Friday, November 18th, 2005
Sympathy For The Devil
I saw Chan-wook Park’s Old Boy at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, and it was easily one of the most unsettling films I’d seen in a long time. I wouldn’t have believed it if you’d told me then that Old Boy was not only the second part of what was being called “The Vengeance Trilogy”, but that it was also a helluva lot tamer than the first one, Sympathy For Mr Vengeance. Well, now that I’ve seen Mr Vengeance, I’d take it all back and simply nod in dumbfounded agreement.
There’s only so much of the plot I can get into without giving stuff away, so I’ll just give the basic premise – a deaf dumb factory worker is laid off while trying to secure a new kidney for his gravely ill sister. Out of desperation, he gets involved with an organ smuggling ring which leads to a botched kidnapping which leads to what is plainly stated an incredibly crafted film that’s almost unbearable to watch. I don’t even know what the proper word to describe the experience is – sufficed to say that it makes Old Boy feel like a Disney cartoon. That film was intense, but it was wrapped in an action movie/comic book-ish fury that made the shocking moments somehow easier to stomach.
Mr Vengeance, on the other hand, is so slow and the setting so mundane that when the grimness begins creeping in at the edges, it’s that much more disturbing, and unrelentingly so. I initially thought he was including unnecessarily graphic details of various plot points simply for style, but it turns out he was just priming me for what was to come. By the end of it all, I had witnessed more dispassionately executed violence than I ever would have knowingly signed up for. Compounding the discomfort is the fact that there are no real heroes or villains in the film. Everyone’s motivation is understandable – sympathetic even – but their actions are no less reprehensible. There is one to root for or against, just tragedy after tragedy. And considering the English title of the film, that’s probably exactly the unsettling balance that Park was going for.
The final installment in the trilogy, Sympathy For Lady Vengeance, was released in Korea this year but hasn’t made an appearance on these shores. If Park wants to go out with a bang, I really don’t know if I can handle seeing it. Part of me wants to, but that’s the part of me that thinks sticking my tongue in a live electrical outlet sounds like a good idea. I’m learning not to listen to that part of me.
After a full two days of nail-biting suspense, Belle & Sebastian have revealed what their “mystery” album will be – their live performance of If You’re Feeling Sinister in it’s entirety at the Barbican in London, taken from this past September’s “Don’t Look Back” series of concerts. It’ll be available as an iTunes exclusive on December 6 and all proceeds donated to charity. Not quite as exciting as the Aphex Twin remix album I’d hoped for, but it’ll be cool nonetheless. Thanks to Gary for the info.
Joey Burns of Calexico talks to PopMatters about the art of collaboration. After hearing some live recordings from Calexico/Iron & Wine shows, I am very excited about their December 9 show in Toronto, Docks or no Docks.
Ted Leo talks “I’m Looking Through You” and Rubber Soul in the context of the This Bird Has Flown tribute album. It’s a video clip (WMV) and whoever cut that video needs to be shot. Repeatedly. Stretching like two minutes of interview footage out over five plus minutes? Gads. Via Prefix.
Update: Sorry about the server issues this morning. Hopefully they’re all sorted out now.
Update 2: What a day. I got hacked by Los Brazilian Boys, but have got backups going and am slowly coming back. Should be back to normal by later this afternoon. Bear with me.
np – Crooked Fingers / Dignity & Shame