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Imprisoned for thirteen years for allegedly kidnapping and murdering a six-year-old boy, Lee Geum-ja wastes no time in winning over her cellmates' sympathies. From the former prostitute who strangled her pimp to the old North Korean spy who hands her the "Sutra of revenge"-- illustrated instructions for crafting a handmade gun disguised as a prayer book--all the prisoners become instrumental in the scheme Geum-ja has meticulously drafted for her future as a free woman. Deprived of her baby daughter and of her youth, Geum-ja at first seems to accept her tragic destiny. However, she never strays from her plans to take a mighty revenge on the former teacher who betrayed her and slaughtered her innocence.
For more about Lady Vengeance and the Lady Vengeance Blu-ray release, see Lady Vengeance Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on December 6, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Park Chan-wook
Writer: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Yeong-ae Lee, Min-sik Choi, Kim Shi-hoo
» See full cast & crew
Lady Vengeance Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, December 6, 2009
Winner of the CinemAvvenire (Best Film) and Little Golden Lion awards at the Venice Film Festival, Korean director Park Chan-wook's "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" (2005) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of UK-based distributors Palisades Tartan. Amongst the supplemental features on this disc are: "Making of", "The Style of Lady Vengeance", "Lady Vengeance in Venice", cast and crew interviews and more. Additionally, unlike the Hong Kong Blu-ray release, this disc contains the "fading to black and white" version of the film. With optional English subtitles. Region-B "locked".
It takes awhile for things to get going in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Korean director Park Chan-wook's third and final installment in his so-called "Revenge Trilogy" (the other two films in it are Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance). The film has a very unusual structure - bits and pieces from the main protagonist's past are carefully linked to her present - with a maze of unpredictable twist.
A thirty-something woman, Lee Geum-ja (Lee Yeong-ae, One Fine Spring Day), has been forced to give up her daughter and spent several years in jail for the killing of a young boy. Though she has confessed to the crime, it is unclear whether or not her confession was sincere. An interesting sequence during the second half of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance sheds more light on what actually happened.
For well over an hour, the film also follows the deeds of a colorful group of characters who have important parts in Lee Geum-ja's story – a suspicious cop (Nam Il-woo) who did not buy her confession, an incredibly nasty fat lesbian (Go Su-heui, No Mercy for the Rude), a young boy who wants to make love to her but is too shy to admit it (Seo Yeong-ju), and an extravagant preacher (Kim Byeong-ok, I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK). Some of the characters are used to clarify why Lee Geum-ja reunites with a few of her prison mates and helps them obtain justice.
Lee Geum-ja also reunites with her daughter, who has been adopted by an Australian couple, and learns about a perverted school teacher (Choi Min-shik, Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War) responsible for a string of brutal crimes.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance offers an interesting character study, which most of you who are already familiar with Old Boy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance will undoubtedly enjoy. The script for the film is notably complex, emphasizing the emotional turmoil the main protagonist undergoes rather than the events responsible for it.
The multiple secondary characters and their stories are at times a bit overwhelming – the memory flashbacks, in particular, could be very misleading – but once the film reaches the hour mark, things get clearer.
Technically, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance looks sharp - the decision to counter the graphic violence with classical music, for example, works exceptionally well. Cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon's (Thirst) lensing, specifically during some of the most graphic scenes, is also terrific. Additionally, many of the close-ups studying the main protagonist's face are intoxicatingly beautiful.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance will likely spur mixed reactions amongst Western viewers who have not yet had the opportunity to experience some of the best films South Korean directors have produced in recent years. In fact, I would argue that an overwhelming amount of the subtle themes in the film will likely remain unnoticed by Westerners. On the other hand, the solid performances guarantee that the film would have at least some sort of effect.
In 2005, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance won the prestigious CinemAvvenire Award (for Best Film) and Little Golden Lion Award (director Park) at the Venice International Film Festival.
Lady Vengeance Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Korean director Park Chan-wook's Sympathy for Lady Vengeance arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of UK-based distributors Palisades Tartan.
Note: The version of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance found on this Blu-ray disc is not identical to the one found on the Hong Kong Blu-ray disc we have already reviewed. The Palisades Tartan Blu-ray disc contains the "fading to black and white" version of the film.
This is a fine but not exceptional transfer. Detail is good, clarity consistent, and contrast stable throughout the entire film. Edge-enhancement, however, is fairly obvious during a number of scenes - there is more of it during the color half of the film, and less during the black and white half. Film grain appears to be intact, but some of it is mixed with a bit of digital noise. On a positive side, macroblocking is not an issue of concern. Color saturation levels are strong. Generally speaking, however, this transfer has a slightly darker color complexion when compared to the one used for the Hong Kong Blu-ray release. Finally, I noticed a few tiny flecks popping up here and there while viewing the film; however, there are no large debris and scratches to report in this review. To sum it all up, despite some of the minor issues described above, this is a fine presentation. Also, I personally prefer this specific version of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance over the one found on the Hong Kong Blu-ray release. I think that it is far more effective and in sync with the film's message, but some of you may disagree with me. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free player in order to access its content).
Lady Vengeance Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track in this Blu-ray disc: Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. For the record, Palisades Tartan have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is impressive. As I noted in my evaluation of the Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track found on the Hong Kong Blu-ray disc, there are some very neat surround effects in Sympathy for Lady Vengeance that are treated wonderfully with it. On the other hand, the dialog is crisp and clear throughout the entire film. There are no balance issues to report with Choi Seung-hyun's music score either. I also did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or dropouts to report in this review.
Lady Vengeance Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Making of - this is the same featurette found on the Hong Kong Blu-ray disc. It contains raw footage from the shooting process with occasional comments by cast and crew members. In Korean, with optional English subtitles. (11 min).
The Style of Lady Vengeance - this featurette is broken into four chapters: "Visualization" (7 min), "Production Design" (9 min), "Costume & Make Up" (9 min), "Art" (7 min) and "Cg" (7 min). In each chapter, director Park Chan-wook and cast and crew members discuss what makes Sympathy for Lady Vengeance a unique film, its message, the decision to start the film in color and finish it in black & white, some of the key locations seen throughout the film, the costumes, etc. In Korean, with optional English subtitles.
The Characters - this featurette is divided into four chapters: "Lee Yeong-Ae" (7 min), "Choi Min-Sik" (7 min), "The Prisoner" (6 min) and "The Bereaved" (8 min). Here, director Park Chan-wook and cast members discuss the different characters in the film, as well as specific scenes from it. In Korean, with optional English subtitles.
Lady Vengeance in Venice - footage from the press conference for the film at the famous film festival with some interesting comments from director Park Chan-wook about the violence shown in his film. In Korean and English, with optional English subtitles. (9 min).
Trailers & TV Spots - Korean teaser, Korean trailer, English teaser, and English trailer.
Lady Vengeance Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I prefer this specific version of director Park Chan-wook's award-winning Sympathy for Lady Vengeance over the one found on the Hong Kong Blu-ray release. In my opinion, it is a lot more effective and in sync with the film's message. Unfortunately, this is a Region-B "locked" release, so keep that in mind when trying to decide which Blu-ray release to get. Fans of the film might want to have both. RECOMMENDED.
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Lady Vengeance Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Sympathy For Lady Vengeance Remake Coming Up - November 28, 2012
Charlize Theron is set to appear in a remake of Korean director Park Chan-wook's bloody thriller Sympathy For Lady Vengeance. The upcoming project will be produced by Annapurna Pictures, CJ Entertainment, and the South African actress' company Denver & Delilah ...
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