Chan-wook Park. An important member of the South Korean New Wave of auteurs along with Bong Joon-ho and Chang-dong Lee. Chan-wook Park probably is not on the list without Oldboy– certainly a strength—but he even his weaker efforts bear the stamp of his ultraviolence, grotesque, and narrative twists. Painterly mise-en-scenes always have meant more to him than narrative cohesion or momentum. I’ve only seen each of his works once- so there is plenty of study to be done here.

Best film: Oldboy. I think there’s a fair amount of cinephiles out there that think it may be The Handmaiden. I’ve actually only seen both films once- so this is far from definitive- but right now I’d go with Oldboy.

total archiveable films: 4

top 100 films:  0

top 500 films:  0

top 100 films of the decade:  1 (Oldboy)

most overrated: The Handmaiden. I admittedly owe it another visit- but the TSPDT consensus (via the top 1000 of the 21st century list) has it in the top 10 of 2016 and it didn’t land there for me. They also have Oldboy already in the top 500 of all-time and I’m not there yet either- though I’m not terrible far away.

most underrated :  Nothing here for Chan-wook Park. Both Vengeance films are on the 21st century TSPDT consensus top 1000 but they aren’t in the top 10 (or terribly close) for their respective year.

gem I want to spotlight :  2005’s Lady Vengance. It now seems inevitable that 2003’s Oldboy was going to live up to.

stylistic innovations/traits:                             

  • Long takes- the 3 ½ minute long corridor shot in Oldboy is almost as famous as the film itself (or Chan-wook Park himself)
  • Violence, revenge films, genre cinema
  • Narrative twists, incest

  • Painterly medium, and medium-long shots — a dedication to background– even those critics that write him off because of his genre, or violence – can’t argue with these

top 10

  1. Oldboy
  2. The Handmaiden
  3. Lady Vengeance
  4. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

By year and grades

2002- Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance R
2003- Old Boy HR/MS
2005- Lady Vengeance R
2016- The Handmaiden R


*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives