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Archive for October 20th, 2008

Perspectives on film: I review ‘Oldboy’ and my mother-in-law helps.

Monday, October 20th, 2008

ALERT: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN OLDBOY AND INTEND TO, TURN BACK NOW.

It’s amazing how two people can watch the same movie and, depending on their life experiences, each give you a completely different description.

For example, after months of urging by a co-worker who loves Asian cinema, I watched ‘Oldboy.’ My mother-in-law was home so she watched it with me.

‘Oldboy’ is a Korean film about a man who is kidnapped one night, framed for his wife’s murder and imprisoned ina hotel room. After 15 years, he’s let out with only one goal in mind: revenge. But first he has to find out who did this to him and he wants to know why. The result is Hitchcockian suspense meets Sophoclean tragedy with shining moments of darkly absurd humor, and a smattering of high-octane chopsocky violence. Ultimately, ‘Oldboy’ is a statement on the futility of wrath and brings a fresh new twist on the Oedipus story.

Now, just because ‘Oldboy’ is stongly rooted in highbrow cinematic and literary traditions doesn’t mean it’s strictly for eggheads. There’s a claw hammer dentistry sequence that makes anything Quentin Tarantino’s ever done look like H.R. Puf’N'Stuf.

I gave it five stars on my Netflix rental history. Loved it.

FINAL WARNING: THE REST OF THIS REVIEW GIVES AWAY THE TWIST ENDING. READ NO FURTHER IF YOU DON’T WANT THE ENDING SPOILED.

Now, here’s how my mother-in-law later described the movie:

“It was real campy. It’s about a guy who eats a live octopus, then he cuts his tongue off, and he has sex with his daughter.”

She’s not wrong. All that stuff does happen. We just have different perspectives. She still thinks ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ is softcore gay porn, but she liked ‘Oldboy’ okay.