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OLDBOY (R) (2003)

Tartan Films

Official Site

Director: Park Chanwook

Producer: Kim Dong-joo

Written by: Hwang Jo-yun, Lim Joon-hyung, Park Chanwook

Cast: Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ji-tae, Gang Hye-jung


As an egotistical, megalomaniacal, self-idolizing writer it is important for me, naturally, to generate as much material as is humanly possible so that when I die in about 20 years, penniless, alcohol-dependent, reeking of my own feces as well as the feces of other people, my work can retroactively be appreciated, heralded as tragically influential, and sought after by collectors, pederasts, and young lovers, alike. Sometimes, however, I feel as though the words of other writers reach a peak unattainable by me at my current skill level; a peak that would cause both the literal and metaphorical bursting of my lungs, abandonment of my senses, and shattering of every calcium-deprived bone in my unflinchingly effeminate academic’s body should I attempt an ascent toward it. Providentially, in the days following my viewing of Oldboy and preceding the writing of this review, I happened across a review of the same film in the May 2005 issue of Incest Monthly—a publication I have enjoyed since my early teens—that I wish to replicate here as a substitute for my own clumsy words which would only flail and grasp, then grasp and flail. Without further delay, I give you the gift of critical masterwork courtesy of Incest Monthly associate editor Dr. Flagstaff Parsons XVI, a good friend of mine who, incidentally, plays the zither like an unrepentant bastard:

Oldboy, You’re a Man Now

By Dr. Flagstaff Parsons XVI, MD, MA, MBA, MFA, PhD

As a practicing doctor of medicine I am often asked, “Doctor, what do you recommend to cure such and such an ailment?”

In the past, my answers have usually involved the synthesis of medicine and incest on some level (although the two subjects are irrevocably related in my mind and should be in all other minds, as well; obviously, I need not tell you that, loyal reader, for why else would you be reading the most recent issue of Incest Monthly—The Incest Enthusiast’s Magazine?). And I would say, often, “I recommend both an injection of penicillin directly into the pupil of your eye or a month-long incest bender involving the Bahamas, yourself, and the most elderly member of your family who can still breathe without the use of an artificial respirator.”

Now, however, I will say, “I recommend an injection of oatmeal directly into your appendix, a year-long incest bender involving the glaciers of Alaska, yourself, the youngest member of your family able to ride a bicycle without the use of training wheels, and the viewing of Park Chanwook’s Oldboy.

The radical metamorphosis of my prescription will undoubtedly come as a shock to my longtime patients and readers, but, to put it simply so that even the most illiterate, holier-than-thou anti-incest advocate can understand, Oldboy is as synonymous with the rejuvenating powers of incest as the word incest is with incest itself.

Before I forge ahead like a 200-foot colossus composed of orichalcum, the legendary metal indigenous to Atlantis alone, I must issue a SPOILER WARNING to all readers with weak wills and heart conditions like angina. It is impossible to discuss Oldboy’s importance to all true incest enthusiasts without divulging some of its secrets. To qualify my ability to tactfully reveal information about things that I should not reveal, I would like all new readers to know that I hold a PhD in Gunsmithing from the University of Phoenicia Online. So rest assured, because I am an educated and nurturing man with discretion in my heart and the desire to commit incest rushing like blood through my improbably-winding veins.

The story of Oldboy concerns a gregarious and portly loudmouth befuddlingly named Dae-su Oh (Min-sik). Apparently, the story takes place in Korea and was filmed in Korea, which threw me for a loop because, even though I am a worldly man who has visited over 900 land masses, including the supercontinent Gondwanaland (only in my dreams, but it still counts), I was unaware that countries outside of the United States possessed the technological means to make films. Regardless, Dae-su is mysteriously imprisoned on his way home from a bar one evening, and is held captive in a room no bigger than approximately the square root of one one-hundredth of a fraction of the hall closet in my stately Wyoming estate, for 15 years. (It is important to note that during these 15 years Dae-su is frustratingly not subjected to incest in any way, which made me jump to the initial conclusion that this film was a dud).

Dae-su is then abruptly released into the outside world by his captors just as he is on the verge of escape, and he embarks upon an epic quest that culminates, as all epic quests do, with more incest than can be measured on the Richter scale (and I would know, since I also hold a PhD from The Seattle Conservatory of the Performing Arts and the Occult in Richter Scale Theory). On the road to salvational incest, Dae-su eats a live squid in the most well-staged comedic scene this side of Meg Ryan being obliterated by that logging truck in City Of Angels (a film which, to illustrate my understanding of Richter Scale Theory, received a zero on the Richter scale for incest). Dae-su also meets a girl who is probably around 18 (far too old for my esoteric palate), is named Mido (Hye-jung), and, after Dae-su runs into the bathroom to sexually force himself upon her while she is urinating, they fall in love. As a licensed sex therapist and the self-appointed marriage counselor of the stars, I can definitively state that that method works. Dae-su also receives belligerent telephone calls from a man named Lee Woo-jin (Ji-tae), who claims to be responsible for Dae-su’s incarceration. Woo-jin threatens to kill Mido if Dae-su cannot solve the riddle of their interconnected pasts. Dae-su swears vengeance on evil Woo-jin, but instead, as happens in life sometimes, only manages to engage in unknowing incest with his daughter, the hideously post-pubescent Mido.

In a plot twist revealed earlier in the film, Woo-jin and his sister as adolescents were involved in a torrid affair of consensual incest, an episode of which Dae-su spied from the shadows, though, curiously, did not masturbate to. The beauty of Oldboy exists in the numerous layers of incest which lay flat, one atop the other, like naked incest enthusiasts jovially partaking in one of Incest Monthly’s monthly Incest Enthusiast Orgy conventions, and combine to form the film’s exultant pro-incest agenda. Because I hold a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the El Paso Community College’s Special Institution for Those Who are Products of Generations’ Worth of Incest, my mind has been trained beyond razor-sharpness to interpret the themes prevalent in any work of fiction, filmed or otherwise. So absorb with flaccid awe, faithful reader and enthusiast of incest, as I explicate the true meaning of Oldboy: Incest is good. Both Dae-su and Woo-jin, incest enthusiasts themselves, reach transcendental heights of joyful wisdom after finally meeting and sharing their mutually life-affirming incest experiences. Dae-su, in realizing that the poetic words he uttered concerning the now incest-centric relationship between him and his daughter are more beautiful than any he could speak again, willingly cuts off his own tongue because he won’t need it any more. Moments later, Woo-jin reminisces wistfully about those youthful, carefree days of consequence-free incest between him and his sister, and accidentally inflicts a fatal gunshot wound to his head.

I have read and analyzed many other critics’ reactions to the climax of Oldboy, and am aware that my viewpoint is glaringly divergent from their far more pessimistic assessments of the aforementioned events. Some might argue, for instance, that the film’s central argument is that vengeance as a motivation for living is foolhardy. Or that effective communication is of paramount importance to a safe, happy, imprisonment-less life. Or that there is no argument, that Oldboy is chiefly an illogical dip into the wayward pools of noir-influenced mystery and excessive violence, which are surrounded by wondrous beaches of masterful technical proficiency and truly fearless acting. But I know better, loyal reader and fellow incest enthusiast—as do the creators of the film, as do you: Oldboy is a love letter to the institution of incest as a means to bring us together, and to set us free.

On doctor’s orders—see it with your family.

—Dr. Flagstaff Parsons XVI, MD, MA, MBA, MFA, PhD

I didn’t weep when I watched in paralytic helplessness as two women that I’d married, ten years apart, were both immolated and reduced to dust by ball lightning on the same evening in October, but I wept like a man who’s clubbed too many baby seals in his life after reading Dr. Parsons’ poignant review of Oldboy. In fact, I can feel new tears welling up in the corners of my ungodly lovely blue eyes. As you read this I will be lying curled in the fetal position, crying my statuesque head off, wondering if 15 years’ imprisonment wouldn’t be better than the life I now lead, the life without my dear sister Elsa, whose flaxen hair smoldered and was more exquisite than the composite dreams of all incest enthusiasts, everywhere.

—Nathan Baran

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