Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (2005) * Top Picks * * Viewed Twice *
Genre: Drama Mystery Thriller (South Korea)
Starring: Yeong-ae Lee (The Gift, One Fine Spring Day), Min-sik Choi (Oldboy, Brotherhood)
Directed By: Chan-Wook Park (Oldboy, Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance)
Overview: After having served thirteen years in prison, Geum-Ja seeks vengeance on the man who betrayed her. (There's so much, much more but I dare not ruin this for anyone).
Acting: Now that I've seen a film this good, I wonder how much acting is responsible for making or breaking a film. Without a good script an actor is left to the hounds, granted, yet no matter how well something is written, if an actor doesn't have it or doesn't get the right direction, it can fall apart just as easily. All this to say: lucky someone with a story this well-planned and perfected also had a team with skill to deliver it just so. Every single role in this film is an act of perfection, directed in kind.
I'm talking effin' halos.
Cinematography: Peter Greenway, eat your heart out, then regurgitate it up and eat it out again because once just isn't enough. It seems that Chan-Wook took a few lessons in colour composition from Peter, as well as from other South Korean directors, but this isn't in any way pretentious. This film's cinematography rivals those of my favorite (and also hyper-stylized) films, Requiem For A Dream and Fight Club, however this is far less subtle. The intensity never stops from wardrobe to locations, from lenses and filters to angles, even right down to props (didja SEE that custom handgun?). I remember rolling my eyes at some point and saying "Could you STOP being perfect? It's distracting me from the story."
Script: The magic of this film is that motivations are clear enough without words, hell, silence and score may even have been MORE effective at some points because the way this plays out, the subtext, the drive, the characters are written so well that their actions become so obvious so quick, and all without being predictable.
Plot: The worst part of this movie was how difficult it was to follow. Like 21 Grams, we have an intense semi-linear timeline that jumps back into the past perhaps even a little too often. Had I known about that going in, it would have made things a little easier, so there's my gift to you. As for the story itself, the constantly changing evolution in the character arc in this is severe and the way this woman resolves her problems is one of the most original vengeance plots you ever could have conceived.
Mood: My favorite part of the film was the constant effort put into combining style with form visually, while including a haunting and repetitive score, just like Kronos Quartet did in Requiem For A Dream. Add to this the intensity of the characters, the stoic drive of those involved, odd and strange and highly symbolic dream sequences, and you have here a film that plays in the field of high-art while staying deeply rooted in logic and humanity, dark as it may be. My God, I have to see this again.
Anyone who goes to so much trouble to have a custom-made handgun this cool... untouchable in my books.
Overall Rating: 96% (Perfection From Lady Vengeance)Aftertaste: This stays with you. This is important. This is original. This is art film, action film, thriller, drama and mystery all put together with such perfection that I will safely call this one of the top films of the decade. It's just so right, so honest, unabashed, and what the future of all film should strive to be: a spectacle for the eye, a tale of humanity pushed to the limits of reason, a brilliant comment and an innovation leaps and bounds beyond the imaginable. This had weaseled it's way up the chain to my Top 5 favorite films, and I need to go own a copy.
I dare you not to like this.
Originally Reviewed September 16th, 2006, see comments for re-viewed review.