[That would be the critically acclaimed film in which Choi Min-sik and Will Oldham go camping, listen to Air America, reflect on a general national crisis of masculinity and the ensuing tension in homosocial relationships, and then symbolically devour live octopi.]
Reactions to the fervor over the photo in which Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho possibly references "Oldboy" continue to trickle out over the web and new outlets. Nikke Finke at Deadline Hollywood was one of the first to the plate, tossing up this knee-jerk response: "I just don’t understand how critics with even a shred of humanity keep supporting films that celebrate violence in all its awfulness. Makes me nauseous." Brilliant. Grady Hendrix at Slate launches a defense of Park Chan-wook‘s entire "Vengeance Trilogy" that concludes:
In the end, Oldboy bears no more responsibility for the Virginia Tech shootings than American Idol, but it’s fortunate that it has come up. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter a few years ago, Oldboy’s director Park said, "My films are the stories of people who place the blame for their actions on others because they refuse to take on the blame themselves." And that’s one of the smartest things that anyone’s said so far about the motives of Cho Seung-Hui.
Richard Corliss at Time adds "The Korean movie proposes that guilt, not vengeance, can be the spur to a man’s darkest deeds," while Stephen Hunter at the Washington Post puzzlingly proclaims that Cho’s influences were more Hong Kong than recent Korean:
In at least three regards, Cho’s activities so closely reflect the Woo oeuvre that it seems somewhat fair to conclude that in his last moments, before he blew his brains out, he was shooting a John Woo movie in his head.
To this, A.O. Scott at the New York Times dryly responds that "It is hard to say what all this proves, other than that Mr. Hunter has no peer when it comes to wielding the conditional tense on deadline." He goes on to write that "pious denunciations of movie violence can be expected to continue," but that all this talk is ultimately meaningless.
Millions of people meanwhile will continue to be entertained by spectacles of murder, indulging for a few hours in the visceral, amoral thrill of cinematic brutality and then going back to their peaceful, sane, non-threatening business. That we know the difference between reality and make-believe is evident in the shock and horror we feel when confronted with events like the one last Monday in Virginia.
Jeff Goldsmith at the LA Times has a story that struck us as borderline offensive in its unspoken connections â€” he reports that "Dark Matter," a film that debuted at Sundance this year and that’s based on a 1991 incident at the University of Iowa in which a Chinese foreign exchange student shot and killed six people (including himself) after being passed over for an academic prize, is now being reconsidered for theatrical distribution. The piece does make us wonder if this story has upped DVD sales of "Oldboy" (the film is currently #697 on Amazon, which is pretty high for a film that was released two years ago) and if a callous-minded someone in Hollywood is looking to jump-start that stalled-out American remake.
Distributor Tartan has issued a statement; meanwhile, at his blog Self-Reliant Filmmaking, Paul Harrill (who we were fortunate enough to serve on a panel with last month at SXSW), the Virginia Tech professor who first made the connection between photo and film and who’s taken needless shit because of it, writes:
Let me be clear: My comparison of these two images was not meant to suggest in ANY way that movies, any movie, â€œmade him do it.â€ Likewise, my comparison of these two images is IN NO WAY an attempt to make ANY generalizations based on racial, nationalistic, or any other sorts of lines.
The fact that the comparison of these two images has been co-opted in various ways is extraordinarily painful to me, particularly the accusations of racism. Anyone who knows me knows that this truly, truly breaks my heart. As if it werenâ€™t already broken.
+ Virginia Tech Murderer Mimicked Movie (Deadline Hollywood)
+ Violent Disagreement (Slate)
+ The Movie that Motivated Cho? (Time)
+ Cinematic Clues To Understand The Slaughter (Washington Post)
+ Drawing a Line From Movie to Murder (NY Times)
+ ‘Dark Matter’ message painfully sharpened by Virginia Tech tragedy (LA Times)
+ Movies/Oldboy Blamed For Virginia Massacre – Tartan Issues Statement (Freeze Dried Movies)
+ Last Word on the Subject (Self-Reliant Filmmaking)