• Thirst (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released on: June 18th, 2019.
    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Director: Park Chan-Wook
    Cast: Kang-ho Song, Dong-soo Seo, Hee-jin Choi
    Year: 2009
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    Thirst – Movie Review:

    It’s interesting that after the fairly universal acclaim that his ‘Vengeance Trilogy’ received that South Korean director Park Chan-wook would go in a completely different direction with his latest effort, Thirst. At the same time, it becomes obvious as you watch the film that, like all of his pictures, it’s not entirely unrelated. Many of the same themes and ideas that he explored in those earlier films are worked over again, though to very different effect.

    The film follows a Catholic priest named Sang-hyeon (Kang-ho Song) who volunteers to help out with a vaccine project but inadvertently becomes very ill and winds up needing a blood transfusion which turns him into a vampire. In order to satiate his need to feed on human blood he starts volunteering at a hospital where the supply of patients, many of whom are on their death bed, prove to be a very fertile feeding ground and one which allows him to feed with the least amount of damage done to his conscience and morals.

    Soon enough, Sang-hyeon runs into an old friend of his (Shin Ha-kyun) and starts coming to their family home to play majong. Here he meets and falls in love with his beautiful Filipina wife, a good Catholic girl named Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin). He soon realizes that the feeling is mutual and the pair being a secret love affair and eventually he lets her know the truth about his condition. When she learns this, she wants him to give her the same eternal life he has, and he obliges. The plot becomes more complicated when Sang-hyeon murders Tae-ju's husband. She’s happy to finally be free of the restraints that he put on her, and goes on a bit of a feeding frenzy. While all of this is going on, Tae-ju's mother-in-law (Kim Hae-sook) becomes paralyzed and is turned into a complete vegetable. While the priest wrestles with his morality, his devotion to the church and the vows he made, he realizes he needs absolution and asks the blind mentor who has helped him throughout his career as a man of the cloth for help.

    An interesting look at the battle that our central character wages between his devotion to the church and his physical needs, Thirst takes its black comedy elements about as far as it can without ever teetering over the edge into the ridiculousness that plagues so many movies about vampires. Yes Sang-hyeon is a tortured soul to an extent, and we see how it pains him, initially at least, to pass off his religious convictions and give in to the lusts he feels for physical pleasure and for blood, but it’s completely in keeping with his character and never overdone. What’s fascinating about the film is how his relationship with Tae-ju evolves over the course of the film. They change one another in a few different ways and as she overcomes her initial hesitation and literal fear of this creature she’s slowly becoming attached to, like a teenager away from home for the first time she cuts loose and runs with it. All of this has repercussions, of course, but there’s an interesting simplicity to all of it that makes the plot and the two central characters easier to relate to than they would have been otherwise.

    The performances are strong across the board and the film is quite well cast, and on top of that it is frequently beautiful to look at. The cinematography is striking and very fluid, and the editing compliments this as does the classical score that accompanies the visuals. All in all, it’s a humorous and sometimes unsettling look at lust, faith, perversion and mortality all wrapped up in a beautiful package that allows the story to unfold just exactly as it should.

    Thirst – Blu-ray Review:

    Thirst looks great in this AVC encoded 2.35.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer. Presented on a 50GB disc with the feature taking up just over 37GBs of space, the color scheme that’s been employed in this film definitely leans towards the cool side as lots of blues and greens and browns and blacks make up much of the background. The color reproduction seen here is very strong across the board, and everything looks quite natural here without taking away from the more painterly aspects of the production’s backdrops. Fine detail is strong, there’s some nice texture in the clothing that the characters wear and you can make out a lot of the gruesome boils and wounds that certain characters show off during the movie. Black levels are strong and deep if a little short of reference quality. There are no problems with mpeg compression artifacts to note, nor is there any obvious edge enhancement. Light grain is present throughout the movie, but it’s never overpowering and while the odd speck may show up here and there on the transfer, this is otherwise a clean and well authored disc.

    The sole audio track on this Blu-ray disc is a Korean language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track with optional subtitles provided in English. This isn’t the most active track you’ll ever here but it is very well put together with a lot of subtle background detail present throughout the mix and a lot of really well placed directionality. Bass response is strong without ever overpowering anything while dialogue is always clear. There are no problems with balance or with any hiss or distortion. The only complain here is that the subtitles periodically run from the bottom of the picture to the black matte underneath, but really, this is nitpicking, as this is otherwise a very strong mix. An alternate DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track is also included.

    The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary track from journalist Bryan Reesman that proves to be quite interesting. He speaks about how the film came at the tail end of the ‘peak of Asian horror,’ when loads of Korean and Japanese horror pictures were making their way to western shores. He then speaks about CJ Entertainment’s business model, how Thirst actually got investment from Hollywood’s Focus Features, the film’s international distribution and box office success, the nobility of Kang-ho Song’s character and the state of Christianity (and Catholicism specifically) in Korea to this day. He also speaks to the director’s penchant for not giving the audience all of the answers, the French novel that inspired the film, the quality of the cinematography featured in the film and how it adds to certain qualities of the story, the digital effects and wirework used in the picture, the way that abuse is portrayed in the film, other pictures that the cast and crew have been involved with, how it’s odd to provide commentary over a sex scene!, the way that the characters feed off of blood or sex, how characters shift blame during the course of the plot, the importance of the age difference between the two core characters and what that brings to the story and quite a bit more. It’s a pretty insightful talk, focusing less on facts and trivia and more on the themes that the picture deals with and how it uses those themes and ideas to create a genuinely fascinating movie.

    Rounding out the extras is the film’s trailer, a few bonus trailers for other Kino Lorber releases, some nice animated menus, and chapter selection.

    Thirst – The Final Word:

    At times darkly comedic, touching and romantic and repulsive, Thirst is always fascinating to watch. It’s beautifully shot and scored, well-paced and directed and expertly acted. The disc isn’t stacked with extras but the commentary is a very strong one and the presentation of the feature itself is top notch. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Thirst Blu-ray screen caps!