Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Oldboy

Oldboy is an exhilarating piece of filmmaking. It reminded me that beyond everything else that cinema offers, subtexts, hidden meanings, symbolism, social commentary, critique and visual spectacle, lay its emotional core of gripping audience at the onset and not letting off until the very end. Atleast. Because the greatest films, the ones closest to our heart, never leave us. Sometimes we love a movie too much because it relates to us on the superficial level. But every film that is termed a classic is so done because it crosses boundaries and taps the hidden child within us who is perpetually craving for stories. Stories that are believable, stories that are humane, stories that transport us to places deep within ourselves and stories that introduce us to people we might be.

Park Chan-wook's film opens with the image of a man holding another by his throat, which might as well serve as a metaphor to how Park holds us by the throat and doesn't let go even after the end credits roll. The story of  a man who is imprisoned in a cell for fifteen years, never told why he is being punished, never spoken to, not even let die, is in itself so compelling that it doesn't take long for us to imagine ourselves in that position. What in itself could have been a great portrayal of human psyche had the film stayed just inside the confines of the cell, turns into a savage revenge plot containing gruesome visuals like eating a live, squirming octopus, pulling teeth of a man using the back of a hammer and slicing one's tongue off. But it never seems cheap, never contrived because it is not done to be attention grabbing but to serve the purpose of the story as a whole. The usage of music is phenomenal; Jo Yeong-wook usage of classical music to increase the emotional tempo of key scenes is pitch perfect.

The introduction part of Chan-wook's Wikipedia article says that he is known for his impeccable framing. Nothing can define the man more than his ability of astounding usage of camera, both moving and static. The camera not only conveys what is going through the mind of the subject, not only is it very cleverly used, like in the scene where Oh is abducted outside the telephone booth, but every shot is beautiful to look at. Like it is an entity in itself. And both the protagonist and the antagonist suited very well for the roles. Choi Min-sik has a face that conveys pain buried layers within and his ability to transform the look on his face interchangeably is a delight. Here is an actor who's engraved himself deeply into the role. Yoo Ji-tae has a stunning face, one that is at one innocent and malicious, sympathetic and sadistic.

Quentin Tarantino, who was the President of the Jury at the Cannes in 2004, lobbeyed hard for the movie to win the Palme d'Or but it only received the Grand Prix. Nevertheless, Oldboy is a bravura piece of filmmaking, both for its subject matter and its approach. It is also, quite simply, a fantastic example of master storytelling- Engaging, Rewarding and Intoxicating.  

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