Parasite


Viewed – 13 June 2020 (A-Z Collection Challenge)

A family that has fallen on hard times discover an answer to their cash flow problems in the form of a local wealthy family. The eldest son is introduced to the idea of conning his way into being an English tutor to the wealthy family’s daughter. So begins a series of manipulations that gradually spiral out of control.

Class warfare….

Bong Joon-ho’s multiple Oscar winning drama is at first an unusual sell. It’s an odd idea but one I quickly felt engaged by as the various situations played out. The way the poor family work as a unit to deceive and stay one step ahead of the wealthy family is engrossing and makes for a rather unique and surprisingly gripping experience. The clever, if not exactly subtle commentary on social class and envy / jealousy also works well. The movie also throws in some unexpected twists that prove quite impactful. It’s hard to go into specific details as the journey is part of the appeal here so I’ll leave it there as far as plot.

Korean acting veteran Kang Ho Song (The Host) is great as always aided by a solid ensemble cast who all deliver. The (mostly) one location setting is also very much a character, a striking art-deco house that the cinematography shows off wonderfully. This is a very visually captivating movie, aided by a strong, at times striking orchestral soundtracks. I’m not sure the movie deserves quite the accolades it’s had, as some character actions and plot elements feel a bit far-fetched (with especially a scene revolving around morse-code a particular stretch). Yet overall this was still highly entertaining, bold and surprising. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

The Age of Shadows


Viewed – 05 May 2018  Blu-ray

I’m certainly a fan of Korean cinema.  Over the years I’ve discovered some real gems and found myself liking certain directors and actors the more I see their movies.  This critically acclaimed thriller follows Police captain Lee Jung‑Chool (Kang Ho-song) who infiltrates a group of resistance fighters who are reportedly planning a series of bombings on Japanese establishments during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1920s.  As a Korean born man, Lee Jung finds himself questioning his allegiance when a charismatic resistance fighter befriends him and lets him in on their plans.

the-age-of-shadows

This tale of loyalty, double crosses and war time espionage is shot with no end of style and class.  The set design and photography here is simply breath-taking and further cements director Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil) as one of the best the country has to offer.  Although at times overly-complicated, this was at times gripping with some brilliantly executed set-pieces including a tense sequence aboard a train and an exhilarating finally set to the music of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero.  Add to this two strong turns from Kang-Ho Song (Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, The Host) and Gong Yoo (Train to Busan) and even though occasional shoot-outs got a tad repetitive … it was the battle of wits at the centre of the story that came across strongest.

Not one of those Korean movies I’d leap to recommend over so many others, but if you’re a fan of well-made world cinema, this is still worth your time.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Thirst


Viewed – 19 February 2010  Blu-ray

What is it about Vampires lately?  They seem to be everywhere in the media, from countless movies, most notably the popular Twilight franchise, and on TV with the likes of The Vampire Diaries and True Blood.  Yet these endeavours seem a little clichéd, lacking in imagination and a little ‘safe’.  Something that can’t be said of Korean director Park Chan-wook’s latest entry.  The (rightly) acclaimed director of OldBoy and Sympathy For Mr Vengeance dips his toe into the blood sucking genre and as expected, delivers something totally unique and fresh.

Kang-ho Song plays Priest Sang-hyeon who undergoes as experimental drugs testing scheme to find a cure for a disease slowly killing the patients of a hospital that he attends.  Yet said test leads to him developing a thirst for blood, and he soon discovers he has been inadvertently turned into a vampire.  Whilst believed to be a miracle survivor of the disease, and worshipped by the public, he bonds with the family of a cancer victim, and soon catches the eye of his strange and downtrodden young wife, Tae-Ju.  It’s not long then that they begin an illicit affair, and his vampire secret is revealed to the young woman, beginning a bizarre love story.

Yet as this is Park Chan-wook, things develop much more intricate and complex than first expected, and although full of blood sucking, splashes of gore and some clever special effects, proves more of a meaningful drama than a horror.  The camera work and cinematography are stunning, the set design and framing of every shot, a subtle work of art, and the haunting music increases the overall power of this slow burning but very effective movie.  Kang-ho Song is brilliant as the conflicted priest, battling both his bloodthirsty urges and his faith, whilst Ok-bin Kim as the slightly deranged Tae-ju often steals the show, with a stunning and intense performance.  I’ll admit that at times it’s a bit disgusting with some gross sound effects to accompany not only the blood sucking, but kissing and some awkward sex, and the movie is overly drawn out and too long. Yet this is still a quality example of the vampire myth, given a little more flair than we’ve seen recently, and once again marks the director as a master of his art.

Verdict:  4 /5