After a wait approaching 1/10th of my life thus far lived, I recently had the good fortune to watch Park Chan-wook’s priest-cum-vampire drama, Thirst. I’ve diligently attempted a full-bodied critique, yet to no avail. In its place follows a list of my main observations.
I. Thou shalt be awesome
He is my favorite filmmaker, period. The most exciting. I can think of no other who so effortlessly maneuvers past the audience’s defenses to rile up the primal fervors Hollywood’s numbercrunching conventionalism forgot long ago. That was on full display here; a joy to watch with a crowded house of strangers. Park embodies that Hitchcockain sense of play, far moreso than any other contemporary director.
II. Thou shalt — SQUIRREL!
The whole bloody affair lacks unity, focus. Perhaps why I’ve struggled to instead form a cohesive essay in the nearly one month since. Essentially what happens, Park’s eye strays too much from the central character.
III. You shall expect the unexpected
Too perfect a premise for Park, meaning, the material and artist match meant too high of expectations, even had he gone the desired route. Which resides half the genius of Park: his utterly untethered unpredictabilty. And maybe it’s to our benefit it’s a mess, then. The loose structured, subdued insanity gives us the unexpected while the other “correct” (straight-ahead) movie may live on in our respective imaginations.
IV. You shall embrace the moment (and the many that follow)
So then, an erratic canvas, this movie limns from a brilliant palette of moments. These moments are more rewarding and deserving than the vast bulk of cinema this year or any other.
V. Thou shalt hold thine pee
While it doesn’t have a tremendously long runtime, Thirst certainly feels too long, which I believe speaks to a larger problem…
VI. Thou shall know and respect thy limits
…here, Park possesses no sense of boundaries. He and Jeong Seo-Gyeong, his co-writer from Lady Vengeance through today, over-indulge almost every step of the way. It’s been something of a problem since the two paired up, and it really hits full steam with Thirst. As an example, there are two CGI sequences that so obviously exceed their grasp. Generally, though, and more significantly, rather than coasting and developing an ongoing extension of its theoretical/moral quandaries, Park and Jeong ride numerous too many tangents.
VII. Thou shall laugh and adjust thine pants
Thirst is sexier (a high degree of screw loose eroticism, anyway) and funnier (this is an almost-comedy) than anticipated. In flashes, Park has previously demonstrated a knack for both. If you can appreciate a dark tongue (which, really, why else watch Park?), you’ll be wryly giggling throughout.
VIII. Thou, too, shall be awesome
Superb, heightened acting from everyone. Song Kang-ho deserves all the superlatives bestowed upon him. But it’s Kim Ok-vin as Tae-ju who demands our rapt attention. She is scary good.
IX. Thou shall be open and honest
The writer-director formerly remarked Father Hyun is his own self-portrait. Though the priest doesn’t get full-play, the long spool of film allows just enough breadth to chart an array of emotional currents. Chapters of delusion, desperation, and total apathy, even in their sudden shifts, are unrelentingly honest.
X. Thou shall revisit thine past
More than anything, I wish I had seen it a second time, just to be certain.