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Chanwook Park's SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE gets a review from a Park virgin!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a review of Chanwook Park's SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE from a spy named Butternuts... Buttercup! I mean Buttercup! Anyway, this Buttercup has not seen either of Chanwook Park's more notable films, the first two films in the VENGEANCE TRILOGY, SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE and the brilliant OLDBOY. So, it's a rather unique perspective on this film. Word has also reached my ears that the US distributor for SYMPATHY FOR LADY VENGEANCE (Tartan) has decided to retitle the film to just LADY VENGEANCE. I know what I'll always call it, so it makes little difference to me. Hopefully they'll do better at putting this film in front of the innocent mass movie goers than they did with Park's previous films. Anyway, here's the review! Enjoy!!!


It's Buttercup here. I'm a bit rusty at writing reviews, so I hope this is okay. My friend and I watched Sympathy for Lady Vengeance tonight, the third and final part of Park Chan-Wook's Vengeance Trilogy. Just some quick background: I haven't seen Old Boy or Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance - in fact, I don't think I've knowingly watched a Korean film for years because I had a rather scarring experience one festival with a Korean film offering a large helping of (essentially) S&M porn. So, I was apprehensive walking into Lady Vengeance because all I knew was that it was by the Old Boy director and that Old Boy was extremely violent in parts. Lady Vengeance was quite different than what I expected though.

The film looks beautiful from its opening credits; a stark white background with trailing vines connecting from screen to screen. White is a predominant colour in the film; sinning and redemption are two of the key themes. The main character is Lee Geum-ja, a beautiful woman who was imprisoned 13 years for the kidnapping and murder of a 5-year old boy. The film constantly jumps between the present-day and flashbacks, so we see clearly what Geum-ja was like at 19-years old, when she entered the prison, and how she is today. Lee Yeong-ae is brilliant as Geum-ja; not only does she invoke the sympathies of her cellmates, but we too fall under the spell of the woman who is referred to as both "Kind Hearted" and "The Witch."

Lady Vengeance is much less violent than I expected it to be; while there are obviously key moments when it occurs, much of what happens is left to our imaginations. I found that there were quite a lot of twists and turns (but maybe that was because I walked into the film knowing nothing about it?) - not exactly surprises, but I felt almost like I had a rope in my hands and was walking along holding it, constantly weaving around corners and not quite sure where it would lead me. It felt like a process of discovery instead of those "Oh My God" moments which floor you. I also found that the film became increasingly suspenseful as it progressed from: introducing us to Geum-ja, to unveiling her master plan piece by piece, to the twists lurking as she proceeds with her plan.

I was definitely impressed by the film and how it managed to be powerful, yet also somehow subdued or subtle. Overall, I'm left with a strong impression of a balancing act - the direction, the themes, the acting. Anyway, I don't want to give away any spoilers, so I'll leave it at that.

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 16, 2005, 3:01 a.m. CST


    by incubusboy


  • Sept. 16, 2005, 3:11 a.m. CST


    by GiftedInThePants

    OWNT FUCKING OWNT. Awesome. This beats any trash written by Whedon.

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 3:17 a.m. CST

    No I am definately first, no matter how sad it is your not steal

    by incubusboy

    Sounds cool though, I will probably check this out!

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 4:40 a.m. CST

    How in the Flying Fuck can you review the third film in a series

    by krullboy

    that would be like watching "Matrix:Revolutions" and not getting the whole point. . .come to think of it, what was the point of that unflushed, corn-bespeckled shit anyway???????

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 5:23 a.m. CST

    Of course he can review it...

    by dr_buggerlugs

    given that it's not a sequel - it's just the third in what seems to be a thematic trilogy as opposed to another part of the same story...and for the record, I don't know what the feckity was the point with Matrix 3 either - I think it had something to do with seeing everything in yellow and a park bench.

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 6:43 a.m. CST


    by lutz

    Hahahaha. I'm so funny. Someone will say this in this talkback and they will mean it. Just you people wait and see. :P

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 6:47 a.m. CST

    Matrix Sequal.

    by lutz

    The entire war with the machines was a morality/ethics fight that the machines had between themselves on the ethical treatment of the humans. Think of it like Vegans protesting about eating meat. So in the end of the last Matrix movie the real twist when the war finally ended was the fact that the humans never actually ever had anything to do with it in the first place.

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 7:47 a.m. CST

    Okay, so this movie is about?

    by IAmMrMonkey

    Wasn't very informative was it? Still, I'll probably see it once I know a bit more about the story other than a lady seeks vengeance.

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 8:22 a.m. CST

    Who Do You Think Is The Most Tragic Figure In OLDBOY? (SPOILER W

    by ZombieSolutions

    the most obvious would be Oh Dae Su, right? but i would argue that it's the Brother (i forget the characters name) who is the most tragic. Oh Dae Su was merely put in a position where the love of his life is also his daughter. okay, that's pretty terrible / cognitive dissonancing, but, as we see at th eend, through the magic of brainwashing, he can still have her. the Brother, on the other hand, has no hope whatsover. he has lost his true love forever, and any hope for happiness. i love the scene at the end where, after the flush of victory has passed, the grin slowly disappears from his face -- he's back to where he was... empty, barren, nothing... then, BANG... i actaully found that far more heartbreaking than Oh Dae Su's fate, as weird as that may seem...

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 8:24 a.m. CST

    Oldboy isn't THAT violent...

    by woemcats

    Not in a real gory way. It's just intense, but it isn't as bad as, say, a zombie movie. Plus, it is freakin' awesome.

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 10:09 a.m. CST

    That's all well and good (Re: Matrix Sequel)

    by dr_buggerlugs

    But what did seeing yellow and a park bench have to do with it? I must know damn it...I'm hungry :( I want chips :(

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 10:12 a.m. CST

    But now...

    by dr_buggerlugs

    ...the important question is what do I have with my chips? Fish? Saveloy? Maybe some HP Fruity Sauce? I'm so confused :(

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 10:15 a.m. CST

    Didn't like it that much.

    by Blueberry

    I saw "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" at the Venice Film Festival, and wasn't that impressed. I enjoyed much more Oldboy and the wonderful short film in 3Extremes by the same director. The story of LV is little more than an excuse and this fault is barely conceived by the back-and forth-through-time editing. The ending takes nearly half of the movie and it's totally predictable, unlike Oldboy.

  • And I only saw the movie once. I don't remember the yellow?!?

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 11:25 a.m. CST

    The Oldboy Hammer Fight Sequence

    by fiester

    Is fucking magic man, fucking magic!

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 11:41 a.m. CST

    Love Oldboy, but I thought Mr. Vengeance was laughable.

    by DarthCorleone

    Mr. Vengeance was still worth watching, but whereas Oldboy achieves a sort of Wagnerian brilliance, the histrionics of Mr. Vengeance are simply absurd. I'm hoping Lady Vengeance is better.

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 3:08 p.m. CST

    what's wrong with S&M Porn?

    by eraser_x

    The reviewer is not to be trusted.

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 3:09 p.m. CST

    On the other hand, the reviewer

    by eraser_x

    does manage to use the word "while", unlike most of the AICN drones, who like to use "whilst".

  • Sept. 16, 2005, 6:38 p.m. CST

    That Korean S&M Porn Movie ...

    by godoffireinhell

    Can only be THE SHACKLE. Saw that myself at a festival back in 1999 and laughed my ass off. What's funny is that this film has never gotten a DVD release in Korea. The only DVD available is a crappy disc from Hong Kong with burned in subtitles.

  • Sept. 17, 2005, 2:16 a.m. CST

    The Sympathy for Lady Vengeance Korean DVD will be released Nove

    by AssKing

    Thank the lord of code free DVD players.

  • Sept. 17, 2005, 7:59 a.m. CST

    I may be wrong, ZombieSolutions,

    by roborobo

    But I'm not. At the end of oldboy, dae-su hasn't had his memory wiped at all. If you watch his smile, you'll see that just before it cuts to black it's becoming the rictus grin of the monster. He knows exactly who his daughter is and what he's done.

  • Sept. 17, 2005, 3:30 p.m. CST

    Insane Old Boy Theory (spoilers, obvious psychosis)

    by Mars1

    The brother and sister are the sun and the moon. The moon develops a false pregnancy (like the real moon does every month) and falls into the water (full moon setting in water)leaving the sun distraught (during the dark of the moon). The last bit with the eastern mountains refered to the deity Palk (the Korean sun god)....and so on and so forth...I could just totally write a nice term paper!

  • Sept. 17, 2005, 9:25 p.m. CST

    Here in Korea . . . .

    by Filmrage

    the name of 'Sympathy for Lady Vengeance' is 'Kind Geum-Ja'. Im not sure if it's supposed to be an ironic tittle as i havent seen it yet. They certainly used the actress who personifies the angelic, pure and marternal like figure of a young woman as she always plays the put upon, gentle kindhearted roles on tv. I know of one cinema in Seoul that shows korean movies with English subtitles so i'll try to see if it's showing there and get a review up. . . . . . . .As for old boy. I just watched it again and though it's a cool movie i don't really think it's the best movie ever, i'm not really into over-conveluted storylines. However I think i can say that is is way up there and a masterpiece as far as editing/transitions etc are concerned. They way it drifts from one theme to another with visuals, music and tone is so amazing and seamless. It switches from extreme violence to idylic memory scene to weird fantasy (giant ant on the subway) to others in such an un jarring and beautiful way. Every film maker should study that. I love korea and think Korean people are quite special. It's a very very peaceful and unviolent and crime free environment even in a huge city like seoul but i have to say i dont find Koreans to be the most subtle of people . . but their film making and especially 'Old Boy' is up there with DR Zchivago (see couple talking behind frozen window as the candle slowly melts a portal for us in the ice as the camera drifts towards them from the outside) as far as i'm concerened when it comes to sheer bloody artisticness of presentation. . . . . . . . Once again, i can't post ont he subject of Korean films without recomending two little knows recent Korean masterpieces. One is called 'Oassis' about a wheel chair bound spaz woman and her slightly mentaly slow friend/lover' . . the other is called 'Bad guy'(korean name 'Napun Nom' (Napun=bad + Nom=guy) that movie although sleazy and violent is also masturful acting from the main actor. Talk about sympathy for the devil, he's right lowlife gangster scumbag who does unspeakable evil to a pure young lady but some how has us feeling for him. Get em watched damn you.

  • Sept. 18, 2005, 1:04 a.m. CST

    "Kind Lady Geum-Ja"

    by Kim Pierro Jr.

    That's the full translation of the Korean title. Also, Geum-Ja is what most here would consider an undesirable (if not) flat out hilarious name for a woman; people would presume that you are from some backwards country village and that your family has never had a full plumbing system in their home. I kid you not.

  • Sept. 18, 2005, 1:14 a.m. CST

    Geum-Ja name

    by Mars1

    So its a stupid redneck name? Like Amanda Lee Thudpucker?