Welcome back to our appointment with In the mood for East: today in the column dedicated to oriental cinema we will tackle the theme of revenge
This Monday, come on In the mood East, we will make a small variation on the theme. We will not face a single film as we usually do, but ten (and maybe a few more!). Because today we will offer you an overview of oriental cinema along the road of revenge.
Revenge: a very low but strongly seductive desire, in each of us and in the collective imagination. A feeling that can be expressed in many ways, and on which cinema has always built its most compelling, passionate and painful stories. The oriental cinema, above all, he managed to deal with it in the most disparate ways. In contemporary cinema in particular there has been a rediscovery and an ever growing interest in cruel stories of revenge. A theme that allows you to embrace the human soul in its most subtle and complex facets. And that allows you to intersect a multitude of other sub-themes: justice, honor, family, loyalty.
We can continue for a long time, but as always it is better to let the cinema do the talking. So here it is our ranking of the best oriental films dedicated to the theme of revenge.
Ranking | Revenge in oriental cinema
10 – Be my guest, Park Soo-young (2009)
Let’s start our ranking with Be my guest, a hilarious and bloody horror comedy which will prove to be more than just a guilty pleasure for us viewers. The protagonist of this sort of slasher is a Korean family who goes on a nice holiday in their mountain estate. As in the best horror lore, things are not going to go in the best way. The head of the family in fact has something to be forgiven, and we will not be long in discovering why. The beautiful setting goes beautifully with a violence over the top and a very black humor that will surely keep you glued to the screen, displacing you with this curious mix of different registers.
9 – Night in Paradise, Park Hoon-jung (2020)
Among the very recent proposals of oriental cinema it deserves a mention Night in Paradise, a dark and melancholy noir in which the fights between criminal organizations are the background to a particular encounter. A boy and a girl have already lost everything in their life: the only certain thing left is death. The revenge perpetuated by the various criminal gangs is configured as a “simple” settling of scores, necessary in the criminal code. The revenge of the two young men instead becomes the desperate revenge of those who have nothing more to lose. Halfway between melodrama and gangster movie, Night in Paradise will amaze you with its harshness and melancholy poetics, which harks back to the masterpieces of a master like Takeshi Kitano.
8 – Pietà, Kim Ki-duk (2012)
The recently deceased South Korean master Kim ki-duk he left us many complex works and, to put it mildly, not very accommodating. The Golden Lion at the 69th Venice International Film Festival, Pity, is one of them. A cruel story of love and revenge set in the South Korean suburbs. The protagonist works on behalf of a usurer, physically retaliating against the debtors. Until he meets a woman who claims to be his mother, regretting having abandoned him and made him grow up without love. The incredible pain he caused his victims turns against him, in a heartbreaking and hopeless ending. From executioner to victim, the man begins to feel that pity he has never known in his life, leaving his side uncovered to an inexorable revenge.
7 – The man from nowhere, Lee Jeong-beom (2010)
Another thriller tesissimo for the seventh position in the ranking. The South Korean (and yes, once again Korea …) The man from nowhere has its fulcrum in the relationship (which is very reminiscent of Luc Besson’s Léon) between a man, employed in a pawn shop, and a child without parental figures. The adrenaline-pumping action typical of Asian noir is combined with a depth that is often lacking in the counterparts in Hong Kong. The interpretation of the two protagonists is a further valid reason not to miss this one gloomy product Korean, that will satisfy all palates, from the most refined to lovers of pure action.
6 – Lady Snowblood, Toshiya Fujita (1973)
Among the sources of inspiration for the first chapter of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Lady Snowblood it’s a charming portrait of all-female revenge. Based on the manga of the same name by Kazuo Koike, the Japanese feature film tells the story of Yuki, the “child of the underworld” born for revenge. Her mother dies giving birth to her in prison, while her father was killed a year earlier by four thugs. Once grown, the woman sets out on the trail of the culprits to carry out her revenge. The famous scene of the fight between Beatrix Kiddo and O-Ren Ishii in the snowy garden is clearly inspired by this splendid film, in which shape, style and feeling match perfectly.
5 – The bad guys sleep in peace, Akira Kurosawa (1960)
Akira Kurosawa it is one of those names that inspire fear. Its value is indisputable, and its The bad guys sleep in peace, despite not having received enthusiastic reviews from critics, it enters this ranking by right. The protagonist (the fetish actor Toshirô Mifune) yearns for his revenge against the company guilty of having fired and reduced his father to the streets, then driven to suicide. After being appointed executive and marrying the boss’s daughter, his goal seems almost accomplished. But man himself becomes the victim of too big a game to be able to escape unscathed. A lucid analysis of the corruption and power games inherent in society, certainly not only the Japanese one.
4 – I saw the devil, Kim Jee-woon (2010)
Kim Jee-woon it’s an unmissable name if we talk about contemporary Korean cinema. The virtuoso director manages to range between genres (horror, thriller, western …) always maintaining a personal style and experimenting skillfully through the cinematographic medium. The theme of revenge is very dear to him, and with I saw the devil probably reaches the pinnacle of his career. Violence and suspense are at the service of a deep desire, resulting from the loss of a loved one by a secret service agent. A desire that is not extinguished in the fulfillment of the deed, but in that perverse game of the “mouse hunt”. Heinous and brutal, with the usual gigantic Choi Min-sik (protagonist of Old boy), I saw the devil will be able to leave you breathless.
3 – Up on, for the Second Time Virgin, Kōji Wakamatsu (1969)
Don’t be fooled by the title: Come on, virgin for the second time is one of the masterpieces of the Japanese master Kōji Wakamatsu. The pinku eiga genre (a kind of erotic that includes any kind of female nudity) takes a big step forward by outlining the heartbreaking story of two young people who find no reason to be in the world, destroyed by the violence that prevails in their society. The wickedness of the world has now devastated the two innocents, and not even revenge will be able to give an iota of relief to these lost souls. Only death can save an existence now so deeply marked by suffering. Curiosity: in the gang of young rapists you can catch a glimpse of a young Takeshi Kitano!
2 – Audition, Takashi Miike (1999)
One of the most atypical filmmakers on the Japanese scene is undoubtedly Takashi Miike. Prolific, excessive, in the course of his career he has really directed everything: from costume films to the most bloody horror, from Yattaman to the cyberpunk yakuza. In this ranking it is necessary to include the unsettling Audition, a destructive parable in which the encounter between two solitudes will lead to a sadistic and grotesque ending in which – once again – the victim in search of revenge becomes the executioner. With one of the most memorable torture scenes in the history of cinema, the protagonist’s revenge stands out cruel almost like a feminist anthem. Because after all “words generate lies, only in pain can one believe”.
1 – Trilogy of Revenge, Park Chan-wook
At the top of the ranking not one, but three films! It was only right to finish this list of (splendid) titles with the man who built an unmissable triptych on revenge. With Mr. Vendetta (2002), Old boy (2003) e Lady Vendetta (2005), the South Korean Park Chan-wook manages to present the theme from three extremely different points of view, without ever repeating itself or being taken for granted. Park starts with Mr. Vendetta, his most cruel and violent work, adopting a less elaborate style than usual to leave room for a story of suffering and pain. With Old Boy he conquers everyone: a double revenge shot masterfully and with the right amount of action, which can thrill even those who are not particularly accustomed to Asian cinema. Lady Vendetta instead sets her gaze on a female character, privileging her story of revenge but also her desire for atonement. Three films of the highest level which show us that oriental cinema, for twenty years now, is more alive than ever.
Our revenge themed ranking in oriental cinema ends here. There would be many other films to mention (and probably tomorrow the ranking would change…), but this is only the beginning. What do you think? Let us know in the comments and keep following in ours specials on cinema and TV series on this page, with new appointments every week!