virus and some folks begin to regard him as a saint. But soon after his new lease on life, Hyun finds out that the blood he had received is infected and he is now living as a vampire that only the consumption of human blood can stave off the virus.
Father Hyun struggles with his new found carnal desire for blood, and now also, his faith is put to the test when a childhood friend's wife, Tae-Ju (sexy Kim Ok-Vin) comes to him to escape the life she knew all her life. Sang-Hyun is now overwhelmed with his desires of the flesh, as he plunges deep within the world of carnal and sensual desires that brings him in intimate terms with the Seven Deadly Sins...
Park Chan-Wook is one clever director in creating a new take on the vampire lore that blends the elements of the Seven Deadly Sins; Gluttony, Sloth, Lust, Greed, Pride, Wrath and Envy. The vampirism as seen by Park's rendition does have similarities to the established myths about vampires; vulnerability to sunlight, superhuman strength and speed, with a strong need for human blood--curiously this vampire does not grow fangs. The need for human blood is necessary to stave off the virus that somewhat touches on the sin of Gluttony. Lust and Envy is represented through Father Hyun's desire for Kang-Woo's (Shin Ha-Kyun) wife. Pride is represented when Hyun allows himself to be seen as a "Saint" at first. Sloth when he gains lesions and when he has to live in a dirty basement. Greed for life as he becomes afraid of dying and hungry for companionship. Wrath as Hyun is led to murder and he is brought face to face with the consequences of his actions. Vampirism becomes seen as the ultimate root of evil in the eyes of Father Hyun, but in some ironic manner, it all frees him of his inhibitions.
Song Kang-Ho is one VERY versatile actor. The man has played different roles throughout his career and he is clearly the right man for the role of Father Hyun. Hyun becomes a compelling character as we see him torn between the need to survive while avoiding the need to kill. "God feeds even the birds in the sky", so Hyun resorts to slowly drinking the blood for comatose patients in the hospital (but never killing them) and people who wish to commit suicide. He also tries to overcome his lustful thoughts by hitting his thighs to overcome an erection. Curiously, Hyun becomes more aware of himself when he became a vampire; he realizes exactly who he is as he finds himself leaving the Order. Tae-Ju is one imbalanced woman who is manipulative of any situation. She seduces the kindly priest and manipulates him into believing that she is an abused wife; she is a woman torn between her reliance on her husband and the need to be free (as symbolized by her constant running at night). The sex scenes between Kang-Ho and Ok-Vin are quite erotically creepy at times, and very graphic; comparable to some Japanese pink films.
The film's takes up a darkly satirical tone that becomes weirder and darker as the film progresses, yet, it also becomes funnier, more bizarre and grittier. There is one very bizarre scene when Hyun and Tae-ju is having sex, with a vision of Tae-ju's dead husband sandwiched between them to bring the guilt of the murderous deed into exposition. While the first half of the film brings the weaknesses of the flesh with Hyun's character, the second half progresses in bringing its consequences. Hyun is overly obsessed with sexy Tae-ju as he would do whatever it takes to be with her, even though he is aware that she is somewhat imbalanced, she is all he has and he turns her; much to his regret later. While Hyun would avoid killing a human for his need, Tae-ju becomes drunk with power, as she doesn't mind killing at all. It is a testament to Park's skills as director as the plot revolves around his characters; that somewhat touches upon certain definitions of being a monster as well as how you wield certain abilities, with the definition of being human coming full circle in the screenplay. I loved the way Father Hyun began to atone for his sins one by one. He also gets rid of his "Saintly" image by letting himself be caught with a woman that led to him becoming scorned.
It is hard for me to find flaws in the script, the metaphors and symbols are executed masterfully; even the supporting characters are significant vehicles in fleshing out the main protagonists. I suppose if one wanted to nit-pick, one may say that the paralysis of Tae-ju's mother-in-law (played by Kim Hae-Sook) felt a little forced to generate some humor. Also, it can be argued that Tae-ju's character isn't as well written as Father Hyun's. Still, these flaws are very minor as Park Chan-Wook successfully brings us to a world full of darkness and very GRIM humor with an atmosphere that resembles a fable and excellent cinematography to match. "Thirst" isn't a comedy, but it is funny in a way that is both creepy and gloomy at the same time. The film also has a good share of blood and some gore, and yes, quite a good number of nudity and sex. (It is also the first mainstream Korean film that features male full frontal nudity)
"Thirst" is ultimately a success. Park Chan Wook was able to come up with a beautiful film that is full of elegy, while exploring the flaws of the human mind, that treats vampirism as a cause for the realization of one's carnal desires in incorporating a Catholic overtone. I really loved the manner in which Park executed this original vampire film that BOLDLY dares to be different. It is not a horror film per se, but its horror elements come from the Fears of making the wrong decisions.
Definitely lyrical, darkly satirical, often Ironic and even so erotically sexy, yet, so engagingly beautiful with compelling characters, Park Chan Wook's "Thirst" is destined to attain a large cult following.
Highly Recommended! [5- Stars]
See this before Hollywood massacres it with a remake.
This is Park Chan-Wook at the top of his game, and to my mind the very best of an outstanding resume. The acting is superb, with Korea's leading actor Kang-ho Song (The Host, and Memories of Murder) as the priest and Ok-Vin Kim as his lover and nemesis. The imagery is powerful and provocative; the camera plunges, leaps and crawls and yet the camera's smooth but relentless tracking of its subject matter never interrupts the precise and stylized framings, and always works in the service of the story. Constantly surprising for its unique approach to capturing what is on screen, the cinematography never feels like a gimmick, or like style for its own sake (a complaint one might raise about some of Park Chan-Wook's earlier works, however fascinating they are). This is a film that will affect you - it is provocative, funny, frightening, and always fascinating. Highly recommended for lovers of inventive cinema; not for the timid or squeamish.
If anyone sits down with me and has a conversation with me about movies, it's only a matter of time before I reveal that Oldboy is quite possibly my favorite film of all time. So it should be no surprise that I'm willing to see anything the director, Chan-wook Park, or lead actors, Choi Min-sik and Ji-Tae Yu, are involved with. Mainly because of my love for Oldboy, but also because I'm rarely disappointed with anything they are a part of. So when I heard Chan-wook Park was tackling a vampire film, I was thrilled and even more thrilled that he managed to deliver another solid film to his already impressive filmography.
The cinematography is the film's shining feature. Park really knows his stuff when it comes to shooting memorable scenes from behind a camera. Every shot is filled with vibrant colors that leap off of the screen. Every frame of the film seems to tell a story all on its own. I hope there's a Blu-ray release of this film because it will look fantastic. It's rather intriguing to see which elements of the vampire mythology Park used for his vision. Sang-hyeon has to drink blood to survive and to stay looking flawless, has incredible strength, and is vulnerable to sunlight. He doesn't, however, have fangs and also has a reflection in the mirror.
Although I've never seen the film, I couldn't help but feel like this was Chan-wook Park's version of Twilight. The entire middle portion of the film is devoted to Sang-hyeon's and Tae-Joo's love for one another. It felt like the adult version of Twilight, really. There's a lot of blood, nudity, sex, and even a few obscenities thrown in for good measure. Maybe it's the Chan-Wook Park fanboy in me, but I honestly feel like I can guarantee that this is the better film of the two. The psychological aspect that I love about Park's previous films is in Thirst, as well. That's a major factor for me as any film that causes me to think or is unusual in any way winds up becoming a fan favorite. The soundtracks to Park's films always seem to fit its respective film like a glove. Thirst is no exception. While the soundtrack is a bit more subtle this time around, it fit the overall atmosphere of the film rather effortlessly.
The middle portion of the film did seem to drag on longer than everything else in the film. It's weird though as the scenes during that time are crucial to the storyline of the film and it's hard to imagine Thirst being the same film if any of those scenes were cut. Nevertheless, it is my one nitpick of the film.
Chan-wook Park bites into the vampire mythology with Thirst and puts his own dark, psychological twist on it. Park's films always seem to have a specific formula or include most of the following: great writing, beautiful cinematography, a solid cast, some sort of psychological twist that'll mess with your head, and a memorable ending. Thirst delivers on all fronts and will hopefully get more of the attention it deserved during its theatrical run on DVD (and eventually Blu-ray, hopefully).
(Written by Chris Sawin)
Should the name Chan-wook Park sound relatively familiar, it is. More than almost any other living Korean film-maker, Park solidified his well-earned reputation with the sleeper hit Oldboy. Although I've enjoyed & certainly respected his decisions when it comes to other works, I couldn't fathom anything so masterful nor as mature. Thirst actually exceeded every last one of my expectations & easily became my favorite film of 2009.
Thankfully, we were granted a North American release for Bakjwi although the 145 min Director's Cut is a bit more obscure & harder to find. At any rate, I am grateful to have seen the film at all & am completely excited about Park's future endeavors once again. Park has earned his weight in gold as far as I'm concerned.
Taking it's cue from the classic Emile Zola novel Therese Raquin, Wook has crafted a masterful film that begs to be seen and dissected.
After witnessing the deaths of so many around him, Priest Sang-hyeon decided to undergo a medical procedure which could prove to be extremely fatal. However, Sang-hyun is convinced that his Lord will watch over him & he's determined to go through with the experiment irregardless of how risky the treatment may be.
As fate would have it, Sang-hyun does survive by means of infected blood which turns him into a vampire. Now he must drink the fluid of life for sustenance as well as battle his new found carnal desires. It's not an easy task to obtain blood but Sang-hyun embraces the challenge & finds himself battling the seven deadly sins.
Although it's hard to decide whether Park intends for his film to be a very morbid comedy with splashes of drama, Thirst is compulsively watchable & you'll find yourself irrevocably glued to the screen from the opening scene until the tragic ending. If you love Chan-wook Park, you know pretty much what to expect. His films are often tragic, twisted, & yet darkly comical. Thirst makes good use of Park's skills to weave a great tale and keep you begging for literally more.
Much like Oldboy, it's not always evident where Thirst will take you but you can be sure it's going to be a wild ride worth taking. The story is incredibly rich, the characters are brilliant, & the Korean vampire twist seems quite authentic making Thirst the most unique film experience in the most extreme sense of the word. Also like Oldboy, Thirst is a very dark if not strange love story with many turns & twists. However, I suggest you stick with it as the film does promise quite a bit & successfully delivers each one of it's promises. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up!
It's a shame, then, that Universal seriously dropped the ball with this DVD. For one thing, they neglected to put it on Blu-ray, which is inexcusable. Nearly every film nowadays, even direct-to-video slasher sequels, get Blu-rays, and Universal couldn't give one to one of the most famous and critically acclaimed international directors out there?
But even then, it's possible for a standard DVD to be a quality product. Even if it's not high def, you can still have a good transfer and a healthy amount of special features. But Universal couldn't even get that right. For one thing, there are no special features at all even though the international releases had plenty to use. Not even a solitary interview with the director. Nothing. The quality of the presentation is pretty shoddy as well; the transfer, is simply put, crap. It's inconsistent with poor detail and lousy contrast.
Even more insultingly, they burned in the English subtitles. Universal was so cheap that they couldn't even give us the option of changing them. So if you're Spanish, you're going to have to deal with two sets of subtitles on your screen. Pretty much every foreign film DVD in the last decade has had the option of turning off or changing the subtitles.
Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of alternatives. If you possess a region-free Blu-ray player, you can import Tartan's disc from Amazon.co.uk but that leaves out most customers. The best one can hope for at this point is that Universal decides to cash in on Park's success when his American debut 'Stoker' comes out and release a better edition, but I'm not holding my breath.
The impression is that no one cared when producing this DVD, they just wanted to put out the cheapest version possible and get it out there. There really is no excuse for such a subpar release, especially one from a director such as Park.