BP’s Top 100 Movie Challenge #49: Oldboy, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list has a good number of films I hadn’t seen before so it is a good source for my challenge.
I have admitted previously that Asian cinema is a weak point in my film-watching but I will also admit I had purposely never seen Oldboy. I have seen a few of the director Park Chan-Wook’s films and I have enjoyed them, but found them difficult to watch. Through cultural osmosis I had learned a few things about Oldboy and I knew there were things there I could never unsee. You can’t unsee a man eating a live octopus, no matter how much you might want to. I also have a very low tolerance for body horror. I just have a very weak stomach and things like Dae-Su Oh cutting out his own tongue were very difficult to watch. In fact, to be honest, I didn’t watch it but knowing that it was happening even with my eyes closed was enough for me to need to take some real deep breaths and think about happy things… even writing about it now is tough for me.
All of that being said, I did get through the film. I had big issues with it as I was watching it. I could not understand why the woman he meets, Mi-do, would quit her job and help him and eventually sleep with him. I also found Dae-su Oh a repugnant character so I really didn’t understand her actions. But then you learn the twist at the end and finally understand that Mi-do was manipulated into falling in love with him and sleeping with him. I never managed to get on board with Dae-su Oh though. He was repugnant from start to finish for me. But I did have sympathy for him for being held captive for fifteen years. That is a significant portion of a person’s life to lose, the comparison to the Count of Monte Cristo that is mentioned is accurate.
While the twist at the end did make the story come together and answered a lot of the issues that I had with the film it wasn’t very satisfying for me. I get that Woo-jin Lee had a master plan of long-term vengeance but it was really over the top. That type of plotting is often the issue I have with Chan-Wook’s films. They are interesting examinations of often terrible people, but I don’t really like to spend my film-watching time with terrible people enacting absurd vengeance on each other. I think the film of Chan-Wook’s that I have liked the most was Stoker, but even that was little much for me.
I have now seen Oldboy but I don’t think I will go back and watch Lady Vengeance or Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
Oldboy ranking: Battleship