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Sympathy for Lady Vengeance(2005)
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 Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and the Sympathy for Lady Vengeance Blu-ray release, see Sympathy for Lady Vengeance Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 16, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Lee Yeong-ae, Choi Min-Sik, Kim Shi-hoo
Director: Park Chan-wook
» See full cast & crew
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 16, 2009
The third and final installment in Korean director Park Chan-wook's Revenge Trilogy, "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" (2005) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Hong Kong-based distributors Panorama. Unfortunately, the extensive supplemental features offered with this release are not subtitled in English. The actual film is subtitled in English. Region-Free.
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.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 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 Hong Kong-based distributors Panorama.
I sincerely hope that the screencaptures we have provided with this review would give you at least a basic idea of how strong this Blu-ray transfer is - contrast is terrific, clarity very good and detail fantastic. The color-scheme is also very impressive. Reds, blues, greens, grays, blacks and whites are all natural looking, with very filmic qualities (excellent hues). Edge-enhancement and macroblocking are most definitely not an issue of concern. Disturbing artifacts are also nowhere to be seen. The lovely light effects Sympathy for Lady Vengeance is overflowing with are captured incredibly well (low digital noise isn't an issue of concern either). Additionally, when blown through a digital projector, the film looks incredibly stable. For the record, I did not detect any disturbing scratches, debris, dirt, or stains to report in this review. To sum it all up, Panorama's Blu-ray release of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance should make a lot of people very happy. (Note: Even thought this disc is marketed as Region-A only, it is in fact Region-Free. Therefore, you will be able to play it on your PS3 or SA regardless of your geographical location).
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0. Panorama have also provided optional Traditional Chinese and English subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame. For the record, I encountered a few grammatical errors with the English translation.
There isn't a single thing that I did not like about the Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Though not overly active, the bass is very impressive. The rear channels are used extensively – there are some very subtle effects that I do not believe I've noticed on my Tartan SDVD. Expectantly, there are no issues to report with the high frequencies. The dialog is crisp, crystal clear and very easy to follow. There are no balance issues with the lovely classical soundtrack to report in this review either. Disturbing pops, cracks, or hissings are also absent. To sum it all up, the Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track alone is a good enough reason to consider upgrading your SDVDs.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Note: All of the supplemental features are placed on a separate SDVD, which is coded Region-3. Therefore, you must have a Region-Free Blu-ray or SDVD player in order to view them. Also, most unfortunately, the supplemental features arrive only with optional Traditional Chinese subtitles (English subtitles are not included).
Making of - (11 min).
The characters of Lady Vengeance - Lee Yeong-ae (7 min), Choi Min-sik (7 min), the prisoners (6 min), and the bereaved family (8 min).
Introduction - director Park Chan-wook introduces his film. (2 min).
The Style of Lady Vengeance - a gallery of interviews with the director and staff addressing the costumes and make-up, visualization, production design, special art and computer graphics.
Lady Vengeance in Venezia - (9 min).
TV Spots -
Gallery of alternate scenes -
Audio commentary - director Park Chan-wook, Lee Young-ae and Choi Min-sik discuss the film. With optional Traditional Chinese subtitles.
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hong Kong-based distributors Panorama have put together a lovely package for Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. My only gripe with it is that the extensive supplemental features are not subtitled in English. Still, considering what happened with the planned by the now defunct Tartan Pictures UK release, I am convinced that many of you will be incredibly pleased with it. Highly Recommended.
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