Sunday, June 19, 2011

Oldboy: Revenge Is Good For Your Health, But Pain Will Find You Again

Oldboy has been on my must see list for years. Ever since I saw a clip somewhere that showed a man cutting off his own tongue with a pair of scissors. I should note that that scene may have actually been what prevented me from seeing it in the long run. I think at that time I was convinced that showing a man cutting off his tongue with scissors was pretty fucked up and not something that I wanted to see anytime soon.

This was obviously a time before seeing people eat poop, and watching women get fucked with sharp rocks. In any case, I avoided watching Oldboy for no good reason at all. Even after I conquered some of the most vile films known to man, Oldboy remained patiently on my list of films I needed to see. Why? Probably because it's 2 hours long and 2 hour long movies give me hives.Then, a few weeks ago, Oldboy turned up on Netflix Instant Watch. And we all know what happened with that. If you don't, I'll tell you. Netflix uses the dubbed version on Instant Watch. Yes. DUBBED. Fuck dubbing. Seriously, fuck it a lot. It's so racist!

Okay it's not racist but it does kind of completely cut out that whole thing called acting doesn't it? And now after seeing Oldboy and that utterly mind blowing display of acting at its conclusion, I can tell you that I am so glad I threw caution to the wind and got Oldboy on DVD instead. Even if it took me an extra 20 minutes to figure out how to turn the dubbing off and not have the subtitles be in Korean 3 whatever that is, and apparently it's different than Korean 1 and 2 so don't even bother trying to explain it to me.

MY POINT IS. I have finally seen Oldboy. And now my friend who always demands that I see Oldboy (Hi Ben!) will be appeased. Although probably angry that I didn't see it with him, but really can you blame me? Watching old Korean men violently masturbating with friends is always going to be to keep it to yourself. Wait did that sound like an old Korean man was masturbating WITH my friends? Yikes. Well, you know what I mean. I hope.

Oldboy is about a man named Oh Dae-su who gets locked up for 15 years without explanation. After 15 years he is released and embarks on a crazy adventure to find out who imprisoned him and why. The trouble is, once he finds out why and what the real punishment is--he may be wishing that he was kept locked up after all.

The thing about Oldboy is that it was not what I was expecting at all. I expected a lot of violence, and some stomach turning effects. I did not expect a complicated mystery that only got weirder and harder to swallow as time went on. I did not expect there to be minimal violence and cut away shots of gore.

Unless of course this was an edited version, in which case I'll feel like a loser, so just don't tell me. At any rate--Oldboy is one of those films that is not a horror film--but just a really good film. If that makes sense.

Here's one thing I regret though. I regret not setting aside ample time for me to watch the film in one sitting. You know me and my short attention span when it comes to long movies, but for whatever reason I thought a good idea would be to start watching the film at 9PM. This turned out to be a bad idea and I got sleepy and decided to finish it the next day. But the next day, I did too many things and only got another 30 minutes of watching in. So needless to say my viewing experience was a bit fragmented. This doesn't mean I didn't take anything away from the film but I imagine the impact of the film and its events would have hit me harder had I watched it all at once.

Much of the film is beautiful and I completely dig that. Much of it is also mysterious and I completely dig that too. In fact, I dig this combination so much that I want to marry it after I have a stable job and am financially secure. I was truly surprised by how awesome almost all of Oldboy was and I was also surprised and horrified at the two revelations at the end. I had no idea and definitely did not see that one coming. Even during the first "surprise" I went, "What? Who is that? They're WHAT!?" It was gross, but nothing compared to the second blow. Which reminds me....Foreign films seem to be really free on discussing this topic don't they? I feel like we, the conservative assholes of America would immediately burn any film that even mentioned some of what ends up happening in Old Boy.

I had been told several times that Oldboy was a fantastic film and that it would blow my mind away. I'm not sure I can really say at this point that it blew my mind away. I enjoyed it and found it to be a great film, but did it really blow my mind? It made me think about a lot of things, and really hit me hard--but will I be fixated on it for weeks to come? I'll let you know in a few weeks. I will say that I can't stop thinking about one scene in particular....

Yup. That one. Granted, I'm no stranger to large bugs doing people-like things. I did see Naked Lunch not too long ago, but still....what is going on up there? OH WAIT. I think I might know, but I'll keep it to myself for now. Which reminds me. Hallucinations in this are terrifying. Why would anyone willingly submit to possibly hallucinating a million ants covering your body? Or riding on a train with a big bug? Bugs are the worst. The worst.

Overall, Oldboy is a spectacular film. It has meat on its bones and it's quite tender. It's a film that you can actually follow for a change and a film that will keep even you on your toes. Or hopefully it will. I can't be the only one who didn't see the end coming right? Right??! Ugh. I probably was. I do have a knack for being really slow on the uptake sometimes. Regardless, don't pull a me and avoid seeing this. See it as soon as you can and appreciate its seemingly effortless portrayal of a twisted cycle of revenge. It's revenge yes, but perhaps not in the way we think. And hopefully that IS surprising.


Mr. Johnny Sandman said...

I need to watch this again. I only saw it once and now I can't remember anything from it.

CashBailey said...

I'm glad you liked this, Andre.

I think this movie is extraordinary. In terms of pure film-making craft and imagination Chan-wook park is as good as anyone working. In fact that beautiful waltz playing over the end credits is on regular rotation on my iPod.

I'd be interested to see what you think of SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE. It's a lesser film than OLDBOY but still has lots of dazzling stuff in it.

Unknown said...

I also need to watch this again some time. Floored me years back when I first saw it.

I cringed when I heard Will Smith might be involved in an American remake. Very happy to see that rumor fail to come to fruition.

Dapper Cadaver said...

Definitely a mindf*ck kind of movie. I watched it in a dark theater with subtitles all in one sitting. I'm not sure if I started to drift off a bit and have bad dreams during the movie or if that was just part of the movie.

CashBailey said...

I actually have a 2005 screenplay for a remake. Interesting that the title page says that it's based on the Chan-wook Park movie and not the manga that Park's movie was based on.

Also, there is only one man who could possibly star in a US remake of this movie: Gary Oldman.

Mac Campbell said...

Same guy did a vampire movie called Thirst. I haven't seen oldboy or I saw the Devil yet, but aside from a flabby middle section, Thirst kicked ass! The female lead was riveting too. Thirst was horrifying, but it was also about just how frakkin awkward it is to be a vampire.

Anonymous said...

One of the most brilliant films I've ever seen. My introduction to Korean cinema (oddly enough) and I'm thirsty for more.

The story is probably one of the most heartbreaking I've ever actually seen. While it's not exactly a horror film in a "classic" sense, the story itselfi s horrific and plays on one's sense of displacement, something that lends itself to the primal sense of fear that many people feel.

Gorgeous from start to finish!

The Scream Queen said...

I love Oldboy, and it's definitely my favorite of the "revenge" movies. If you haven't seen Lady Vengeance, I would definitely recommend it. I don't think it's overall as good as Oldboy, but much more stylistically beautiful in my opinion.

Also, Thirst is great too :)