Sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance ★★★★

Here is statement right off the top for any Letterboxd friends who have read my other Park Chan-wook reviews. I didn't see any merged characters from the present, past, or future. Not yet anyway.

Now that I've recently re-watched Old Boy, and then tackled Mr. Vengeance, it was time to take on Lady Vengeance to put this whole Vengeance thing to bed.

I read that Park gave a press interview when Old Boy was going into production, and was pelted by the reporters about why was he making another ‘vengeance’ film ( which is weird ... isn't every Korean film either about vengeance or romance, or romance and vengeance? ), but I digress, apparently he was annoyed by the question and blurted out, ‘I’m not making two vengeance films, I’m making a trilogy’. Something he said he later regretted, but being that he said it, honor made him fulfill his commitment.

Although I only read that after watching Lady Vengeance, throughout the film I couldn't help but think that Park may have been having us on a bit, and taking a bit of a jab at his two previous films. His trademark sumptuous photography was there, as was his great characterizations, but the story didn't have the extremely complex intricacies and nuance of the two previous films. Lady Vengeance was quite linear and far less ambiguous. It also included dark humor more overtly compared to the previous two films. An example was the prison scenes where our hero Lee Geum-ja causes the inmate tormentor to execute a pratfall because of her waxing the floor with soap, and then later poisoning her slowly with bleach while being her sweet attending friend, and promising to put on some additional poundage to become attractive to her.

Make no mistake, this is no parody, and there are positively chilling scenes, but it somehow seemed subtly ‘lighter’. While the abduction scene where Geum-ja was brutally taken by the two thugs was intense, those who have seen Mr. Vengeance can't help but smile at the choice of actors for these bit parts ( the two leads of Mr. Vengeance, Song Kang-ho and Shin Ha-kyun, for the uninitiated ). Speaking of which, poor Choy Min-sik got a serious hurtin’ in Oldboy when he really didn't do anything to deserve it. Now, as The Teacher Mr Baek, a real evil-doer, what possibly could be worse? A women’s revenge.

I think that Park wanted to point out that while a man’s revenge is personal and egotistical, this isn't the case with women. Women are much more complex, pragmatic, creatures. Revenge is not for personal satisfaction, it is calculated for maximum effect on the intended target. Women’s organizational skills are brought to the fore, as well as their natural sense of democracy. The result is deliciously chilling.

** spoiler **

Park’s final cathartic scene is completely original, and unlikely to be ever repeated. The ambiguous Redemption or Suicide By Tofu.

Lessons I learned from the Trilogy .. Don’t fire loyal employees, don’t talk about anyone’s sister, and especially don't cross a women.

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