[K-FILM REVIEWS] 친절한 금자씨 (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance)

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[K-FILM REVIEWS] 친절한 금자씨 (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance)

친절한 금자씨
Sympathy For Lady Vengeance - KOREA 2005
Chinjeorhan Geumja-Sshi (lit. Kind Geum-Ja)

112 Minutes - 35mm Cinemascope 2.35:1 - Colour/Fade to B&W
Produced by: 모호필름 (Moho Films)
Distributed By: CJ 엔터테인먼트 (CJ Entertainment)
International Sales: CJ 엔터테인먼트 (CJ Entertainment)
Opening Day: 07/29/2005
Budget: 4.2 Billion Won (+2.3 Billion Won for marketing)
Box Office: 3,560,000 admissions nationwide

DVD - Korean Version (English Subtitles)
DVD - HK Version (English Subtitles - Color Version only)

Official Website
Theatrical Trailer (Streaming, 300k, Windows Media)
Movie Stills/Posters

Note: The review contains spoilers.


Director/Writer - 감독/각본: 박찬욱 (Park Chan-Wook)
Executive Producer - 제작: 이태헌 (Lee Tae-Heon), 조영욱 (Jo Young-Wook)
Producer - 프로듀서: 이춘영 (Lee Choon-Young)
Cinematography - 촬영: 정정훈 (Jung Jung-Hoon)
Lighting - 조명: 박현원 (Park Hyun-Won)
Music - 음악: 조영욱 (Jo Young-Wook)
Editor - 편집: 김상범 (Kim Sung-Beom), 김재범 (Kim Jae-Beom)
Art Director - 미술: 조화성 (Jo Hwa-Sung)
Visual Effects: EON Digital Films

이영애 (Lee Young-Ae), 최민식 (Choi Min-Shik), 남일우 (Nam Il-Woo), 권예영 (Kwon Ye-Young), 김시후 (Kim Shi-Hoo), 김병옥 (Kim Byung-Ok), 오달수 (Oh Dal-Soo), 이승신 (Lee Seung-Shin), 김부선 (Kim Bu-Seon), 고수희 (Go Soo-Hee), 박명신 (Park Myung-Shin), Tony Barry, Anne Cordiner
오광록 (Oh Gwang-Rok), 송강호 (Song Kang-Ho), 신하균 (Shin Ha-Gyun), 유지태 (Yoo Ji-Tae), 강혜정 (Kang Hye-Jung), 윤진서 (Yoon Jin-Seo), 이대연 (Lee Dae-Yeon), 류승완 (Ryu Seung-Wan)


죄 (罪, SIN)
Snow falling on the streets of Seoul, it's night. A dark alley lit only by a few feeble lights, the cold carpet of snow covering the concrete. We see the shadow of a woman running towards the darkness, with her high heels and impossibly chic accessories creating a splendid figure. A young man half her age, fresh like a rose, is following her, singing. He wasn't even born when it was a hit in 1964, but he still sings Nam Hae'Il's 빨간 구두 아가씨 (The Girl with the Red Shoes) as if he had that song running through his veins all his life.

Geun-Shik: 똑똑똑, 구두소리, 빨간 구두 아가씨... (ddok ddok ddok, the sound of shoes.... the girl with the red shoes)

Why is this woman running, nervous and full of anxiety? Wasn't this what she always wanted, what she dreamed of during those cold nights in prison, what she fought for all that time? Lee Geum-Ja (Lee Young-Ae), now over 30, spent almost half her life pursuing a dream, that of revenge. Cold and brutal revenge, against someone who ruined her life. She prepared everything in detail, from picking allies helping her mission to trying to get rid of the guilt which darkened her thoughts for those long 13 years in prison. She had to do it, because that man made her a sinner. Lee Geum-Ja, that stunningly beautiful, angelic like-presence, a sinner. A woman who killed a six year old little kid, an innocent life ruined because of someone who never looked like the kind of woman you would ever imagine doing something so cruel, so terrible, so tragic.


He must have felt like a sinner, when young Park Chan-Wook looked at the box office results of his first creature, 1992's 달은...해가 꾸는 꿈 (The Moon is the Sun's Dream). What did he do to deserve that, didn't he work hard like everyone else? Was it too personal a film, too much of 'his' story to appeal to people? One of the chapters in Park's recently released book 몽타주 (Montage) opens with a quote from Ludwig Van Beethoven, saying how becoming a philosopher at 28 was not much of a good thing for someone so young. Park never became a philosopher, but those three years at Sogang University studying philosophy were important to create the director he has become today. During his days at Sogang, Park was part of the 서강영화공동체 (Sogang Film Community), where he developed his love for genre cinema and b-movies. He was the youngest on the set, when he debuted in Chungmuro at the age of 25, working as assistant director for Yoo Young-Shik's 1988 film 깜동 (Kkamdong). A year later, director Kwak Jae-Yong -- yes, THAT Kwak Jae-Yong, who would go on to direct 엽기적인 그녀 (My Sassy Girl) -- made a proposal to Park, to write together the script for his next film.

비오는 날 수채화 (A sketch of a Rainy Day) not only was a flop, but it became Kwak's last film, until he picked up the megaphone once again a decade later. But for Park, reality was a little different: he just got married, and the situation in Chungmuro was too hard to bear for a young assistant director, so he finally took the important decision of becoming a 월급쟁이 (salaryman). Working left and right to make ends meet, Park would translate, design posters, print publicity ads and similar things, but he also spent that time writing his first script (an adaptation of an original story by Kim Yong-Tae, an old friend of his from Sogang University), for what would become his debut feature, 'The Moon is the Sun's Dream'. Park wanted to cast one of his favorites, Choi Jae-Sung from the hit TV Drama 여명의 눈동자 (Eyes of Dawn), but he was never able to. His lead was in fact popular singer Lee Seung-Cheol, who made his debut in the film. Park was hoping his popularity with teenager girls would help the film succeed, but alas it wasn't the case. Although he put all his love for b-movies and genre Cinema to use in the film, it couldn't escape cult status, and only ended up selling less than 10,000 tickets. All his efforts went in vain, and when you have a family to support, that becomes close to committing a sin.


속죄 (贖罪, ATONEMENT)
13 years in prison. Geum-Ja lost her innocence and playful charm because of a man. She was forced to take the blame in his place, had to leave back her daughter, and spend the prime of her life confined inside four walls, in the company of con(wo)men, people who ate their husbands for breakfast, and even North Korean spies. The price she had to pay to play a role in Professor Baek's (Choi Min-Shik) twisted game of greed became her own way of atoning for all her past sins. She became interested in religion, thanks to the spiritual guidance of Mr. Jeon (Kim Byung-Ok); her ability to make delicious cakes out of the shabby ingredients provided by the prison shocked everyone; she helped her cellmates become better people, feeding the weak and helping the poor. People called her 친절한 금자씨 (the kind Geum-Ja), and she quickly gained followers, almost forming a cult. She was like an angel from heaven. You could pray for years and nothing would happen, but she was there. Real. Ready to listen to you, make your dreams come true, make your life a little better, comfort you when you were down.

Geum-Ja: 어디 계신가요? 나와 주세요. 저 여기있어요~ 이렇게 천사를 부르는 행위. 이것을 바로 우리는 기도라고 말하는것입니다. ('Where are You? Please come out. I'm here!' calling angels like that, that's exactly what we call praying)


With a family to feed, and just a shabby job at a film company, Park had time to reflect: about what film represented in his career, what it meant to him as a fan, and especially how he could make a stable profession out of that. He spent most of the mid 90s contributing for several magazines, like 'Video Movie', 'TV Channel' and even film mag 'Screen'. While the country was going crazy over overblown Hollywood blockbusters like Cliffhanger and several of Guvna Ah-nohd's flicks, Park would focus his writing on little known gems, underappreciated genre cinema and obviously b-movies, one of his true loves. He began to build a loyal fanbase who appreciated his new outlook on cinema, far removed from the distant prose of film critics and the humourless blabber of tabloid reviewers. When he grouped together a collection of essays and reviews in his book 영화보기의 은밀한 매력-비디오 드롬 (The enchanting beauty of watching films - Videodrome), a new chapter in his life as a film person opened. The film went quickly out of print, so much now it's hard to find it even in used book stores. Park wasn't like the other critics, he didn't pretend to stand on a pedestal and judge movies for us ignorant masses, nor he acted like he knew everything. His love for those films, or film itself, transcended the pages of the book, and made his name the object of cult amongst film 'Mania'.

After the publication of the book in 1994, Park started preparing his return to Chungmuro with 3인조 (Trio), his first film in five years. A wild mixture of road movie tropes, gangster comedy cliches, b-movie craftsmanship and the visual allure he would later exploit to perfection, the film had everything going for it. Park cast former 하이틴스타 (Late Teen Star) Kim Min-Jong along with one of the top film stars of the 90s, Lee Kyung-Young, a sure formula for success. Written by Park's good friend Lee Mu-Young, a former pop columnist cum DJ who would go on to work with Park for several years, 'Trio' put on screen all of Park's love for Cinema: that hilarious but mean streak, the references to a ton of films and pop culture phenomena (he had Tom Waits in the soundtrack, come on!), the tricky visual gags, the back to basics approach to filmmaking, stripped from the boundaries genres create, Park's second film was a time bomb of creativity ready to explode. Except it never did... released in the midst of the 비트 (Beat) 'craze', the film was only able to rank in 30,000 or so tickets, another failure for Park. 300,000 might not seem a big figure, but that was the score of Kim Sung-Soo's film in Seoul, the only big (for the time) hit of the year until Song Neung-Han's crazy 넘버 3 (No. 3) came close to that in August. Korean Cinema was about to resurrect from the ashes of its past, with new directors emerging all around the industry, and finally even commercial films having an impact against Hollywood.

What could Park do? He loved films, but films were never kind to him. He lived this purgatory during the 90s writing for several magazines, and even working part time at a video store. You've heard of video rental clerks becoming directors, but how many of them had to go back to that after directing two films? Park Chan-Wook was one of the first directors who started a trend which found its most profound explosion in recent years, that of 장르 위반 (Betrayal of Genre). Of course he had a lot of illustrious predecessors, like Lee Myung-Se, but that of using elements from different genres to form his own unique world was not something you could consider popular in the Chungmuro of the late 90s. Park made 순수영화 (Pure Cinema).

Cinema which went back to the basics, with that excitement of the early silent films, that fascination with visuals and movement, that fresh mix of emotions somewhat lost in the increasingly 'literary' (dialogue-based) world of Cinema. Watching 'Trio' for the umpteenth time the other day, I not only felt invigorated by how much love for Cinema Park expresses through this little flick, but also how unique a world he creates through this film. It might not have been perfectly balanced, the script certainly had its number of flaws, and I'd hesitate to call the acting excellent. But it had a tremendous charm, a vitality absent from other commercial Korean films of the period, on top of the kind of irreverence arthouse films could only dream of.

But they say you always get at least three chances in life, and Park met with the project of his career through a combination of different issues. Myung Film was preparing one of the most ambitious projects in Chungmuro history, a film about the North/South divide set in the DMZ at Panmunjeom. The film took years to produce, but the success of actioner 쉬리 (Shiri) sped up the process. Top TV stars Lee Young-Ae and Lee Byung-Heon were on board, and an actor who built an increasingly large fanbase thanks to his cult supporting roles in several films was tasting his first leading role after a half decade of impressive performances. That year he would shock the industry with the success of Kim Jee-woon's comedy 반칙왕 (The Foul King), and become one of the top stars in the country. He was Song Kang-Ho. Now all they needed was a director, and that man turned out to be Park Chan-Wook. Someone who shot low-budget films closer to the 'B-movie' culture was offered the directing chair for a multimillion dollar project, full of huge stars, spending huge money recreating Panmunjeom and with one of the most controversial outlines in recent memory. If this situation reminds you of a little film called Citizen Kane and its director Orson Welles, I don't blame you.

Up to that point, the rule had always been to portray North Koreans in a negative light. In certain periods of Korean film history it was forced upon filmmakers by law, in others years of propaganda and counter-education indirectly pushed directors to follow it. But 공동경비구역 JSA (Joint Security Area) was different: it featured North Korean soldiers as real people, victim of the ironic tragedy which divided the nation, unable to 'cross the barrier' built by propaganda over the years, even after crossing the physical one. The film was a monster success, making Park one of the most popular directors in the country, opening the world of Korean cinema to the International audience even more. If he had committed any 'sin' in the first few years of his career, Park certainly atoned for all that, suffering through a decade of failure to come out on top with the most unlikely of setups: a B-movie lover directing a blockbuster about the North/South divide, with huge stars and an even bigger budget. Result? Glory. Enter Park Chan-Wook, the star director.


복수 (復讐, VENGEANCE)
13 years, but finally it's over. Geum-Ja is out, ready to complete the plot she's been planning for the last 13 years. She fooled people into becoming virtual slaves for her, she charmed her way out of a longer sentence through her deeds in prison, and she used other people for her own means. Now all that remains to do is killing that bastard, the man who caused all this in the first place. But Geum-Ja doesn't realize she came out of a prison to enter another, that of her own mind. She tries to find her lost daughter, and after meeting the detective who knew she wasn't responsible once again, her final revenge starts. She left the tastiest bit for last, killing that dog. Revenge, finally. And then, she can finally go back to being her old self, it's over. Over.

Mr. Jeon: 고생 많았죠. 13년반. 정말 대견합니다... (You suffered a lot. 13 and a half years. I'm so proud of you...)
Geum-Ja: 너나 잘 하세요. (Why don't you worry about yourself?)


People have expectations, you know? A lot of the people who got to know Park Chan-Wook through 'JSA' misunderstood him as someone who made humanism his calling card. They expected his next film to be something similar, with big stars, stylish and impressive action scenes. You know, another blockbuster. But Park's world and that of 'JSA' weren't exactly on the same galaxy, or at least couldn't co-exist at the same time. He spent almost a decade professing his love for a certain kind of films, then he goes out and makes something which is the complete antithesis of it, at least on paper. I'd hesitate to call Park's masterful 2000 drama a 'producer-driven' film, as he was able to colour the film with his uniqueness, but let's not fool ourselves: 'JSA' was Myung Films' idea, Park just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and have the balls to go on with it even if wasn't the kind of film he always liked to make.

When Park announced his next film, 복수는 나의 것 (Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance), people just looked at the cast, and expected another 'JSA'. Song Kang-Ho and his newfound popularity, super-talented theater-trained Shin Ha-Gyun from 'JSA', and Bae Doo-Na, one of the most exciting new talents in Chungmuro were cast. But then this guy goes out and makes a macabre, cruel, tough as nails 'hardboiled thriller' with a mean streak, criticizing Korean society and the opportunism of politics. By far Park's most controversial film, 'Mr. Vengeance' disappointed Park's new fans who quickly deserted theaters, but those who knew his past work and his personality weren't surprised one bit. Park was back, and now that he proved he could be a hitmaker, he finally had the chance to get his vengeance.

That this vengeance would come in three colours, over three films, wasn't something Park necessarily planned from the beginning. But the reaction to his work, on both sides of the spectrum, pushed him to flesh out his motives once again. After the masterful 'Mr. Vengeance', Park directed 올드보이 (Oldboy), one of the many great films of one of the best years Korean Cinema has ever experienced, 2003. Starring one of the most intelligent and intense actors in the country, Choi Min-Shik, up to then misused and underappreciated young talent Kang Hye-Jung, and the constantly improving Yoo Ji-Tae, the second part of his revenge trilogy made Park an Internationally acclaimed figure, winning important awards overseas, and elevating the profile of Korean Cinema abroad. More emotionally powerful and more concerned about the ironic exchange of roles in the personal vengeance which builds between two people (the victim becomes sinner, the sinner becomes victim), 'Oldboy' went all out in terms of visual style, reaching new heights in Park's career. A wild mixture of pulp sensibilities and the director's unmistakable talent for building something unique out of different genre elements, 'Oldboy' reconciled Park with the mainstream audience after the flop of 'Mr. Vengeance.' Now all that was left for him was the final installment, the end of the trilogy. Park's redemption after more than a decade of giving it all.

Jeon Do-Yeon was a TV idol and occasional movie star -- in popular melodramas like 접속 (The Contact) and 약속 (The Promise) -- when she starred in Jung Ji-Woo's 1999 film 해피엔드 (Happy End). Her transformation in the film was incredible, shocking the nation who always saw Jeon as the sweetheart next door. Her mature portrayal of a woman having an affair paved the way for what would become one of the brightest acting careers of our days. Few people expected her to showcase such range and be so brave, but after all, the talent had always been buried inside her, she just needed something to let it come out. Lee Young-Ae went through similar steps before being cast in Park's 친절한 금자씨 (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance). She was an impossibly beautiful queen of CFs, with a luxurious and 'upscale' image, almost too pretty to feel like one of us. Through her films and TV Dramas, she always displayed her talent, but it was always within a certain frame, she never crossed certain boundaries: she never made a fool of herself, never revealed too much (but in terms of her personal life and, well, in other terms), always doing enough to send the ball home, but nothing more.

This distance risked making Lee into another Choi Ji-Woo: too beautiful to approach, too distant to like, too concerned about her image to change status quo. I only really felt the person behind this facade twice, despite always respecting Lee's acting. Once was in the excellent 1996 TV Drama 그들의 포옹 (Their Embrace), in which she plays a similar character to her Geum-Ja here (although the motivations behind her revenge are a little different, tinted with political colours). Another was in 봄날은 간다 (One Fine Spring Day), a beautifully quiet 'anti-melodrama' from the king of melodrama Hur Jin-Ho. In casting someone like her, Park knew he could get the performance of her career out of her.

As good as her work in 대장금 (Dae Jang Geum: Jewel in the Palace) was, he felt he could finally show all the fire inside her, hidden by her past image. And a lot of 'Lady Vengeance' is more about Lee Young-Ae than revenge itself, about her transformation. The project promised to bring back Park's theme of vengeance for one last time, but also show something new in Lee Young-Ae's career. And boy, so it does. Park fills the first half of the film with allusions to Lee's CF image, to her roles in TV Dramas (the cook who makes magic out of simple ingredients, enough to serve a King!), using it as an ironic build-up for Geum-Ja's revenge plan. Whereas the real person behind Geum-Ja built a career out of perfectly controlling every aspect of her life, Geum-Ja uses this way of living all for one purpose: find the man who caused her to commit a sin, and get her vengeance.

But one thing is instantly noticeable in this film, compared to the past two 'revenge' parts: Geum-Ja seems almost too perfect a character to exist in Park Chan-Wook's world, far removed from the everyday guy-turned-monster philosophical gymnastics of 'Oldboy', or the tormented anarchy of his voiceless, powerless characters in 'Mr. Vengeance'. Geum-Ja knows exactly what to do, she plans everything to perfection, like a Swiss clock. She slowly and inexorably brings everyone she needs into her vortex of of desire, by becoming an Angel for them; she meticulously prepares everything for the final confrontation, like a pupil from an old Shaw Brother flick training all his life to defeat his sifu and obtain the key to become a real fighter at the end. Even the man on the other side of the coin seems like a weak mortal next to this goddess of vengeance. Prof. Baek seems too much of a black and white character for a Park film, but what's important in 'Lady Vengeance' is Geum-Ja determination in getting that revenge, and everything which comes after that. Baek is a mere icon, a toy on top of the mountain Geum-Ja climbs for the entire film to get.

The film spends its first half reminding us of Lee Young-Ae's past image, to then make a sudden u-turn when she's out. Suddenly this angel becomes a witch, an expressionless devil hell bent on revenge, showcasing the kind of emotions we've never experienced before in a Lee Young-Ae performance. And the film itself does the same, referencing just about everything Park has done in the past, from the cruel humour of his past works -- especially the scripts he wrote for other films, 휴머니스트 (Humanist) on top -- to actors he used in the past -- Kim Bu-Seon and Ryu Seung-Wan in 'Trio', Song Kang-Ho and Shin Ha-Gyun in 'Mr. Vengeance' and 'JSA', Yoon Jin-Seo and Yoo Ji-Tae in 'Oldboy' -- and the ability to use pop culture and social commentary to thinly veil his characters' predicament. But then, the second half of 'Lady Vengeance' feels like entirely a new thing: incredibly measured, thrilling in its beauty and almost comfortable in its use of kinetic violence. I think this is Park's most mature film to date, as he put everything he learned, everything he loved about film into his most finely balanced, cohesive unit.

There's a scene in the film showing Geum-Ja's face changing from tears to laughter and a devilish look all in one take, with no CG or camera tricks. It perfectly shows not only Lee Young-Ae's stunning transformation, but also how much of his past career Park has put into this film, but how he finally escaped from that little prison of vengeance against the system his films were full of. The finale, perhaps the most powerful moment in all of the director's filmmaking career, wraps up what I think has been the first part of a hopefully very long journey into Park Chan-Wook's film world. The balancing act he pulls in the second half of the film, with every single element, from acting to cinematography and production design meticulously mixed to support Park's vision shows a director on top of his game. A director who can balance the needs of the mainstream and the demands of film buffs; someone who uses violence and visuals to tell a story, not to show his mental masturbation to the whole world.

On top of the mountain, after achieving revenge, what is Park's final message? He asks that question to the viewer themselves: what's revenge, why do people pursue it, why do they put themselves in a prison of their own to find their own alleged sense of freedom? The fact Park's own answer to such a question is so simple shows how much he's matured as a director. And that maybe he has found something after all that hard work and struggles...

구원 (救援, REDEMPTION) ?



The different DVDs of 'Oldboy' created quite a ruckus, both on the Korean and Western side. But, frankly, as a film fan first and a non-videophile second, I only have one thing to say: director Park and DP Jung sat down and supervised the making of this DVD, so who am I to tell them this is not the way the film should look? But if you want to be objective, for a film which uses closeups so much, this is an excellent transfer, with amazing detail and colours, a good level of sharpness and no major compression artifacts. The fade to b&w version is more of the same, with the gradual change to b&w happening in a very subtle way, sometimes even hard to notice. Sound is excellent, as always with Park's film. This time they focused more on a subtler, delicate sound design compared to the other films of the trilogy. The Dts track in the fade to b&w version is a little more clear and sophisticated, but there isn't that much of a change if you ask me. Subtitles, all considered, are quite good. There's the occasional rough spot, like when Geum-Ja says 너나 잘 하세요 and the subtitles come up with a 'Why Don't You Go Screw Yourself?' which feels out of place and unnecessary. While it might be a confrontational line, it's not a curse word. This roughness comes up a few other times over the course of the film, and the film loses the book-like feeling of the narration, Sometimes some creative liberties are taken, which might not be too far off the point of what's said, but they don't stick to the Korean. But overall these are good to very good subs, translating all the important signs, and staying literal to the original dialogue most of the time.


Audio Commentary - Director Park Chan-Wook, Lee Young-Ae

Not surprisingly, a very good commentary. Very informative without getting too technical, and it leaves a lot of the philosophical/psychological interpretation about the film to Kim Young-Jin's commentary. It both features scene specific commentary with anecdotes from the shoot, and the two balance everything adding their opinion. Quite a nice listen. Here's a few highlights:

- They open in a pretty awkward way, especially because this is Lee Young-Ae's first ever audio commentary. They comment a little about the opening credits, and Park says they actually sent a piece from the soundtrack to use in this scene, so that the team who edited it would do their best to create something which fit. Yet, when Park received the material, they rescored it, because it was even better than what they expected. Lee says she didn't really understand the scene when they shot it, or feel its sense, as the Director just shot a few seconds and that was it. But rewatching it in the final film she finally understood why it was there.
- Park stresses how the film focuses on the two faces of Geum-Ja, the one she shows in prison, and out of it. A lot of staff members thought the scene where she meets the parents of the victim showed perfectly her determination. When Geum-Ja meets Geun-Shik (played by Kim Shi-Hoo), the atmosphere on the set that day was really fun, helped by Oh Dal-Soo. They actually changed the dialogue a little, when Geun-Shik asks Geum-Ja about how to address her. It used to be '금자씨 (Geum-Ja)' only, but they added '그냥 (Just)' on the spot. The role of Geun-Shik was supposed to go to Yoon Gye-Sang, former g.o.d. member who debuted in Byun Young-Joo's underrated coming of age drama 발레교습소 (Flying Boys), but he started his military service around the time when the film was shooting, so they changed it to Kim Shi-Hoo at the last moment. The focus of Geum-Ja's makeup was actually more on the green at the beginning, like in Antonioni's films, but Park later decided to go for red, which is something Lee enjoyed a lot more.
- About Geum-Ja's scenes as a High School student, Park first thought of shooting them wide, or darkening the scene, but after all he kept in line with the style of the film, and decided to go for a more direct approach. Lee looked at a lot of material, including documentaries, to get the dialogue and tone right. About the sex scene with Geun-Shik, the storyboards also had a shot of Geum-Ja's expression, but they took it off, so that audiences could imagine it for themselves. Park also wanted to change the typical post-sex setup with the man smoking a cigarette, or getting up first. This time it's Geum-Ja who does all those things. They wanted to shoot a lot more, but the handheld camera was quite hard to operate inside such a small space, so he's thankful the actors were able to get the tone he wanted without the help of camera tricks.
- About the scene in Australia, when Geum-Ja first meets Jenny, Park thought that using the typical 'mother runs towards her daughter, hugs her and cries' setup was too obvious, so he wanted a sort of distance from that. But it wasn't just a choice in terms of style, he just felt a person who led a life of solitude for so long like Geum-Ja would never react that way when meeting her daughter again for the first time. Better yet, her nervous, rather cold first reaction is more realistic than simply letting the two go at each other. And I must add, this makes the final embrace all the more poignant, exactly for this reason.
- Park comments that a lot of people were wondering what's the meaning of the English and its use in the film, especially when Jenny asks Geum-Ja why she dumped her, and she replies with something completely different. Park jokingly says a lot of people brought up some elements, like the possibility of the film commenting on the relationship between Korea and the US through that scene (that 'lack of communication' between the two), and even being Anti-American. Park tried to stress to them that he never intended to convey that kind of feeling, but they didn't seem to be convinced about it. Lee added that, looking at the reaction in Venice and the questions they asked, cultures might be different, but the approach to the feelings conveyed in the film is the same. She thinks that the film could be received even better in the West, where there's certain preconceptions about Asian culture, and Park says religious people will approach the film in a similar way, no matter where they come from. But, and this is something I agree completely with, if there's anything Western audiences might lose in the process is the use of Lee Young-Ae in the film itself. Because there's certain fixed notions about her in Asia and especially Korea, what she does here creates another stimulus, another point of interest which is mostly lost on Western audiences not familiar with her work on TV Dramas.
- Finally, discussing that amazing scene in the closed classroom with the kids, Park comments that just about every kid will give you good crying scenes, even if they don't do well the rest, so it wasn't that hard. But in certain cases, some funny episodes emerged, like Choi Min-Shik scaring one of the kids for real, which added to the realism of the scene. With this scene, Park didn't want to show Geum-Ja as someone without feelings, but wanted the viewers to imagine how she felt. This was the last task she had to do before her revenge could complete, so even though she might feel the weight of being responsible for what happened, she still has the courage to go on, and find vengeance. Lee adds that we'll find out how she really felt later in the film, when she finally breaks down.

Audio Commentary - Director Park Chan-Wook, DP Jung Jung-Hoon, Art Director Jo Hwa-Sung

A Park Chan-Wook film is always a rare occasion when commentaries like this feel useful to me. He's just not a master of visuals, but also in integrating art direction, lighting, cinematography, sound design and special effects to help the story. This is a pretty interesting commentary, revealing a lot of little interesting tidbits about the film in technical terms, and while -- as always -- I'd prefer to hear what the Music Director has to say about the film, what the three talk about here reveals a lot of good info which help comprehending the film a little better. Here's some of what was discussed:

- Director Park opens the commentary apologizing for his voice, which was affected by his yellow sand allergy (but is perfectly audible). They introduce themselves, and Park says he's currently writing on a script, which would be the one he recently completed for his latest film 사이보그지만 괜찮아 (Cyborg Girl). While the stunningly beautiful opening sequence begins, they say it was actually edited in the US and shot in HD. Park discussed the concept of the scene via e-mail and International phone calls, and he wanted to emphasize white and red, especially the latter, which would be the main colour of the film. The girl who shed the tear at the end was not Lee Young-Ae, but another actress they used only for that scene.
- They joke that, except Jeju Island, they shot just about all over the country, with many locations in Seoul (Hongdae and Apgujeong-Dong in particular), Busan, and more. About the prisons they used in the film, they actually expected to find something colder (both in appearance and state), but they were actually pretty clean, almost warm (Park jokes 'like a dormitory'). They fought a lot over the colours of the walls, and even the uniforms, so much the crew thought certain colours would make the convicts look like Teletubbies. At the end they found a colour, but since Kim Sang-Jin's 광복철 특사 (Jail Breakers) used it already, they changed it again. And that wasn't the only time they fought over colours, as they debated a lot about Geum-Ja's make up, even trying with green over the bright red they used at the end. To stay on topic with red, they also jokingly commented Go Soo-Hee's facial expression helped the bleach bypassing process a lot, as she was already red enough (while enjoying the... service by another convict) that they didn't need to work that much on it.
- The three joke a little about the bleach bypass process dealing with Oh Dal-Soo's scenes, whose skin tone made it hard to adjust to Lee Young-Ae's, as it wouldn't change a bit even doing drastic changes in saturation. Again, they talked about a big difference between the art direction of 'Lady Vengeance' and 'Oldboy', as the previous film focused more on repeated patterns, and this one is much wilder and varied in style. For the scenes in Australia, they wanted to create a sort of old looking, almost hippie-like style in the house, but couldn't change too many things. They also talk about the design of Geum-Ja's gun, which is quite unique. Art Director Jo said they emphasized on its beauty first, especially the handle, but also talked with several experts about its design, not to resemble too much to any other gun, so that it would feel unique.
- Once again discussing the merits of bleach bypass, the three comment it used to be much more difficult, often impossible to do the manipulations they can do today when they shot in analogue. DP Jung jokes that all he learned in school was about framing, lensing and similar things, but now you can change just about everything. As the scene involving Choi Min-Shik start, the three start talking about the difference between Geum-Ja and Professor Baek's apartments. While in Geum-Ja's case it's a very small place, and the emphasis is on red, Baek's place is much larger, more focused on greens. Also note the yacht on top of the TV (I actually didn't notice it watching the film), a little detail highlighting the greed of the professor. They worked hard to make the prison look different, compared to when Geum-Ja just entered it. It's much warmer, brighter, doesn't look like a bad place to live in. Even Geum-Ja's hairstyle, costumes (emphasis on yellow to show she's been a good convict) and mannerism indicate she's changed completely inside there. And here we can find one of the many references to 대장금 (Dae Jang Geum: Jewel In The Palace), as Geum-Ja serving the 'witch' reminds of Jang-Geum serving the Royal Family in the hit TV Drama.
- Talking about the scene with Song Kang-Ho and Shin Ha-Gyun, the three feel that, even though it was beautiful, there were some parts which could have been dealt with a little better. They discussed a lot about the visual concept of this scene, trying to highlight certain things within the dark background. But most viewers complained they could hardly see. Actually, they wanted to give a feeling of real darkness, not the darkness you get in normal films (which are usually shot in a brighter setting, then darkened via bleach bypass or similar techniques), but it ended up being too dark. They had to erase one of the cranes digitally, and they couldn't make the scene brighter (or not as dark, if you will) than that. About the part when Geum-Ja tries to translate the message left by her daughter, Park thinks they were able to convey that mix of cold humour, and bizarre sadness of the moment. He feels the confession scene (hilariously translated by Prof. Baek) might convey a certain overly dramatic aura, and because it featured Geum-Ja at the peak of her sincerity, it might also feel a little artificial, compared to the rest of the film. He does say though, that he never doubted for a minute the ability of Lee and Choi to grab the viewers' attention with their performance here.
- Finally, commenting about the difference between the two versions, Park said he didn't want to waste the colour parts (or better, the ones which would remain in full colour compared to the fade to b&w version, which starts fading after about an hour into the film). He also didn't want to abruptly change from full colour to b&w, and while he felt a full colour and a full b&w version would have worked anyway, changing it slowly, like a CF, would have been a little better. Director Jo also ties this aspect of the film to his choice of costumes. If you focus on that alone, you'll find the characters wear much more colourful costumes at the beginning, which slowly tend to fade away. Geum-Ja, for example, wears a black leather outfit for the last 30-40 Minutes of the film, and most of the other characters wear clothes with very muted colours. DP Jung adds that having the fade to b&w version in mind helped a lot in terms of cinematography and costumes itself, since they were preparing anyway to get to a point when colours wouldn't be as important as in the beginning.

01. Making of Sympathy For Lady Vengeance [10:45]

Of course this is way too short compared to what we're used to, but it's still a very nice little featurette about the making of the film. Instead of the usual narrators, this time it's Assistant Director Seok Min-Woo who takes care of the narration. More than trying to show the different set pieces and scenes, the clip tries more to show the atmosphere on the set, and the kind of working style Park employs in his films. I wouldn't worry too much if you were looking for longer material, as the Revenge Trilogy boxset will surely have different extras.

02. Characters for Lady Vengeance

- 이금자 (Lee Geum-Ja) - 이영애 (Lee Young-Ae) [6:30]

The clip opens with various cast members offering a short comment about Lee, saying she's very passionate, she worked really hard, and that they hope to work again with her. Kwon Ye-Young (Jenny in the film) even says she was very kind... it's Geum-Ja after all! Then we get Lee Young-Ae, discussing about the film. She thinks the film was not only a big challenge for her, but after it was over it increased her passion for acting, she became a more mature actress thanks to it. It was quite a different role from what she acted in the past, even for costumes and make-up. They discussed and tested a lot of different approaches, but at the end they decided to go with red. About learning how to make cakes, she says it was really fun, and hopes to one day learn it properly. A lot of people were surprised about her dancing scene in Australia, but she just thought it was something which fit Geum-Ja's character. And, since Park liked it as well, she saw nothing strange in doing something like that. They constantly exchanged ideas about the character while shooting, which helped her immerse in the character even more. The action was really interesting, since it's something she never really tried. She thought the action in the film was even better than what she expected, and that everyone helped her succeed even thought she was completely unexperienced. When she got the script for the film, she definitely sensed this was a challenge, but it wasn't just that. Films about revenge like this could come in the future, but a synergy of all those elements, from an interesting and varied character showing different personalities, to a master director like Park coming together wasn't something which would come knocking at her door too often, so she decided to go for it.

- 백선생 (Prof. Baek) - 최민식 (Choi Min-Shik) [6:39]

Ahhh... why is every single interview with Choi so fascinating? I'd truly love to just sit there and listen to him talk for hours. He didn't really care about not being the lead. Someone said to him 'there's no small actors, just small parts', and it's a saying he always believed in. Not because he's a great actor or anything like that, but because if the role has a certain energy and personality to it, then it's fun, it's a worthy endeavor. Reading the script, he instantly felt that unique 'Park Chan-Wook world' emerging from the dialogue, that mix of humour and cruelty, pain and emotional power. But he thinks that's the beauty of his films, that of making even trivial words like 너나 잘 하세요 (Why don't you worry about yourself?) becoming famous. He absolutely felt no burden about playing a villain, otherwise he wouldn't be an actor. People understand it's just Choi Min-Shik playing a character, they're not that stupid. And besides, if he were troubled over such a simple thing, he'd have no value as an actor. The role itself had a kind of beauty, no, he doesn't mean as a person -- he'd never like to meet any person like that -- but inside the world created by the film, he was a charming character. This devilish person was struggling just like everyone else after all, so it was a nice character to play for him. That of showing two faces, the one in school and at home, was another aspect he liked, and even though he learned it in school, he had to take private lessons to make the English speaking parts effective (and I'd say he did a good job, as they're both well pronounced and hilarious). About the dog scene, he jokes he'd love to get another chance to play a dog... after all it was something in Geum-Ja's imagination, so it was nothing to feel strange about. The scene he remembers the most was the one when Geum-Ja beats him up, she had such an energy he was even scared.

- 감방동료 (Cellmates) - 이승신 (Lee Seung-Shin), 라미란 (Ra Mi-Ran), 김부선 (Kim Bu-Seon), 서영주 (Seo Young-Joo) [5:21]

A quick (too quick!) look at some of Geum-Ja's cellmates. First is Kim Bu-Seon, veteran actress who had a comeback in Yoo Ha's 말죽거리 잔혹사 (Once Upon a Time in High School). It's the second time she works with Park, after 1997's 3인조 (Trio), and they finally got a chance to work again. It's the second time with Park for super-sexy Lee Seung-Shin as well -- who played the hypnotist in 올드보이 (Oldboy). Park offered a chance to do a little more in this film, as many of her scenes in 'Oldboy' were cut. The other two say a few words about how they got involved with the film, and there's a few clips from their involvement. Way too short.

- 유가족들 (The Families of the Dead)[7:36]

This is a nice clip about the group of theater actors who formed the families of the dead, reunited in that fantastic classroom scene. A few of them should be familiar to Korean film fans, especially Oh Gwang-Rok (who acted in all three Revenge films), and Park Myung-Shin (worked with Park in Oldboy, also in Park Gi-Yong's 낙타(들) (Camel(s)) and more). They talk about their experiences shooting the film, and given the fact they already knew each other (most of them anyway), there was a nice atmosphere on the set. Park didn't have time to create separate stories for all those families, or even define a particular character trait for each one, so he just tried to show a little their personality through their reaction, and make them a group, rather than individuals going their own way. He thinks this was one of the best scenes he's ever shot, and he's really satisfied with the final result

03. Sympathy For Lady Vengeance in Venezia [8:20]

A little featurette about Park's experience at the Venice Film Festival. Park says it's a place he always wanted to visit, much more than Cannes, because he liked the place itself. The press reaction was so good he thought he'd get a big prize, but a few people were sensitive towards the scenes with the kids (in the classroom). A few questions about the film straight from the press interview are shown. One of them is about Park focusing too much on the violence, something he strongly denies. He thinks those violent scenes had an underlying principle, and he never tried to glamourize such violence. He just wanted to communicate the characters' pain through those scenes, and in some way make people relate to it. Of course some people are bound to misunderstand that as exploitation, but it wasn't his intention. A few quick comments from the public (in English with Korean subtitles) follow, along with some photos by Lee Young-Ae, and various quick comments from Lee and Park. Second part of the featurette is about the screening itself, with Lee Young-Ae wearing a 한복 (hanbok, the traditional Korean dress), which she wanted to use to let people know about Korean culture, and liked it personally. They show Park and Lee after the screening, with a long applause and standing ovation. Lee knows long applauses are nothing new in Festivals like these, but she felt it was sincere. A few people who attended the screening comment again (English with Korean Subtitles), and the final part of the clip focuses on the Korean Film Night, where Park thanks his wife, daughter, and the various people who helped the film.

04. Promotion

- Trailer [1:54]
Opens emphatically with '사람들은 누구나... 실수를 해, 하지만 죄를 졌으면 속죄해야 되는거야... (Everyone makes mistakes, but if you commit a sin, you must atone for it)' and beautifully strolls through some of the most stylish and meaningful parts of the film, without spoiling too much. Ends with a beautiful line... 세상엔 완벽한 사람은 없는거야 (Nobody's perfect in this world). Super stylish, and sells all the right points about the film. Really well done.

- Teaser Trailer [1:52]
You've probably seen this already, as we linked to it at ScreenAnarchy when it came out. A very nice preview of the style of the film, although I prefer the Full Trailer.

- TV Spot [0:38]
Shows two TV spots (30 seconds, 10 seconds). Not bad, the second focuses a lot on the character telling Geum-Ja how much she changed, and the now famous '너나 잘 하세요' (Why don't you worry about yourself?).

- Poster
A nice collection of all the posters for the film. Highlight the list of posters on the right side of the screen, you'll get a large size shot of said poster. Features 24 posters, including the International ones (Japanese, French), the ones with the cake, and even sketches and unreleased ones.


Audio Commentary with Film Critic Kim Young-Jin

By now, anyone who's read my work on this site should know how much I admire Kim Young-Jin and his essential work for Film2.0 and various other publications. I think he strikes the right balance between intelligently analyzing a film, but also retains that energy and enthusiasm of the film fan. He never tries to climb over walls made of film jargon, but instead focuses on trying to get his message across for all people. This is not really your average audio commentary, as I expected, but it's more like a 2 hour review of the film. Kim's soft spoken style might be a little hard to follow for some, and Korean subs would have certainly helped on certain situations, but it's safe to say you won't find anyone in Korea able to dissect and comment the film with such passion and interest. Except, of course, Park Chan-Wook himself. Here's a few highlights of this fantastic commentary:

- Kim opens, like in a review, introducing the film and its main players. It's the final installment of Park's trilogy of vengeance, and his return after the success of 'Oldboy'. Another major point of interest is the transformation by Lee Young-Ae, star of the monster hit 'Dae Jang-Geum' and one of the most popular actresses in the country. The opening credits serve, in Kim's book, as a sort of introduction, a panorama of Park's directing style, and stress the importance of red in the film.
- The first big stylistic theme of the film is introduced, in the form of closeups and their use in the film. Kim notes how Park always goes from a closeup or medium closeup to a larger shot, constantly jumping from one to the other. This reminds of Sergio Leone films, but Park also adds a kind of visual shock to the viewer, exemplified by Park's use of production design to subconsciously create a sort of secondary character which helps define the character itself. Look at Geum-Ja's apartment and all the patterns there, or at the state of Baek's apartment, a perfect reminder of his state of mind, compared with the brighter, colourful school setting, where his face and personality suddenly change. This film is about showing the many faces of Geum-Ja, but also the other characters, from Prof. Baek to his wife, from the parents of the victims to Jenny and Geun-Shik. But the use of closeups has also another effect, that of reminding people of the TV Drama Lee starred in, which had a large number of closeups (like just about every other Korean TV Drama).
- Another important element Park takes care of with the use of closeups is introducing characters. Instead of your normal 'explanatory' introduction, Park simply begins the life of the characters in the film with a closeup, something he will later use to define their personality, not so much showing it, but letting you imagine it through the reactions and expression they convey within those closeups. Also, this continued exchange between closeups and long shots, sometimes very quickly, also helps the pacing of the film.
- Kim comments that, even though a lot of people watched the film, after its release some weren't satisfied with it, more because it didn't give people a definite answer, a complete revenge and redemption, and instead ended reflecting on the purpose and meaning of revenge itself. He says this film is important not only because it gave a closure to the trilogy, but because it also asks those questions to the viewers themselves. Whereas the first film was about the kind of revenge we want to escape from the life modern society puts on us, the anger and hatred we feel because of that, 'Oldboy' was more a fairy-tale like vision of revenge between two people, and how the role of the avenger and the avenged can change depending on how you look at them. Finally, this end to the trilogy doesn't really conclude the films with the accomplishment of such revenge, but poses an important question to its characters and the viewers: was it really worth it, did all that really have a meaning? To emphasize that, even characters like Prof. Baek are used as icons to put forward the narrative, particularly in the sex scenes on the table, which reminded him of the dinner table scene in Citizen Kane, with a sudden shock. This 'villain' is Park's way of telling us how regretful certain aspects of our society have become.
- Another big difference between this film and 'Oldboy' is Park's emphasis rhythm and movement within the frame, instead of action. Take, for example, the scene with Song Kang-Ho trying to kill Geum-Ja, which is much shorter than the impressive one take corridor fight in Oldboy, but leaves a similarly strong impression at the end, although the focus is not on action, but pacing and the effect slow motion has on the film's rhythm. Once again, Kim emphasized how Park is able to stand above the rest thanks to his use of closeups, even more focused than in Bong Joon-Ho's films -- another director who uses closeups a lot, notice the many closeups on Bae Doo-Na and Lee Sung-Jae's faces in 플란다스의 개 (Barkings Dogs Never Bite), and Song Kang-Ho in 살인의 추억 (Memories of Murder).

01. Style of Lady Vengeance

- Visualization [6:22]

The first thing they wanted to emphasize when deciding the concept of the film was creating a distance from 'Oldboy'. Whereas the previous film had a lot of quick shots and stylish camera tricks, Park wanted to emphasize, both in the storyboard process and in talking with DP Jung, not to move too much. In 'Oldboy' it was used mostly to emphasize the characters' state of mind, but Park wanted a colder and more distant approach this time. As far as the difference between the prison days and the present of Geum-Ja, he simply wanted to offer two sides of the coin: the Geum-Ja we see in prison is the Lee Young-Ae we're all used to. Sweet, pure, innocent and gentle. But once she's out, she completely strips herself of that image, not to create a new, different one, but just creating a sense of ambiguity. All of a sudden she's cold, impenetrable, she wears makeup and it's not the Lee Young-Ae we expected. But who is she now? So while people ask themselves that question, they focus more on the character and her predicament, more than worrying about Lee's image transformation. As for the fade to b&w version, it was Park's intention to do this ever since the first film, but he always changed his mind before the release. He loves colour, and likes b&w, but the problem is always finding something in the middle. Through this slow fading out, he wanted to convey how Geum-Ja slowly strips herself of the sin of revenge, and comes closer to the white, the point where she understands her mistakes, and finds her own kind of redemption, as ambiguous as it might be. He was finally about to do it, to release the film with the fade to b&w version... but then he changed his mind again. Why? Because it gave him too much of a CF/Magazine Ad aura. BTW, the featurette itself fades to b&w, nice touch.

- Production Design [8:17]

The production design for all the major sets is discussed. When they discussed the concept for all those locations, Park emphasized that every place had to underline the psychological state of the character, via colour and style. For the prison, they wanted something different from other films, which usually make prisons look very dark, cold, and places you wouldn't want to spend your days in. Since it was a place where women would live, he wanted a warmer, prettier feeling, and the inspiration actually came from a photo he saw from a Film Festival. For Geum-Ja's apartment they emphasized red, and even though it's a very masculine colour, it helped define her inner state of mind. Also, the way the walls were painted sort of emphasized movement, like flames. In Prof. Baek's case, it was the opposite, with green emphasizing distance and his greed. They also cover other locations, like the Naruse, the spiritual guide's house, and the closed school at the end.

- Costume & Make Up [8:05]

Song Jong-Hee and Jo Sang-Kyung talk about costume and make up concept. When trying to find the right make up style for Geum-Ja, they went with red, as it might feel feminine on one hand, but if used in certain shades can give a very unfamiliar feeling. The costumes for Geum-Ja went through three stages, like her character in the film: her life in prison, the immediate post-prison life, and her final revenge. In prison, they went for brighter colours, like that yellow which prisons would never use, to give a warmer feeling. When she came out, they emphasized the type of image which would fit best with Lee Young-Ae, making her wear that stylish 70s one-piece with polka dots. Her life outside sees a complete change of style, from head to toes: now it's more mature, more in line with fashion, but still has an air of unfamiliarity. Finally, they emphasized neutrality with that black leather coat in the revenge scenes. Discussing the other characters, Prof. Baek had to combine the look of a teacher in a well off neighborhood (Gangnam), but also an air of warmth (even if it was all fake), so they added that colourful tie. The families of the victims had a very classic, more or less uniform style, showing how they were affected by the deaths of their kids, and for the witch they used a very glamorous and flashy 80s style dress.

- Special Art [7:02]

Hwang Ho-Gyun talks about all the special effects in the film, mostly involving prosthetics, but also some mechanic 'toys' get involved. They show how they made the prosthetics using the real actors as a model, a practice which has become common in Korean films (and the quality has gone up incredibly since the late 90s). In Song Kang-Ho's case, that kind of shot used to be risky, because once you shoot the prosthetics, you can't do another take. But they found a way to make several takes possible, and even allow the director to shoot in different ways. They also show how they got the dog at the beginning of the film (with Baek's head), and finally Shin Ha-Gyun's hand.

- CG [6:58]

Lee Jeon-Hyung of EON Digital talks about the various scenes they retouched. First was Geum-Ja's dream, which Park wanted to have a really depressing mood, so they added all the clouds, and took off most of the light. They show how they made that great shot from the generator up inside the room where Baek was tied, and the mosquito scene. One of the most impressive aspect of these special effects is, just like in 'Oldboy', that they pop up in places you'd never expect. For instance, most of the scenes with snow came from matte painting and CG snow added later, some scenes even completely filled from no snow at all.

02. Alternate Scenes [14:07]
Commentary ON/OFF (Park Chan-Wook, Lee Young-Ae, Choi Min-Shik)

Note: These are pretty rough shots, without CG, ADR or soundtrack. Just live sound and the scene itself.

- Alternate Scenes S4-1 신앙간증 (Confessing Faith)
A longer version of Geum-Ja confessing her faith in prison, adds a few lines to the existing dialogue. The two (Lee and Park) laugh about this scene, as it was much more fairy-tale like in the script, and the intonation of Geum-Ja's 'I'm here' was a little different.
- Alternate Scenes S4G-1 기도하는 금자 (Praying Geum-Ja)
Geum-Ja prays with a big closeup on her face. She calls Won-Mo, says she's sorry, and to forgive her for what she did. This was mostly cut for time constraints, but Lee comments that they tried it many times, and she worked hard on it. She thought it was short enough to leave it in the film, but it was cut eventually.
- Alternate Scenes S29-1 [법구경]읽는 금자동무 (Comrade Geum-Ja reading the 'Dhammapada')
This is the scene when the veteran convict, the female spy, gives her the 법구경 (Dhammapada, 'The path of truth', a collection of Buddha's teachings), and she starts reading it. There's an insert here, which ties to the scenes when Geum-Ja walks down the stairs. While reading, Geum-Ja has the 'aura' around her (which you can't see here, as it's before CG), but it was kind of unnecessary as we learn how and why she 'converted' to Buddhism later.
- Alternate Scenes S115 동시통역 (Simultaneous Translation)
A longer version of the translation scene, much more expository (Geum-Ja says she'll go visit Jenny, study English better, and more). There's a touch of irony in the latter part, where she criticizes her for disrespecting elders and having sloppy handwriting, very Geum-Ja like. They took off some dialogue as it was a little too long. At first Baek's translation wasn't so funny, as it was much more straightforward. Choi says it was really serious and direct, but in the final version Baek focuses more on the translation, even though his life is on the line. Park was a little sorry they couldn't save the shot of Baek translating, as it fit with his personality perfectly.
- Alternate Scenes S117-16 분노 (Anger)
Geum-Ja has a little more fun with Prof. Baek, kicking and slapping him around. They used a 10mm camera for this, then handheld for the two's facial expression. Choi showed Lee how to give more focus on the rage of the scene, other than the action itself. Lee liked this longer version a little more, as it showed what Geum-Ja was feeling in a better way.
- Alternate Scenes S117-18 신호흡 (New Rhythm)
Another similar take, Baek is down after a beating, and Geum-Ja shows him sunlight and falls down crying.
- Alternate Scenes S117-18C 백선생 (Prof. Baek)
The final deleted scene, this show Prof. Baek down on the ground with the sunlight shining on him, and him laughing. This would have led to the scene where he tries to explain things to Geum-Ja. It was taken off because of rhythm.


CJ Entertainment went for simplicity this time: a simple keepcase with a digipack containing the two discs. I don't like the holders too much, as they tend to be a little hard (especially when you put the discs back. But at least they're less likely to let the discs out.


It's no secret Park Chan-Wook is one of the my two-three favorite directors. I see in his films all I love about Korean Cinema, taking the best out of different genre elements combining them into something personal, passionate, and with the kind of intensity only one who loves Cinema can create. I've loved just about everything the director has done since 'JSA', but this film was special for me. It showed a new, an improved Park Chan-Wook. More mature -- not that he wasn't before, but this film is on another level -- perfectly balanced and completely understanding what makes his film works. Park's next few films will be interesting, not so much to see which direction he takes (anyone familiar with his work should know where that direction will lead), but how by becoming more experienced he's finally able to filter out what's unnecessary, what's obvious, what's ancillary to the main focus of his films. I think 'Lady Vengeance' is not only an end to certain period of his career, but also the beginning of a new one. The DVD, despite lacking in English-friendly extra features, is one of the no-brainer purchases of the year. The fade to b&w version loses a bit of its impact which colour helped define, but on the other hand makes that final scene all the more striking. I prefer the colour version, but your mileage might vary. A top notch presentation down to the subtitles (finally), and waiting for late potential contenders like 형사 (Duelist), 왕의 남자 (The King and The Clown) and 청연 (Blue Swallow), my favorite film of 2005.


FILM (Colour) 9.5
FILM (Fade to B&W) 9
AVERAGE (Film Rating is counted twice) 8.77

웰컴 투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol), Park Gwang-Hyun 2005

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More about Sympathy For Lady Vengeance

MadisonJanuary 9, 2006 9:12 PM

Wow I do not mean to be disrespectful but this is a bit too much for a dvd review. Seriously.

opusJanuary 9, 2006 9:19 PM

Excellent review as always... my copy should be arriving sometime this week, and I can't wait.

Isao KJanuary 9, 2006 10:18 PM

You've outdone yourself, X. Now I gotta go print this thing out for posterity. Loved the movie, easily my favorite Korean film of 2005. I'll have to give the Kim Young Jin commentary track a listen.

Loved TRIO. That ending, good God. Why they won't release this overlooked gem on DVD is beyond me.

LorenzoJanuary 9, 2006 11:47 PM

A wonderful, informative and immensely useful review, thank you very much.

All I can say is that yes, that long applause in Venice was really sincere, and boy was it exciting. My DVD is already here, and I could even spot myself clapping my hands and cheering in the Venice featurette! I'm on the DVD!

I really wonder why Trio isn't getting a DVD release in Korea now that Park is a star.

igorJanuary 10, 2006 2:06 AM

English subtitle question here: Do ALL the extras (+ commentary) come with subtitles or is it just the film?

BtoFuJanuary 10, 2006 3:12 AM

I know you've just slammed out one helluva review there X and that was a damn fine read. But any chance you could give a brief description of PCW's comments at the very start of the fade to b/w disc? I'm assuming he explains why he felt the need for this version? My system isn't set up for 5.1 DTS so I can't even watch that version with sound..GAAAH!

jon paisJanuary 10, 2006 9:15 AM

I went into this film thinking I wasn't going to enjoy it as much as the first two, as so many reviewers had reacted lukewarmly to it. But I'm in total agreement with X: Park's direction is masterly. And comparing the transformation of lead actress Lee's skills to that of Leon Do-Yeon might sound like sacrilege to some, but after having witnessed the scene where Geum-Ja's face turns from tears to laughter, her watery eyes reflecting an eery light, her head framed by jet-black bangs, I most humbly concur!

Also, when you mentioned maturity, that's the first thing that went through my mind as the end credits were rolling: just how assured Park's directing has become in such a (seemingly) short time. For my money, this was the best of the trilogy, and I LOVED the first installment. REASONS:

1) The film is unquestionably the most CONCISE of Park's works.

2) VISUALLY stunning, Lady Vengeance is a treat, its desaturated colors and contrasty look perfectly complimenting the somber tone.

3)The decision to return to the CAREFULLY-COMPOSED elegant shots that characterised Mr Vengeance was a wise one.

If I had to choose a single word that best describes why I feel this is a stronger entry than his previous outing, that word would be "restraint". Finally, being more of a videophile than a cinephile, I couldn't find any fault with the transfer.

wesleyJanuary 11, 2006 3:22 AM

lovely lovely lovely! beautiful to hear. now i'm even more antsy! March...believe that's also when it hits select US cinemas. thanks again.

elsieJanuary 12, 2006 10:24 PM

Dear Mr x

thank you; thank you...


logboyJanuary 16, 2006 2:22 PM

i watched this last night, expecting myself to want to bash out a review in the morning. thing is, viewing it from a very similar place to most of those talking directly in english about park, after seeing the two previous films in the trilogy, i would say theres a great danger that this film will not be considered properly by many before they start to pass around thoughts on it : why do i say this? because this isnt what i suspect most people will be expecting from park. theres little imagery that seems to be iconic in the way scenes from the other films can quite easily be seen to be... theres certainly going to be moments and frames that are very stylish, but are there any that entirely represent the film? i doubt it, at least right now, and i think this is because this is a 'its my film and i am not playing to any preconceptions about what it might be' kind of film. very individually driven, more artisticly rich, more considered and layered. yes, i felt it was a little technically flashy at the start, perhaps a little fractured in its story and visual style, but it comes together in a way that warrants rewatching to keep looking through all of the moments on offer. a very very good film by its end, when its found its stride and it becomes a little more settled, but i fear most for how easily it could be dismissed as a bad film, because this one is perhaps less likely to be widely popular because of its lack of immediacy... lovely film, nicely shot, certainly needs to be watched several times to get the best of it.

there, thats my mini review. any more and i will be spinning in cicles : too many sides to this coin...

amyonnJanuary 16, 2006 4:04 PM

Whoa! You' have watched a lot!!. Wonder how you got time for other things like dating. Respect what you do though. Keep all the reviews coming.

xJanuary 16, 2006 4:14 PM

Suffering from insomnia helps if you need more time to do things. Try to sleep 3-4 hours a day and then you suddenly have much more time on your hands. ^_^

Nik CannonJanuary 16, 2006 7:05 PM

CD WOW now have the 2 Disc version to order at £17.99 if any1's interested? just thought I'd drop that nugget in.

RoxyBathorySeptember 5, 2006 9:06 PM

i am fond of korean movies nowadays, alongside their tv dramas.

of all the movies---even if compared to american and filipino movies---this is the excellent one. however, if you do not know the plot or summary of this movie, the movie may seem to be misleading because it was not chronologically organized: from geum-ja's pregnancy to cake-to-face smashing scene.

i said excellent because this is very unique one. excellent in picking a musical background, inspiring story between mother and child, very spiritual in the midst of vindictiveness, heartbreaking death scenes of hostaged children and unique style of mr. baek's death (yes! he was butchered one-be-one by the parents of his hostages---i have never seen such scene like that!)

there may be some sex scenes and gore, but they didn't came out abhorrent and too tittillating

daveSeptember 15, 2006 4:15 PM

would anyone know where i could get that song that guy is singing at the end of the movie while he is following the lead this site says its Nam Hae'Il's (The Girl with the Red Shoes) i cant get it out of my head can someone help me