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2005.03.25

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George

You might be interested in my latest post on AGAAG, "What's Up Manohla's Dargis?"

Aaron Hillis

And here's my glowing write-up to keep the good word a-spreadin'. Though it's only March, Oldboy is easily my favorite film of the year (thus far).

nick

It's very entertaining, visually compelling, very stylized, and goes at the speed of a video game, but like its main character, and like any video games, it's really empty.

Filmbrain

Excellent piece George -- I've added a link to it in the post.

While I don't (or can't) claim to say where art ends and exploitation begins, I believe there are enough elements to Oldboy that easily allow it to transcend from simple suspense film to something far greater.

I also believe Manohla is incorrect in her assessment of where Park's fan base lies. I recently spoke after a screening of Oldboy -- about 40% of the audience was the young, hip, into-Asian-cult-cinema crowd, and they were the ones who disliked the film the most. "It didn't go far enough", "wasn't shocking enough", etc. were some of the comments I heard. They all claimed to have figured out the twist and found it to be too long. The human element to the story didn't interest them, nor the tragedy, nor even the filmmaking itself.

Film lovers will easily spot the influences, and can see how this is truly not a case of bankrupt, reductive postmodernism.

As George says, to claim that Oldboy fans can’t distinguish between high-art and low is ironic coming from somebody who had Million Dollar Baby as her top film of the year.

Who’s up for a Million Dollar Baby vs. Oldboy fight? Nick?

Filmbrain

Nick --

I watched you watch this film, and you were completely caught up in it.

I would like to ask you to elaborate on your claim that the film (as well as Oh Dae-su) is empty. Is it really a more "empty" film than Million Dollar Baby, which you loved? Can a film of this genre ever be considered (by you) to be a great film? What if Clint Eastwood had directed it? ^_^

Pingae

"Intricate, brutal and ultimately maddening revenge thriller, pitched to alpha males who like their soft-porn violence artfully dressed."

Jan Stuart, Newsday

How in hades does filmbrain score speaking gigs after Korean movies? I mean, let's be Million Dollary Baby honest here, filmbrain is on the level of the Rasta Talk Show on public access cable at four in the morning. Koreans have suffered more than their share of indignities in the 20th century. Having a two-bit blogger as the self-appointed spokesman of their cinema is just too much. Rupert Pupkin anyone?

phyrephox

I'm sorry, but who are you and why should we care about your baseless remarks about someone who is really helping elevate the visibility and critical understanding of new South Korean cinema on the web? (Not to mention cinema in general.)

And, for the record, I find Oldboy grossly overrated and see little content inside its fairly sloppy "genre" framework (which I think is being imposed on the film more than it should be).

Filmbrain

Pingae --

It seems that every time I write about a Korean film, you re-surface (with yet another assumed name) and discuss not the film itself, but me.

Jan Stuart's review speaks of the film's "mercilessly graphic depiction of torture", when in fact it happens off camera. Stuart then goes on to talk about the live eel that is ingested. Nuff said.

It's true that Oldboy isn't full of the "virtuous characters" you so crave, so you probably wouldn't like it. Actually, have you seen the film? What are your own thoughts on it? (As Phyrephox shows, it is possible to disagree about a film without name calling.)

And you are absolutely right -- I kidnapped Jerry Lewis in order to speak on that panel.

Irie mon!

Alex

And I thought the emptiness was exactly the point: it's about the void, despair, emptiness, lack, whatever you want to call it. That's what art's supposed to be about. Even the low stuff. I'm surprised at how dismissive the Times piece was. You can raise questions about the violence - and especially the sexual violence- but I can't imagine how anyone who likes their art "high" could dismiss it so roundly. Did Dargis miss the lecture on In the Penal Colony?

As for Pingae - The Times and the rest of them seem to have finally opened the press release on the rise of korean cinema; before then filmbrain was one of the only places to get thoughtful reviews and commentary on these films online. That's a big deal - and I think it speaks well of the host here. Troll.

noctos

regarding oldboy: absolutely fantastic first hour or so but afraid of pushing that through. the twist is weak and the payoff is totally not up to par with the setup. a case of bad writing really. didn't balance its character & plot layer that well and tried to add some (very nice) style to cover it up.

failed stardom & slightly overrated.

dvd

My reactions echo all of the more mild negative reviews - there's a lot I liked in the film, and a lot I didn't, and I ended up feeling rather indifferent to it (I didn't, however, feel indifferent Park's entry in Three...Extremes - I thought it was downright terrible, and my dislike of it retroactively affected my opinion of Oldboy and Park in general). Maybe I should have seen it on the big screen first, but I just wasn't sufficiently wowed.

But what I intended to bring up here is not my reaction to the film or to the idiocy of certain New York Observer critics, but Tartan's unique promotional contest, which I plan on entering, just for the fun of it: http://films.tartanfilmsusa.com/oldboypromo/

James Russell

It was Filmbrain that introduced me to Oldboy, which was one of my top films of last year. I got a real emotional kick out of the film that the action genre does not commonly give me, and I'm delighted to see it get a proper cinema release here in Australia.

I am aghast at the prospect of it being remade in Hollywood with Thomas Jane in the lead role. This is the rumour The Movie Blog is reporting, at any rate, and I'm scared by it, whether or not it actually happens.

Sarmoung

I'm just back from a three week sojourn in the US and was surprised to see that the film hadn't opened as yet since it had a European release in the autumn last year. Overall I still much prefer "Sympathy...", but that doesn't mean I think that Oldboy isn't a stand out film from last year. Much as I'm grateful for Tartan's work in getting much of this material released and distributed, I still don't like this Asia Extreme monicker that's attached to much of its East Asian catalogue. It seems an artificial distinction that doesn't exist in the domestic market of origin and one that might put off as much as attract.

I do keep hearing a voice whispering cinéma du look when I watch Oldboy, but I'm thinking Carax, or Beineix even, rather than Luc Besson.

On an unrelated note, whilst enjoying the current dollar-pound exchange rate and the price of DVDs, I was amused to be directed to the Adult section when searching for a copy of Claude Chabrol's Les Biches...

Eric

We can hope and pray that "Oldboy" doesn't get the obligatory Hollywood remake. That's all we need... another "Grudge" polluting our cinemas!

nick

Filmbrain,

Not sure why you're referring to "Million Dollar Baby" in your response to me. Or is it just the only way you found to "devaluate" my comment (let's say: "Nick, because, MDB is so bad, and you liked it so much, you are 100% wrong on OldBoy)? That kind of logic is beyond my understanding. Park is an expert in what we call in French "poudre aux yeux", and it works pretty well, as I could see by reading most of the supporing reviews. As for the response by George, which you seem to enjoy, well, let's just say thank you for the explanation "( Like, for instance, the fact that this film, following on its predecessor, is about the lust for vengeance--how it poisons human decency, distorts the ability to live in the real world, and leads to self-destruction as surely as the retribution it may (or may not) wreak". Yes, really, thank you, because when I saw the movie (and its predecessor), I didn't get it (was I distracted or what?). What she doesn't get, is that a critic is writing about a movie the reader's may have seen, or may want to see, so why would you tell the obvious? Still waiting for the elements that would make this movie so great that you would compare it with Hitchcock... But I guess I'll have to wait forever. OldBoy, THE movie acclaimed by people who feel guilty to enjoy a Hollywood Mainstream, not because it's not LIKE a Hollywood mainstream, but because it hasn't been produced by Hollywood, and guess what - it's subtitled - sure this movie is far greater than it is. OldBoy is a excellent entertainment, no more, no less.

Filmbrain

Nick --

Much of what you say makes sense -- that is, until your last couple of sentences. It is ludicrous (not to mention wrong) of you to assume that people who like this film do so out of guilt, or from a knee-jerk "not made in Hollywood" reaction. Even you, I'm sure, can see how much this film is not Hollywood. One need only look at the recent Hollywood remakes of Asian films to see their approach versus the original. I guess we can revisit this discussion when the Hollywood remake of Oldboy is released, but I guarantee it will be dumbed-down quite a bit.

As for the Million Dollar Baby dig, yes, it was a cheap shot, but it does raise an interesting point. If both movies are simply genre films, what does Clint's film do that Park's doesn't?

I don't claim that Oldboy is necessarily on par with Hitchcock -- but to dismiss the framework of Oldboy as simple genre exploitation is as silly as calling Psycho a slasher film.

Pingae

Roger Ebert gave Oldboy 4 stars:

"In its sexuality and violence, this is the kind of movie that can no longer easily be made in the United States; the standards of a puritanical minority, imposed on broadcasting and threatened even for cable, make studios unwilling to produce films that might face uncertain distribution. But content does not make a movie good or bad -- it is merely what it is about. "Oldboy" is a powerful film not because of what it depicts, but because of the depths of the human heart which it strips bare."

cynthia

i'm about six months late since i just saw this film on dvd and i really didn't care for it at all. the dialogue was laughable (in fact i did laugh at most of it, so over the top) the violence ridiculously over the top and unnecessary, but most of all the treatment of women in the film i found very disturbing. first the wife is murdered, though she is never seen in the film, simply used as a emotional token to start off the film. then the entirely submissive sushi chef tells oldboy to rape her, basically--says she will resist but no matter what she says, to "give it to her." which he does. and while he does, she screams about how painful it is, but says "i'll endure it"...and "i want to make you feel good." so much for women's pleasure. maybe if he wasn't fucking a teenager he might've found a woman who actually enjoyed sex. so she remains completely faithful and submissive despite everything and is put in a string of dangerous situations, eventually tied up with her breasts hanging out in front of a crowd of men, and oldboy then kicks all their asses because they 'touched her breasts.' give me a fucking break. this film at every turn makes its women sexual toys and slaves, entirely powerless and without any desire but to please and obey men. it disgusted me.

indierocklover

The best revenge movie I've ever seen. I was shocked to the core the first time I saw it. The movie is based on a Japanese manga which I am currently reading, I suggest people give the manga a chance, its only 8 volumes. I can not describe in words how the movie emotionally attacks you, and the music is epic as well.

10/10 stars (a first)

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