Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thirst (2009)



Korean priest becomes a vampire and develops a foot fetish somewhere along the way.

Being a resident of South Korea has done some strange things to me. Other than wildly altering my sleep schedule, making me a certified alcoholic and giving me first hand knowledge of a legitimately racist country, my time in this place has given me insight into a foreign film industry that is severely underestimated. There are filmmakers in Korea that are putting out legitimately good films, and  few people outside of the country are watching these movies. Thirst is an extremely solid take on the vampire mythology, which blends significant elements from Korean culture into a really interesting film.

If you're not Korean, the names Chan-Wook Park and Kang-Ho Song probably don't mean anything to you. Park and Song have combined to make pretty much every Korean movie of note. Thirst is the story of a devout priest who just so happens to be accidental turned into a vampire. Along the way he must come to terms with his new life while trying to reconcile his sinful passion with a young woman. All of this makes a lot more sense within the context of Korean society, but that's a level the average American won't understand. The question is, is Thirst worth watching for the average moviegoer. The answer is an unequivocal yes.

If there's a genre that has been excessively over-saturated in the last few years it's vampires. Between the Twilight craze and every other attempt to make vampires cool over the last few years, there seems little room for innovation. That's where Thirst really shows it's pedigree. The blending of western ideology and eastern philosophy in the guise of a vampire movie works better than expected. In the end, Thirst succeeds because it feel fresh. It feel new and different from the other vampire films out there and that alone makes it worth watching in my book. It takes a considerable amount from the traditional mythology, you already know all the rules of vampire movies, but it also breaks the rules and expectations of the genre in really pleasing ways. From an insider perspective, Thirst really succeeds because it's an unique look at Korean culture, especially relationships, through a less than traditional medium. On top of the immeasurable aspects, the film succeeds on all the traditional levels as well. the acting is solid and the visuals are just as good.

In the end, Thirst offers everything you could want in a foreign film. While the movie certainly plays better if you have an understand of Korean culture, let me enlighten you, their relationships suck, it also works as an outsider. The sheer uniqueness of the mythology makes the film worthy of watching. Slowly but surely I'm becoming a huge supporter of the Korean film industry and that will likely continue in the future. I wouldn't recommend a film that didn't have universal appeal and Thrist has that appeal. At the very least, it's a vampire movie that will feel fresh and that's worth it's weight in gold these days.

7/10

1 comment:

Mike said...

Saw "Thirst" on Australia's "World Movies" cable channel, a unique to Australia channel that shows current movies from everywhere - try Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Iraq, Iran, Thailand, Russia, Indonesia etc, etc. - the list is endless. To the point, "Thirst" is all the reviewer says it is - a fresh and, to me, darkly funny take on Vampires ( and it is about time somebody took stakes to the hearts of all the popcorn vampire movies blowing a gusher from Hollywood - when do the "Simpsons" grow canaine teeth?). The typical repressed and ineffectual Korean saliriman is captured perfectly in the priest's character as is the sexually predatory and promiscuous Korean female, all the while wearing a mask of obsequious middle class normality. the erupting volcano of bottled up Korean inferiority is marvelously parodied in the blood crazed attacks by the increasingly carnal woman on her doctor and family, after a demure Mahjong game, in the creepy, white washed house. I may be warped, but I laughed like a drain. The slapstick antics, at the end, trying to keep out of the rising Sun's rays are worthy of the Marx Brothers. It did nor warrant a prize at Cannes, but good luck to the Director who has fooled the pretentious French with a story lifted from Zola and executed in a stylish and (almost) toungue in cheek send up of the Hideously overdone vampire "franchise" (It would be interesting to hear the reviewre's expansion of his observations on Korean relationships)