Amoeblog

No Atheists in the Afterlife? Thirst (2009)

Posted by Charles Reece, August 16, 2009 11:30pm | Post a Comment
thirst poster

A fantastic adaptation of Émile Zola's Thérèse Raquin. Not that I've ever read any Zola, mind you, but I've read about him. Maybe after I've finished working my way through the entire output of the 19th century Russian realists, I'll be ready. If only Zola had featured more vampires in his stories .... Well, Chan-Wook Park knows how to get me interested in realism, at least -- same as the Russians -- with ideological discussions of atheism.

Sang-hyeon is a Catholic priest with a martyr complex or strong death drive (amounts to the same thing, I suppose), who plays guinea pig in a macabre experiment to help doctors find a cure for a virus that's particularly dangerous to Korean men. He's the only one to survive the voluntary infection, due to a  transfusion using vampire blood. The catch is that he now needs to feed on normal human blood to keep from sweating his own and breaking out in disfiguring boils. Initially, he's racked by guilt over his bodily urges, which leads to his sucking on a comatose patient's IV and a fellow priest, Noh, who has a more sanguine attitude about the vampire virus. Sang-hyeon sees vampirism as a loss of humanity, whereas Noh sees it as a gift, and a potential cure for his blindness. Due to his miracle cure, the vampire picks up a religious following of Catholics who see him as another messiah, parallel to that other popular tale of transfiguration. Is he a vampire who walks like a man, or man who acts like a vampire?

buffy angel kiss  twilight isabella edward

Despite the similarities, Thirst doesn't belong to the "vegetarian" vampirism that Buffy made popular and can now be seen in Twilight. It was easy to sympathize with Buffy's beau, because when Angel did evil deeds, it was as the soulless Angelus, who constituted a separate identity (even if the two entities shared the same body and memories, they certainly had no control over what the other did). There's no identity switcheroo in Twilight, but the good vampire Edward is able to survive on animal blood (see 'carouche'). Angel was capable of that, too, having lived on rats for many years after regaining his soul. Furthermore, the two diegeses share a supernaturally enforced Victorian restraint, since the vampires get real thirsty for their lovers when sex is involved. Taking blood and sex out of the equation pretty much makes hash out of vampires, since they're reduced to a more pathetic version of us, but with superpowers. Instead, Park's film is closer in its themes to another vampire show that sometimes gets lumped into the vegetarian subgenre, True Blood.

true blood bill sookie thirst sang hyeon

Maybe because it's on HBO or because it's not written by a Mormon, but True Blood manages to defang the mythology without violating it (although the hamfisted erotic dialog comes close). Here vampires keep their sanguinary sexual desires, are responsible for previous slaughters, and have to choose to live off of synthetic human blood (like only shopping the frozen food aisle). Making a somewhat analogous case to Peter Singer's animal rights argument, Southern gentleman/-vampire Bill Compton has come to view humans as deserving of the same rights as his own kind, since we're capable of the same feelings as he, if not moreso. Whereas True Blood's moral questioning is basically utilitarian, Thirst's is faith-based. The divine image has been transmogrified into a distorted mirror, so is Sang-hyeon still obligated to God's favored creature? If the vampire is nothing more than pure carnality, then its moral status is that of all the other animals not given the lead in the story of Eden. Scorpions aren't being immoral when they strike.

thirst tae-joo kang-woo

Thirst's vampiric version of the 19th century nihilist is Tae-joo, an orphaned girl who came under the care of the domineering Lady Ra and her spoiled, sickly boy, Kang-woo. Rather than being raised as the boy's adopted sister, Tae-joo became his caretaker and wife. Sang-hyeon was a childhood friend to the family and, post-transformation, meets up with them again when Ra comes begging for a miracle to cure her son. Between games of mah-jongg with the family and friends, the priest and the wife begin to slip away for bouts of hedonism that's erotic in a way the metalhead couple making out in a mall could appreciate. Based on how she grew up, Tae-joo doesn't see much that's special in humanity, so wants nothing more than to leave it all behind by being turned. After a series of sinful events, including the plan to kill Kang-woo, Sang-hyeon grants her the salvation she desires. That's when he discovers that some vampires are more Darwinian than others. She's pure survival-of-the-fittest with nothing filling up the hole of faith. Humans are reduced to the status of actors -- that is, cattle -- and she's the only director that matters. Feeling himself drawn to the abyss, with his monstrous status of being nothing but an animal, only with the ungodly power to upset the divine heirarchy, Sang-hyeon can see no other moral choice than self-immolation -- and, thus, the movie's central conflict. Obviously, the couple hasn't read much utilitarianism or other atheistic moral philosophies. They might've discovered with Bill that there's more of a connection to humanity than the forced choice between nihilism and theistic middle-management allows.

August 16, 2009

Posted by phil blankenship, August 16, 2009 09:35pm | Post a Comment
Bruno movie ticket stub Fairfax Cinemas




District 9 Movie Review

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 16, 2009 08:53pm | Post a Comment


I will admit, I was very wary of seeing District 9 for a variety of reasons. For one, my exposure to South African films had led me to the conclusion that the South African film industry is the worst in Africa. Armed with relatively large budgets, South African films seemed technically solid but at best, soulless and at worst, odious. On a continent where countries like Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali make amazing, artistic and entertaining films with a uniquely African voice, why would I want to see another glossy piece of crap from what seems like an ersatz Hollywood? Critical Assignment was one long and comically awful Guinness ad, Boesman and Lena an unwatchable minstrel show, Stander stultifying bland, Wooden Camera a ponderous examination of racial politics, and The Gods Must Be Crazy (I & II) ponderously racist. When Tsotsi was praised by the Academy, I wrote it off without giving it a chance. Only Richard Stanley's Hardware and Dust Devil did much for me. Also, I find South African accents (and all non-rhotic accents) rather unpleasant.

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LEMME GUESS: "I'M A CLIENT"

Posted by Charles Reece, August 16, 2009 09:34am | Post a Comment
The trailer for Martin Scorsese's new film reminds me of the "twist" contained in the one for Sixth Sense:


I hope he's just leading those of us who see too many movies down the garden path, but Goodfellas was a long time ago. Still, I can watch Mark Ruffalo in just about anything; he's the cat's pajamas!

mark ruffalo

REST IN POWER MIKE DREAM FRANCISCO - 40th BIRTHDAY

Posted by Billyjam, August 15, 2009 03:55pm | Post a Comment
Mike "DREAM" Francisco 1993 interview @ No Justice, No Peace art opening

Exactly forty years ago today, August 15th 1969, Mike "DREAM" Francisco was born. But instead of what should have been a landmark birthday celebration today, this August 15th is just another sad reminder to those loved ones and friends and fans of the late, great Bay Area graffiti artist of how Mike "DREAM" Francisco's life was prematurely, senselessly halted nine years ago. On February 17th, 2000 on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, DREAM was gunned down and killed, the victim of a random street robbery.  Mike DREAM Francisco

Not only was DREAM (or "King Dream," as he is referred to by many) a gifted and prolific artist, with a passion for hip-hop -- having collaborated with countless hip-hoppers, including Hobo Junction over the years -- but he was also a most outspoken individual, one concerned about his community, and one never afraid to speak out against the ills of society.

Had DREAM been allowed to live today, you can bet he would have been at the front of the protests against the murder of Oscar Grant by BART police earlier this year. In fact, in 1993 he was one of the featured artists in the anti police brutality show No Justice, No Peace at downtown Oakland's Pro Arts Gallery. Above is a rare interview with DREAM at the opening of that show by A Debonair Affair's Melinda Bell which, despite the poor audio quality, gives you a great insight into the kind of person DREAM was: down-to-earth, fun, & witty, but also most passionate about his beliefs. I first met DREAM around 1990 and was instantly struck by what a genuinely good spirited and generous person he was, always upbeat and interested in what others had to say. But what is perhaps most profound about the DREAM interview above is how he defines what "reality" means to some people, like himself, as  "to brothers like us reality is watching people die on the streets everyday!"

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