Chan-wook Park’s Cut opens up on a vampiress with long black hair and flowing robes sucking on the neck of her unfortunate victim, who is f...

Chan-wook Park Cuts to the Quick

Chan-wook Park’s Cut opens up on a vampiress with long black hair and flowing robes sucking on the neck of her unfortunate victim, who is frozen in place. Finishing her meal, she answers her cell phone and is suddenly ill. With a flourish, she throws up her dinner in a splash of red while the camera retreats behind the crew to focus on the director as he watches the events with his production team on a remote monitor.

This tricky camera movie reveals that the vampire film is just the first layer of a short film concerned with celluloid illusion and gut wrenching reality. After seeing Chan Wook-Park’s latest film Thirst, I was primed for a vampire tale, but got something much better instead. The opening scene is merely a distraction and the real horror comes after the director yells “cut!”

Byung-hun Lee, of recent GI Joe fame plays a premier director who is kidnapped along with his wife by a psychotic extra. Said extra has snapped with the realization that his director idol has it all when he never will. As punishment for this injustice, the extra has decided to cut off the pianist wife’s fingers unless her husband throttles a young girl tied to a couch nearby.
Faced with this dilemma the director spills his guts and confesses he is not “a good [a] man” as the deranged extra claims. He’s been having an affair with a costume girl for most of his career and he hates his wife, a “botox junkie” who’s sleeping with a tenor she plays for. But the director’s self sacrificing attitude only further infuriates the extra because it proves he is a good man, and the extra continues to slice off digits.
Park’s short emerges as a black comedy, as can be seen in a chilling moment when the obsessed extra performs a dance routine from one of the director’s films. His joyful leaps and upbeat singing bring an absurdly comic tension to the entire scene and the audience is on edge, not knowing what he’ll do next. What he does next is plop the wife’s fingers into a blender and hit “puree”

Park skillfully plays around with the idea of fantasy versus reality in this short. The set where the psycho extra holds the director and his wife and where the film is being shot is an exact replica of the director’s affluent house. Likewise, the opening scene of the vampiress throwing up her expired blood meal is echoed by the director’s wife, after she tears the extra’s throat out with her teeth.
It seems for Park there a fine line between reality and the fantasy the director has constructed on screen. This tenuous barrier inevitably collapses when the director strangles his wife in fit of madness (or realization), just as the extra confessed to strangling his own wife right down to the detail of the grotesque hanging tongue. The overall effect is chilling and can be summed up by the dying extra, who continues to ask the director “how it looks” even as he bleeds out on the tiled floor.

Up Next: Takashi Miike's Box

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