Breathless Pop Filmmaking


Korean phenom Park Chan-wook’s films generally take his movie culture’s yen for emotional meth and triple the dose; we know there will be no half-measures, no dramatic gasoline unignited, nothing short of horrified respect for the costs of suffering, cruelty, memory, and rage. This capper to Park’s “vengeance” trilogy is his most sullen and patient film, and yet it’s breathless pop filmmaking. The decades-of- methodical-retributive-plotting template used by the churlish villain in Oldboy is here handed to the heroine, Guem-ja (Lee Yeong-ae), released from prison after serving some 13 years for the killing of a little boy. It’s clear from her stony demeanor that the woman is ready for the long knives; even so, in its last act Lady Vengeance becomes an uneasy ensemble piece, where members from several murdered children’s families gather for a concentrated act of mourning, a debate about responsibility, a protracted execution, a slice of birthday cake, and a taste of the afterlife. Extras are typical (making-of doc, interviews) except for the commentary provided by Lincoln Center programmer Richard Pena.