Director’s Chair Introduction: Park Chan-Wook

by Tony Cogan · August 5, 2019 · Director's Chair, Uncategorized · 3 Comments

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Deadline: 7th September 2019

In the early days of his career, Park Chan-Wook, his first film, The Moon Is … The Sun’s Dream was not a success, with Park working as a film critic to make a living. Park was able to go into film-making full time with the release of Joint Security Area, which became, for the time, the most watched film in South Korea. The success of Joint Security Area allowed Park to have more creative freedom with the start of the Vengeance Trilogy.

The Vengeance Trilogy, comprising Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance, focused on the futility of vengeance and how it wrecks lives. The trilogy, in particular Oldboy, which has just received a 4K restoration courtesy of Arrow, has been heavily acclaimed, with Oldboy being championed by Quentin Tarantino to win the Palme D’Or in 2004 (which ultimately went to Fahrenheit 9/11). Oldboy went on to have an unofficial remake with Zinda and an official remake from Spike Lee in 2013, whilst the corridor scene in particular has become highly influential for modern action scenes.

After the Vengeance Trilogy, Park won the Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin Film Festival for I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Okay and the Prix du Jury at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival (alongside Fish Tank) for Thirst, which was also the first Korean film to feature full frontal male nudity (although whilst the film is acclaimed, personally, I’m not a fan of it).

For his next feature film, Park made his English language debut with Stoker, working from a script by Wentworth Miller, who acknowledged the works of Alfred Hitchcock as an influence, with Park carrying over this influence into the direction of the film.

Park continued having some involvement with English language works with his next film, The Handmaiden, an adaptation of Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith, which became Park’s highest grossing film in the US and the highest grossing foreign language film in the UK in 2017, winning Best Film Not in the English Language at the 2018 BAFTAs.

Most recently, Park has made the move to TV, following Susanne Bier in directing one of the adaptations of John le Carre for the BBC and AMC, in his case an adaptation of The Little Drummer Girl with Florence Pugh, Michael Shannon and Alexander Skarsgard, with this being his second look into the works of le Carre, having originally considered directing Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy before dropping out for Tomas Alfredson to take over.

As a reminder, the films of Park Chan-Wook are listed below.

  • The Moon Is … The Sun’s Dream
  • Trio
  • Joint Security Area
  • Sympathy for Mr Vengeance
  • Oldboy
  • Lady Vengeance
  • I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Okay
  • Thirst
  • Stoker
  • The Handmaiden

I look forward to reading what you send me on the films of Park Chan-Wook.