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"Oldboy" - Screening @ deciBel

The image of Korean art in Vietnamese popular culture seems to revolve around K-Pop music, boyish looking pop stars and girl bands that seem to have come out of a giant cupcake.

Ironic if we think that on the other hand, Korea (South Korea to be precise) has produced in the past 14 years or so some of the most edgy, visually sticking films in Asia and beyond; so much so that Hollywood has been busy buying the rights to ‘Americanise’ many of them (The tales of two sisters, Oldboy, Shiri and the list goes on).

Park Chan-wook is one of the most acclaimed and recognized directors to have greatly helped to put the cinema of his native country back on the international markets. Author of, later renamed for marketing purposes, “The Vengeance trilogy” (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), Park has the ability to dig deep into human dark and delicate sides, in particular he has a fascination for the futility and absurdity of revenge among human beings, which wrecks all the people involved in it.

The guys at deciBel seem to be fond of him since a few months ago, they screened Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and this Wednesday they give us Oldboy.

Winner of the Grand Prix at the Cannes film festival in 2004, Oldboy tells the mysterious story of Oh Dae-su, who gets kidnapped and locked up for 15 years in a cell-room decorated like a dingy motel. No reason is given to why this is happening, understandably, Oh spends all this time trying to find out who his kidnapper is and what has he done to deserve this punishment.

As it turns out, we are little aware of the threads that our actions leave behind, especially when we are blinded by revenge and we keep asking ourselves the wrong questions. In one of the most chilling scenes in the film, Oh’s captor tells him “if you keep asking the wrong questions, you’ll never find the right answer. It’s not ‘Why did Woo-jiin imprison me? ‘, it’s ‘Why did he release me?’  

Actor Minh-sik Choi manages with his impeccable, intense performance to win over the audience despite having the arduous job of portraying a character that is far from being likeable. I would not want to be in Josh Brolin’s shoes, who is playing Choi’s role in Spike Lee’s remake ‘Oldboy’ (to be released this year).

This is not the sort of film that leaves an audience indifferent, you might be able to stomach it or not, but you will not forget it.

I wonder if President Roh Tae-woo was expecting these outstanding results when in 1988 he started amending legislations to improve and liberalise Korean cinema. The Vietnam's Cinematography Department declared in June this year that its plan is to turn Vietnamese film industry in one of the leading ones in South East Asian and the Korean one has been mentioned as a successful example to learn from. So, while we wait for this to happen at home, we can see what has made Park and co. some of the most admired directors in Asia.

(English subtitles available)

Entrance fee: FREE


Wednesday, 9 October


Decibel | 79 Phan Kế Bính, Đa Kao, Quận 1