Cannes 2009 Review: Park Chan-wook's Thirst
by Alex Billington
May 14, 2009
Let's make it clear that before I start this, I am indeed a fan of Park Chan-wook and his past films, specifically the Vengeance trilogy. For his latest film, Chan-wook has decided to explore the vampire "genre," or at least explore the idea of vampirism. And considering it is Chan-wook, that means we're going to see something much crazier than we would otherwise ever expect, and that is indeed the case with Thirst. Officially, it was the third film I watched here at Cannes, and besides Pixar's Up, it's the best live-action film I've seen so far (that also includes Francis Ford Coppola's Tetro, which was only okay).
Thirst is no Oldboy, nor is it Sympathy for Lady Vengeance - no, it's not that great, but it's still good. The film doesn't rely on any vampire conventions one might expect. Sang-hyun (played by Song Kang-ho) doesn't immediately emerge hungry for blood, gnawing at every neck he gets his hands on. Obviously as it progresses, we notice that he has a taste for blood, and in one comical scene, he finally gets his first drop and never turns back. It's a not-so-subtle look at the intriguing idea of vampire "cells" beating out a deadly virus that Sang-hyun has, making it a disease, where he must to drink blood to survive from the virus.
Where Thirst begins to fall apart is around the midway point, when things get really goofy. All along, Sang-hyun has been sleeping with a young girl named Tae-ju, who is already married, but no-so-happily. Out of nowhere, everyone goes crazy, Sang-hyun kills for the first time (something which he's been trying not to do since he used to be a priest), and the girl's mom ends up a vegetable, without any explanation. Eventually Sang-hyun and Tae-ju lock themselves in her house, paint it white, and spend nights fending off psychotic hallucinations of a dead friend. Things do get a little better near the end, but not much.
I know that Chan-wook likes to take things to the extreme, to the point where the audience is either laughing or so shocked they don't know how to respond, but in Thirst he either never went far enough, or went so far it was way too wild for my tastes. However, that's not to say that Thirst still doesn't have all of the other great Chan-wook attributes - great acting, beautiful cinematography, a superb score, and some great vampire-related "stunts." And I'd certainly take Thirst any day over the other more mainstream vampire fare these days (like with a character named Edward). But it's not Chan-wook's next classic.
Cannes Rating: 7 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 15 Comments
Wait, so besides Up it's the best LIVE-ACTION film you've seen at Cannes?
Tristan on May 14, 2009
Despite whatever reviewers say about this movie I'm still so 'in' for this. I'm sure the director will give a new and refreshing view of vampires. He's just about the only Korean director who's consistent. Thanks for the heads up Alex.
Dexter on May 14, 2009
Up was live-action?
LINKFX on May 14, 2009
I'm always a fan of Vampire films and for once its nice to notice one that doesn't follow the hunting, romance, or teenage girl seeking attention Vampire movie that populates the shelves. More and more we're seeing Vampirism as a virus than a supernatural occurance.
Darren on May 14, 2009
I am glad you like it. I am a fan of Chan Wook, esp Old Boy. So I will see this.
M on May 14, 2009
The second good vampire movie of the decade? Good to hear, I guess.
Donny on May 14, 2009
#2. Park Ji Woon, Kim Ki Duk, and Bong Joon Ho are also consistent directors in my opinion.
teyhtr on May 14, 2009
Alex, do you think that the sex/nude scenes of this film are in NC-17 level?
May on May 14, 2009
I read some pretty bad reviews for this.
adrian on May 14, 2009
Kim Ki Duk is alright, nowhere near the level of Bong Joon Ho, who is better than all of these guys...
LINKFX on May 15, 2009
May, you are a perv.
LINKFX on May 15, 2009
Park is his surname, guys. Anyways, I feel as if he is one of the most overrated directors out there. I believe Joon-ho Bong is the best Korean director out there: please see his Memories of Murder
Paul on May 15, 2009
Hey Guys, I'm a Korean It means this comment must have gramatical mistakes. Anyway, I'm totally mad at Park's films I would like to watch it but I can't since I'm in Aus. So I asked a friend of mine who has watched that film, he said it's just coverd with brutal scences over the film.. He added it's worth watching it though, there is no point in paying for going to pay for it 😉 but Im so desperately waiting for it... When I go back to Korea, the first thing I have to do is Watching this!! Ah, this can be just little plot of the movie, everyone in Korea knows though, Mr. Song exposed his dick in the last scene which is not allowed legally in Korea, that resulted in kind of big issue in Korea. Usually exposure of an actress is very big issue in Korea especially young one. However, kind of bad news for the Mrs. Kim, Her exposure is kind of neglected owing to the hero's dick : )
Jon on May 16, 2009
dexter: I guess you have never heard of Bong joon ho? While park may have hit a bit of a bump with "cyborg", Bong joon ho's resume is flawless.
kevin on May 16, 2009
although I loved Bong's "Memories of Murder," I thought his "The Host" was way overrated, dexter
Paul on May 16, 2009
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