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The Director’s Chair: Park Chan-wook

This week, the spotlight’s on highly-acclaimed South Korean director Park Chan-wook.

Photo via The List

50-year old Park is a native Seoulite whose plans of becoming an art critic got drastically changed apparently after seeing “Vertigo” by Alfred Hitchcock. Even while he was in college, Park was already immersing himself in film by penning articles about contemporary cinema. After graduation, Park would continue to write about film for journals and eventually become an assistant director. A former film critic, he would also take up screenwriting and producing duties in addition to directing.

Park’s films are usually disturbing and violent, albeit beautiful and have subject matters that would really make his audience think. Compared to his work released during the last 13 years, his earlier films weren’t so successful.

Trailer for “Joint Security Area” via YouTube

Park finally got his breakthrough in 2000 with a mystery thriller film entitled “Joint Security Area”. It follows the story of an investigation prompted by a shooting incident that happened in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. It held the distinction of being the highest grossing film in Korean film history at one point.

Trailer for “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” via YouTube

After this, it seemed that there really was nowhere for Park’s career to go but up. In 2002, he released “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance”, known for being the first film in Park’s “Vengeance Trilogy”. This would be followed by “Oldboy” the following year and “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” in 2005. These three award-winning films enjoy fame within and outside South Korea.

Trailer for “Oldboy” via YouTube

Perhaps “Oldboy” would be the most familiar film by Park to the international audience, as it won the prestigious Grand Prix award at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. It was about a man who finds himself locked up in a hotel room for 15 years without knowing who did it and what their motive was. One day, he was suddenly freed, and was only given five days to find out these things for himself. A remake was released just this week, directed by Spike Lee.

“I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay” trailer via YouTube

After the “Vengeance Trilogy,” Park veers from his usual fare and directs the rom-com “I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK”, which starred popular South Korean star Rain.

“Thirst” trailer via YouTube

In 2009, Park returns to directing films that he’s been known for and releases “Thirst”. Like “Oldboy,” which was loosely based on a manga of the same title, “Thirst” was based on the novel Thérèse Raquin by French author Émile Zola. It’s basically about a Catholic priest who volunteers to undergo a medical experiment, supposedly dies, lives again as a vampire, and develops an illicit affair with his childhood friend’s wife. Despite the controversial subject matter, “Thirst” ended up winning the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

“Stoker” trailer via YouTube

Finally, Park’s most recent directorial work was “Stoker”, released early this year. It’s his first English-language film penned by Wentworth Miller and starred Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, and Matthew Goode. To sum its plot up, it’s a twisted story centering on the eccentric India Stoker (Wasikowska) and the Stokers’ mysterious family affairs.

Watch Quentin Tarantino list some of his favorite films in alphabetical order, including “Joint Security Area!” Video via YouTube

With his out-of-the-ordinary and award-winning works, it’s now wonder that Park has gained the respect not only of the audience but also of his colleagues in South Korea and abroad. Even acclaimed American filmmaker Quentin Tarantino is said to be a huge fan of Park! With works like these, we’re sure a lot of people are already looking forward to the next Park film!

All information in this article were sourced from Wikipedia.

Like this article? Check out our articles from the The Director’s Chair and the Friday Movie Flashback series in the Lomography magazine!

written by chooolss

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