Have you ever seen a man eat a live octopus, its tentacles wriggling and writhing around his chin, cheeks and nose as he devours its head ? An inevitable and unfortunate movie version of Fear Factor notwithstanding, this is probably the only time you will witness such an act in Cinema (but then who thought we would ever see a real blow-job being given in a non-pornographic film - by an Academy Award nominated actress - until Vincent Gallo's Brown Bunny last year!?).
With anything possible, Oldboy is filled with disturbing images like the octopus-as-dinner scene. Ants burrowing their way out of a man's flesh. A pair of scissors being used for the self-mutilation of one's own tongue. A scene involving a hammer and a set of teeth that would make Olivier's dentist from The Marathon Man glow with ghastly glee. As well as the climactic disturbance, that, although rather obvious in its coming, still manages to hit us with a knockout blow to both the gut and head - and groin.
Oldboy is the inexplicable story of Dae-su, a loutish drunkard who is mysteriously imprisoned for fifteen years, in a cell made out to look like a small cozy apartment - complete with a fake blue-skied window. Then, as mysteriously as he had been imprisoned, Dae-su is released - with no explanation as to why he had been locked up all those years.
Now a free man, although unjustly wanted for the murder of his wife, Dae-su has become a dark brooding self-proclaimed monster. His only agenda: find out who imprisoned him and why - and kill them. Full of cascading revenge scenarios and enough frenetic impossible fight sequences to make Quentin Tarantino wet himself, and already the winner of the top prize at last year's Tarantino-headed Cannes jury, Oldboy is the Korean New Wave's new poster child of pulp fiction chic.
Although not as smooth and slick as Tarantino (or fellow asian hipsters such as Seijun Suzuki or Zhang Yimou), Park Chan-wook's film hits at a more gutteral level. A shock cinema without the schlock that usually accompanies such films. Oldboy is a revenge smorgasbord filled with tasty delights, even juicier than live octopus. [03/31/05]