Pretty-boy vampires? Not in the dark and diseased film ‘Thirst’

July 27, 2009 | 10:52 p.m.

It’s been quite the decade for bloodsuckers, but the warm, red geyser of vampire lore in pop culture shows no sign of relenting. Now comes “Thirst,” a disturbing vision of South Korean autuer Park Chan-wook. Here’s a piece by one of the best writers at the Los Angeles Times, Reed Johnson

Thirst

When Park Chan-wook set out to make his vampire movie “Thirst,” he wanted to leave out the garlic cloves, opera capes, wooden stakes and other moldy genre stereotypes. Neither did he intend to add to the current glut of angsty-teen, blood-sucking fables with gorgeously buff heroes and heroines, such as “Twilight” and “True Blood.”

“In the West, there has been this great accumulation of cliches in vampire movies,” the South Korean writer-director said by phone, speaking through an interpreter. “So just by taking these cliches out, I thought I could come up with something unique.”

If for no other reason, “Thirst” should be remembered as apparently the first vampire flick in which the protagonist is an Asian Roman Catholic priest who actually feels guilty for his plasma-slurping ways. Played by leading Korean actor Song Kang-ho, this modest man of the cloth accidentally becomes a sensualistic nocturnal predator when he nobly volunteers for a vaccine experiment that’s intended to curb a deadly virus.

Instead, he receives an infectious transfusion and before long is preying as devoutly as he’s praying. The movie opens in theaters Friday.

In his previous movies, which include the Korean box-office smash “Joint Security Area” and “Old Boy,” which won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes festival, Park, 45, has demonstrated a technical finesse that puts some critics in mind of David Fincher as well as an ability to glean fresh imagery and metaphorical meaning from Western film genres and storytelling conventions.

Curiously, “Thirst,” which shared the Jury Prize with the British film “Fish Tank” at Cannes this year, was partly inspired by French writer Emile Zola’s 1867 novel “Thérèse Raquin,” about a young woman who enters into a feverish affair to escape from a soulless marriage and stifling domesticity. In “Thirst,” the beautiful actor Kim Ok-vin plays a similarly trapped young woman, whose charms attract Song’s priestly Nosferatu.

Park said he admired the way that Zola’s novel “deals with love not just as a concept” but as an everyday reality of earth-bound, fleshly attraction. With “Thirst,” Park similarly wanted to strip away some of the hoary Transylvanian mystique and mysticism and “deal with vampirism as something almost biological, or treat it as a disease…”

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“Thirst” image: Focus Features

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Comments


One Response to Pretty-boy vampires? Not in the dark and diseased film ‘Thirst’

  1. Jay says:

    "before long is preying as devoutly as he's praying."
    I love how that is put.

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