×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Park Chan-wook: A Wild Singularity

The Korean director receives a tribute at France’s 2016 Lumière Festival

It says much for the wild singularity of director Park Chan-wook’s output that his latest feature, “The Handmaiden,” could be described as one of his most mainstream works to date. On the one hand, it’s a lushly mounted period piece adapted from a Booker-shortlisted bestseller — the definition of a prestige project. On the other, it’s been one of the biggest eyebrow-raisers on this year’s festival circuit: Park has turned Sarah Waters’ feminist Victorian-era romance into a Korean kinkfest of delirious proportions, its complex noir plotting spiked with explicit lesbian love scenes and richly complicated by Asian cross-cultural politics.

It’s a makeover typical of a career conducted entirely on the director’s own terms, and not unprecedented in his filmography, either: in 2009, Park earned a Cannes jury prize for liberally adapting Emile Zola’s “Therese Raquin” into “Thirst,” an erotically charged contemporary vampire tale with Catholic overtones.

When the films spring wholly from his own imagination, meanwhile, all bets are off. Cinema’s extensive library of revenge-based storytelling had never before seen the likes of his so-called Vengeance Trilogy: while not narratively connected, “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance,” “Oldboy” and “Lady Vengeance” collectively examined and questioned the morality and aesthetic of their violent subgenre with a florid, visceral perspective that has been much imitated since — not least by his American peers. Awarded the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2004 by a reverential Quentin Tarantino, “Oldboy” has subsequently been remade by Spike Lee; suffice to say it was a less fluid translation than Park’s own inventively adapted works.

After all, by the time Lee’s misconceived attempt hit screens, Park had already proved that he could bring his sensibility to Hollywood on his own. Premiering at Sundance in 2013, his first English-language feature, “Stoker,” was a delicious neo-Gothic nightmare set in picket-fence America, fusing elements of Hitchcock (whose “Vertigo” the director has cited as a formative inspiration in his filmmaking career) and Poe with his own highly refined taste for blood. Responses were mixed, but Park will be lured back to the U.S. He is attached to direct sci-fi thriller “Second Born,” a futuristic body-swap tale from a screenplay by David Jagernauth — a more official dive into genre terrain the helmer whimsically subverted in 2006’s Berlin-garlanded, classification-resistant psycho-comedy “I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK.”

Now ten features (plus a number of award-winning shorts) into his career, the 53-year-old Seoul native (and former film critic) has an imprint that remains entirely identifiable however waywardly he crosses genres and borders. The Lumière festival’s retrospective covers only half his oeuvre, but it’s a robust selection all the same. The three films of the Vengeance Trilogy are there in all their grisly glory, as of course is “The Handmaiden,” while the program is rounded out by the 2000 mystery “Joint Security Area”: massively popular and acclaimed on home turf, this military-based thriller — its narrative tensely straddling the border between North and South Korea — remains less familiar to western audiences. 24 years on from his debut, the cinema of Park Chan-wook still offers plenty of scope for discovery and reappraisal.

More Film

  • Noah CentineoNickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards, Show,

    Kids’ Choice Awards 2019: JoJo Siwa, Noah Centineo Take on Bullying

    This year’s Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards was full of positivity and encouragement to be yourself. DJ Khaled, known for his upbeat mantras, hosted the 32nd annual awards ceremony alongside JoJo Siwa at USC’s Galen center. Siwa accepted the award for favorite social music star. Siwa said in her acceptance speech, “I get hated on every [...]

  • Us Scriptwriter and Film-maker Larry Cohen

    Larry Cohen, Cult Horror Writer-Director of 'It's Alive,' Dies at 77

    Larry Cohen, best known for his work as a B-movie producer and director in the ’70s and his later work in screenwriting, has died. He was 77. Cohen’s friend, actor and publicist Shade Rupe, confirmed the news, which was announced in a post to Cohen’s official Facebook page. Rupe said Cohen died in Los Angeles [...]

  • Captain Marvel

    Box Office: 'Captain Marvel' Shatters $900 Million Milestone

    Brie Larson’s “Captain Marvel” continues to do heroic business. In its latest box office milestone, the female-fronted superhero tentpole zoomed past $900 million in ticket sales worldwide. “Captain Marvel” brought in a mighty $87 million globally this weekend, including $52 million from international territories. It has now generated $589 million overseas for a global haul [...]

  • Us - Lupita Nyong’o - cr:

    Box Office: Jordan Peele's 'Us' Stuns With $70 Million Opening Weekend

    Talk about scary good. Universal’s “Us,” the second directorial effort from Jordan Peele, pulled off a stunning debut, generating $70 million from 3,741 North American locations. That haul is enough to land it the second-best opening weekend of the year behind Disney’s “Captain Marvel” ($153 million). The psychological thriller about a family confronted by a [...]

  • SHAZAM

    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content