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.

eye chats briefly with Will Sargent of Echo & The Bunnymen, who are at the Carlu on November 23.

Unfinished chat with Zach of Rogue Wave, who are at the Horseshoe on Sunday, November 27.

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.

Econoculture has an interview with ex-Low bass slinger Zak Sally about his comics work and leaving Low. His former bandmates are at Lee’s Palace January 31.

Scottish singer KT Tunstall has been added to the bill for Jason Collett’s show at Lee’s Palace on December 10. Paso Mino and Al Tuck will also be playing.

Paste gets master album artist Storm Thorgerson to offer comments on some of his well-known sleeve designs.

Billboard talks to Elbow about the wide release of Leaders Of The Free World State-side next February 7.

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

By : Frank Yang at 10:09 am
Category: Uncategorized
RSS Feed for this postNo Responses.
  1. Gary Campbell says:

    All B&S props should go to Jenn. She’s the one who religiously reads Stuart Murdoch’s blog.

  2. lucaswiththelidoff says:

    I saw Sympathy for Lady Vengeance at the film festival this year. I have to say I was a little disappointed. After seeing Old Boy I was expecting the quality to be up to that standard. While it had its moments of extreme violence and also the interchangability of the villains / heroes it seemed to lack something to make it essential to the trilogy.

    I am interested in seeing Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance now though after your review.

  3. ovenking says:

    from what i understand b&s will only be released on itunes uk…which means us new worlders have to wait for our soulseeked copies or for itunes us/canada to jump on the twee wagon.

    of course, i would gladly love to be corrected in my understanding.

  4. Alpha says:

    I wish that they would release it through WarChildMusic instead. DRM is a nasty thing.

  5. DJMonsterMo says:

    Oldboy was very disturbing, even for desensitized little ol’ me. I need to check out the rest of the trilogy.

  6. Jay Junkmedia says:

    Hey Frank,

    Glad you fought off the hacker attack. KInd of blew my mind.


  7. speedy says:

    Just saw …Lady Vengeance yesterday (it was released on French screens this week) : it’s good but not great. Mr. Vengeance and Old Boy are masterpieces but Park has nothing new to say here ; direction is powerful again but dramaturgy isn’t so strong, the main character isn’t really interesting, conclusion is flat.
    If you like the others installments, you have to see this one (Choi Min-sik in a supporting role + nice cameos by the others males actors seen in Mr. V and OB) but don’t expect too much from it.
    And don’t be afraid, violence is less disturbing in this one (except maybe for the creepy last half-hour, but it’s also morality issue) : nobody lose his tongue.

    (sorry for the bad English)