I put off going to see Park Chan-wook's 박쥐 (Thirst) for a couple of weeks in the vain hope of subtitled screenings magically appearing, but today I gave in to temptation and went to see it without translation, hoping that I'd at least be able to enjoy the pretty pictures and horrendous violence...
I was not disappointed. Korea Pop Wars may not have been a huge fan, but I'm siding with Kyu Hyun Kim of koreanfilm.org (Warning - spoilers in both reviews). Fans of previous films expecting the same visual flair or camera tricks of the Vengeance trilogy or I'm a Cyborg, But That's Ok, may be surprised to find that Park has settled into a far more sombre tone that reminded me more of 1970's German and Italian horror than anything else. There are still moments of violence and horror on a par with Oldboy, but the story focuses more on the characters' relationships with each other. The plot is inspired by Emile Zola's "Therese Raquin" (Warning - plot spoilers at wikipedia) and manages to mix Zola's narrative with Park's own meditations on Catholic guilt and a unique reinterpretation of vampirism.
송강호 (Song Gang Ho) deserves kudos for his understated performance and also for being one of the first big Korean actors to let it all hang out onscreen. It's a brave thing for any actor to do and it serves the plot well. 김옥빈 (Kim Ok Vin) is sensational in her role and could well become the next big thing in Korea. The cast as a whole are fantastic and it's wonderful to see 오달수 (Oh Dal Soo) onscreen again. As with all of Park's films, the art design and attention to detail is astounding, but certainly more muted than previous movies. The only complaint I have is the occasional bit of dodgy CGI, but those moments are brief and forgivable.
I received an email from the Itaewon-Hannam Global Village Center today, stating that Cinus are still trying to get permission from the distributor to show the film with English subtitles, so we may all get to see it subtitled on the big screen in the near future. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but my hopes aren't up. I'd urge you to go and see this on the big screen, but you'll need to speak good Korean or take a Korean speaker with you to explain the difficult parts... If you like Park Chan-wook's other films then it's worth the trip.