January 27, 2007

DVD Review: Lady Vengeance

Lady Vengeance is the latest creation from director Chan-Wook Park. It is the final film in Park's revenge trilogy which began with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and continued with Oldboy. This film is a fine anchor for the films. Each one is a standalone film, and there is no need to see them in order or even see any of the others prior to spending some time with this one. However, if you do take the time to watch all of them, you will have seen a trio of excellent films from a great new mind, you will also see some common threads that are woven through the three.

Lady Vengeance is a movie that took a couple of viewings to grow on me, and even now I am sure there is a lot more left to be discovered. Park infuses great visual style in the film, a style that is as intriguing as it is disconcerting. The first half or so of the movie is crosscut between locations and time frames and takes a little effort to get caught up on who is who, but when the pieces begin to fall into place, it is a thing of beauty.

The story centers on Geum-ja (Yeong-ae Lee). She was wrongly imprisoned for 13 years, upon her release, at the film's outset, her plan of vengeance and redemption is set into motion. Over her imprisonment she slowly plotted out just how her revenge would take place, ingratiating herself with her fellow inmates. The first portion of the film cuts between her gathering the necessary pieces and the time she spent on the inside.

This is a film that I truly hesitate going into to much detail. There is so much here to discover, Lady Vengeance can be enjoyed for what it is on the surface, or you can delve into it and try to uncove all of the subtleties that ist has to offer. The second time I watched it, the pieces started to make a lot more sense much earlier. Watching her plan of vengenace take shape was fascinating, while the vengeance she sought also took on more of a redemption them.

Geum-ja, despite her wrongful incarceration, she is not without guilt. This guilt takes form as her seeking atonement for her own sins. By embarking on this journey of revenge, she is seeking to cleanse herself of her earlier sins. She had taken the fall for a child killer that she had been involved with. Now she was plotting to gain her revenge on him, which becomes much larger than just her and provides a cathartic experience for all those who are eventually involved.

Director Chan-Wook Park, who also co-wrote the screenplay. has such a wonderful visual style, and, with Director of Photography Jeong-hun Jeong, have made every frame interesting. Unique angles and camera moves that never distract from the story. This is, quie frankly, a beautifully shot film. As for the story, it may take awhile for the pieces to take shape, but it is well worth the effort.

The acting is powerful all around, beginning with Yeong-ae Lee. She carries herself quietly, but with a deep seated desire to succeed. You can see the pain of her past weighing down on her, it is subtle and quite moving. The rest of the cast does well to, including Min-sik Choi as the unrepentant killer.

Audio/Video. The technical side of this disk is excellent. The video quality is gorgeous, the colors are sharply defined and look great. Audio is just as good, paying respect to the fine soundtrack.

  • Interview with Chan-Wook Park. This covers aspects of casting and story and is done through an interpreter.
  • Making of Lady Vengeance. This has plenty of on set footage, it is good, but the narration is terribly dry.
  • Commentary. Subtitled track with Chan-Wook Park.
  • Commentary. Subtitled track with director, cinematographer, and art director.
  • Commentary. Richard Pena, program director for the Film Society at Lincoln Center and Associate Professor of Film at Columbia University. This is a pretty good track, covering many of the subtleties of the story and how it all comes together.
  • Trailers. International and US trailers are included.

Bottomline. Park knocked it out of the park (no pun intended). It isn't my favorite of the three, that honor lies at the moment with Oldboy. This is a quieter film than the other two, but it is no less intriguing. I did enjoy it more the second time I watched it, having seen it once, not all of the pieces seemed to fit, but the second time, everything came together nicely. This is definitely a film to give a view.

Highly Recommended.


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