Park Chan-wook is GFT’s latest CineMaster
The great Korean director of Oldboy and The Handmaiden, Park Chan-wook, is the latest to be championed in GFT’s ongoing season celebrating master filmmakers
Park Chan-wook is a master stylist. Influenced by the cinema of Hitchcock, De Palma and Cronenberg, his fluid camera moves in thrilling and often beguilingly beautiful ways, even when it’s showing us something horrific. His brutal 2003 revenge picture Oldboy became the defining film of the mid-00s wave of New Korean Cinema that included filmmakers like Bong Joon-ho, Kim Ki-Duk and Lee Chang-dong, who, like Park, continue to make waves on the international scene.
We’re soon to see Park’s distinctive filmmaking on the small screen, when his adaptation of John le Carré's The Little Drummer Girl comes to BBC1 with a mouthwatering cast that includes Florence Pugh, Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Shannon and Charles Dance. Before then, GFT are reminding us of his finest achievements on the big screen by crowning him this month’s CineMaster.
Three quarters of this mini-retrospective is given over to the Vengeance Trilogy, the three hyper-stylized, hyper-violent genre films that made Park a cult director with fans all over the world, one of whom was Quentin Tarantino “I think right now, the most exciting cinema in the world is coming out of Korea,” the Pulp Fiction director said. “Park Chan-wook is amazing.”
The central film of this trilogy is Oldboy, the film that made Park a star director internationally and won him the 2003 Cannes Grand Prix. This tale of vengeance follows a businessman who finds himself kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years, and when he’s arbitrarily released he goes looking for his mysterious abductor.
Oldboy is bookended by two other operatic thrillers. In 2002's Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, a deaf-mute goes to extraordinarily violent lengths to procure a kidney for his sick sister, while in 2005's Lady Vengeance, a young woman decides to clear her name after spending 13 years in prison after being convicted of murdering a young boy. All three run red with unabashed violence, but there’s also a coal black sense of humour at work, as well as some jaw-dropping imagery.
The fourth film to screen is Park’s dizzying erotic thriller The Handmaiden, from 2016. Based on Sarah Waters’ best-selling novel Fingersmith, Park swaps Victorian England for 1930s Korea to tell a crafty yarn about young pickpocket who’s recruited by a bogus count to become handmaiden to a wealthy heiress, with the film cleverly shifting from each protagonists point of view.
The full GFT Park Chan-wook listings are below:
Sympathy for Mr Vengeance – 3 & 4 Oct
Oldboy – 10 & 11 Oct
Lady Vengeance – 17 & 18 Oct
The Handmaiden – 24 & 25 Oct
For more details and to purchase tickets, head to glasgowfilm.org/shows/cinemasters-park-chan-wook