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The Vengeance Trilogy -- Review in Dialogue
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--A: Time to review The Vengeance Trilogy --
--B: How? I haven't watched it yet.
--A: We watched it last night. You made notes. Visible notes.
--B: I dislike aesthetic commentary.
--A: Aesthetic commentary is all you do.
--B: Which is why I dislike myself. It's all very tautological. Pathological too.
--A: We planned on doing this and considering we've already reviewed JSA, we ought continue, no?
--B: I don't remember JSA.
--A: I don't believe you.
--B: Then don't. Doesn't mean we won't or can't review it.
--A: Seems like it does.
--B: It's a beautiful trilogy.
--A: I don't doubt it --
--B: Each film has its own visual style and take on the Vengeance theme.
--A: Is there a difference? I think there should be.
--B: I don't personally see any difference -- vengeance is Justice if you're wealthy enough, and vice-versa if you have the social credibility to maintain it.
--A: I don't think that's so.
--A: Justice is the social standard overtop of which all this corruption happens. Vengeance is only Justice if it fits in with the standard, and the standard is law. That saying by that prophet William Gaddis, “You get justice in the next world, in this world, you have the law.”
--B: That's depressing.
--A: That's people. Easy people. Simple.
--B: Can we move on to the review?
--A: Please. Please do.
--B: The Vengeance Trilogy, from Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook, is today's subject -- a series of films connected only by theme. The first is Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, about a boy who tries to find a kidney for his dying sister and ends up killing some people whose relatives want revenge against him. The film uses mostly still-camera shots, like early Fassbinder, and are as beautifully-framed as a Kubrick piece.
--A: How is vengeance portrayed therein?
--B: Messy, chaotic. Everyone has connections and loved-ones and one's success depends more on luck than anything else.
--A: Like capitalism.
--B: Actually, exactly like that. Every character is fucked because of their relationship to money. Can't find a kidney, laid off, access to money, daughter-dead, Marxists whose comrade you killed etc.
--A: See? Capitalism. Law determines Justice, Capital determines Law.
--B: Justice is different.
--A: How is Justice different?
--B: Justice is an ideal, something intuited.
--A: Do you think he intended to make a political film?
--B: I have no idea what he intended. You're the one who made the political connection.
--A: Fair enough. Verdict on the first film?
--B: The first is my favorite. So, perfect. A perfect and perfectly depressing piece of South Korean art-thriller.
--A: I liked Oldboy better.
--B: You said you didn't --
--A: I know what I said. I'm honest when I'm not lying.
--B: Then you get to review Oldboy.
--A: Who'll do Lady vengeance?
--B: That's irrelevent now.
--A: But Lady Vengeance was my favorite.
--B: How does that increase the relevance?
--A: 'Cuz I wanna review that one.
--B: Review both then.
--A: I will. So, Oldboy. Oldboy is about a guy who's suddenly released from a surreal prison after fifteen years and sent on a mission to figure out why he was put there in the first place. In the end, there's a lot of incest.
--B: Why did you need to focus on that?
--A: Incest is gross.
--A: The cinematography is manic, video-game like. Almost cyberpunk expressionist.
--B: Coining a new term are we?
--A: Sorta. Subjectively-objective and vice-versa, like something written by Walter Benjamin. And who doesn't like him?
--B: Right. Follow the structure we set out.
--A: Right. Vengeance in Oldboy is mythical...sin manifesting as each character shares a metaphysical taint, and the ending is almost a parody of even conceptual Justice. Suicide and depection and whatnot. And even that version of the sin idea seems as arbitrary as Capitalism. Capital or God, both are just a fictional power-source. Ya know?
--B: Both are ideologically-real.
--A: And ideology is fiction. So...
--B: Seems better to view the film from a Buddhist perspective than a Christian one, no?
--A: How do you figure?
--B: Christianity is less important culturally.
--A: I disagree. Park's later film Thirst would also disagree. But let's look at it from that perspective anyway, despite your offensive suggestion --
--B: A very easy lens to interpret through. Four noble truths: life is suffering, suffering is desire, we can end suffering, pursue an ethical path. These films are emphatic about the first two. And the protagonists' inability to work towards inner peace leads them to violence in cycles. Violence in that way becomes normalized until we don't even see it. Like we ignore the suffering present everywhere. Plus the films depict how we're unwilling to accept the impermanence of anything when everything is impermanent.
--A: You're applying this to the trilogy, not just Oldboy?
--A: So vengeance and Justice are metaphysical throughout.
--B: I thought we'd already established that...
--A: Just renewing emphasis.
--A: So either way, through Christ or Buddha, Oldboy is basically about retaining the impact of a forgotten transgression, and having to pay for it, call it sin or desire or karma. And I give Oldboy a 4 out of 5.
--B: How do you feel about Christ or Buddha?
--A: Ambivalent. You?
--B: Why ambivalent?
--A: Well...the common discourse amongst atheists is that they "love Christ, hate his followers". But I feel like Christ wasn't that great either. He still came from the Abrahamic ethical code...sin, God, redemption etc, as much as he opposed the religious hierarchies of his day, he's too connected to a set of ideas I dislike for my true appreciation. Buddha, if removed from religion, is pretty nifty, though.
--B: Fair enough.
--B: Religion is a tool. We just used it to provide context to theme. But that's all. You wanted to do Lady Vengeance?
--A: Do I ever...as I said, Lady Vengeance was my favorite. It's about a woman falsely convincted and imprisoned for murder seeking out the man responsible once her sentence is up. It's the most stylish of the three, being focused on color motifs and an associative non-linear narrative. It also presents us with the one moment in the trilogy when the vengeance is otherwise deserved. And even still, the one negating factor is the protagonist's conscience. Guilt...another thing which divides vengeance from Justice. But yeah, this film was perfect. And better than Mr. Vengeance.
--B: I disagree.
--A: Your opinion is irrelevant.
--B: What have we learned? Have we learned anything?
--A: That the need for balance exists in every culture, and in every ancient philosophy (Heraclitus, Plato, Aristotle, Lao Tzu, Confucius, Buddha, The Trimurti, Zoroaster, Teotl...) and so we use the concept of Justice as a means of balancing out perceived negative tears in our environment -- pain and satisfaction -- but Justice is both a metaphysical and ideological concept: neither exactly correspond with empirical reality -- the law always fucks someone somewhere, and that won't be fixed anytime soon -- we can improve based on our understanding of Injustice, and we can re-write legal structures to fit these new insights -- but I don't forsee a time when "Justice" isn't anything but well-organized Vengeance, the better organized and bureaucratic, the more Just?
--B: Correct, sir.
--A: Was our review balanced?
--B: I doubt it.
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Member since June 2011