Thirst Review

The Film

Thirst returns its director to visual and thematic ideas explored through the device of a film within a film in his short "Cut". High contrast mise-en-scene interrupted by flashes of blood, a good guy who might be a bad guy, and a really heightened sense of fiction rising above the prosaic distinguishes both films. Philosophical questions about right and wrong and how these are altered by situations and events are the hallmarks of a Park Chan-Wook film, and here the director plays with audience sympathy, religious iconography and revelations of humanity much as he has before.

This time his mode is a blackly comic vampire movie and Park fully exploits the angle of a beast that must feast on those below him in the food chain. Being who he is, the director makes his central character a priest whose nature as a bloodsucker is a result of his good intentions and whose lifelong mission gradually fails as he is forced to live a new life in contradiction of it. The priest stops being just a man just as he starts doing so and his growing awareness of greater strength and superiority causes him to explore his instincts and his sublimated desires. This brings him an illicit affair with Tae-ju, an orphan who has become the servant of her adoptive family who is at first afraid of his sanguine pursuits but then chooses a maddening empowerment by sharing them with him.
This story is therefore very rich with concerns about faith, humanism and an unavoidable moral about power. It revels in appetite and the physical whilst torturing its characters with the spiritual. The genre and its love of darkness and images of full moons are fully exploited in beautifully photography that mixes the downbeat urban settings of the human streets with the night time rooftops of the vampires. Park regularly choreographs swooping camera movements, long takes, brilliant compositions, and forceful editing mixed with the classical score, and Thirst delivers stylistically much like the films in the Vengeance trilogy. Yet, this packs less of a punch than the director's previous works.

I think the lack of impact is due to a focus that goes through the whole thematic gamut. Park wants to explore the personal, the religious, the global and the specific, the tragic and the comic, and his film is a mere tool to achieve this wide ranging discussion. There is no doubt that this bravura approach is what distinguished his previous work from that of pretentious hacks, but perhaps here the lack of coherence, the sheer length of the film, and the widely varying tone make Thirst less of a whole project and more a series of striking visual and philosophical sketches.
Watched with lower expectations and a degree of indulgence, Thirst is a marvel of set-pieces that shows Park further exploring the clay feet of human beings. His characters are more often than not far from detailed and depend on stereotypes and caricature rather than deeper individual characteristics, yet his daring in examining huge notions of good and evil is as exciting as ever. There are few moments that appear on screen that won't bewitch your eyes and please your intellect, and I particularly liked the role of Tae-ju in the way it examined how the female victim can become a huntress with the right advantages offered her.

The film concludes itself in a wonderful sequence where the survival instinct battles the moral response, and the final moments are marked by a kind of poetry that the whole project would have benefited from as a coherent approach. Like any Park film you really should see this, but ironically Thirst did not sate my appetite for the director's best work.

Technical Specs

Palisades Tartan offer Thirst on a region B dual layer disc with an AVC/MPEG-4 coded transfer which has a frame rate of 23.98 per second and a file size of 32.4GB. Sound is offered through a single master audio track in Korean with optional English subtitles which annoyingly cover even the parts of dialogue that are in English. The transfer is presented at 2.35:1 and the image carries a light pleasing grain with little if any in the way of obvious digital manipulation with the film. Edges are natural, the colour scheme carries an appropriate blue tint and fine detail in and out of shadow is strong. Black levels are a little lacking but the night time sequences are rarely affected by this.
The audio track, subtitles aside, is very clear in terms of dialogue and there is strong directionality as action moves across the sound-stage. Voices come from all around the mix, and there is plenty of atmosphere created from the LFE channel. This is an impressive treatment overall.

Special features

Thirst comes with a rather well designed menu which offers standard navigation options with scenes from the film accompanied by some of the score playing under them. All of the extra features are offered in high definition with the interview and the Q and A offered in 1080I, and all of the extras have lossless sound. Park talks in Korean in both features, answering questions from the audience at the National Film and Television School and responding to the daily Mirror's Jessica Mellor in the interview. Park talks about the importance of using intelligent actors and then not over directing them, the reading of Tae-ju as a femme fatale, and he affirms the importance to him of thorough storyboarding so that he can collaborate effectively with his DP. Interestingly he gives plenty of credit to Jeong Seo-gyeong for her contribution to his last three films in the interview with Mellor, and less interestingly answers some obvious questions about genres and plot.

Finally there is a full HD trailer of the film.

Summary

Thirst is a philosophically messy delight and Palisades presentation on this blu-ray contains a very good transfer and some exclusive HD extras.

Film
7 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
6 out of 10
Overall

7

out of 10

Last updated: 18/04/2018 17:24:50

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