Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
"My sins are too great and too deep,” says Geum-ja, the title character, a ferally beautiful ex-con (Lee Yeong-ae) out to exact revenge . . . but on whom, and for what? Initially, director Park Chanwook, completing the trilogy begun with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy, leads us to think of Geum-ja as one bad, if disconcertingly alluring, woman convicted of kidnapping and killing a 6-year-old boy. As the film proceeds—via flashbacks that show how Lady Vengeance befriended inmates who, once freed, help her—the movie becomes even more intense and emotionally satisfying.
The President’s Last Bang
October 3 and 4
Director Im Sang-soo takes the 1979 assassination of South Korean dictator General Park Chung-hee and turns it into an often wildly funny whirlwind of anarchy, violence, and sex. That is, funny whenever it’s not politically incisive. The movie takes place almost entirely during one night in the president’s palatial digs, when bumbling revolutionaries bump up against Park’s bumbling inner circle; the would-be killers’ plan is as (literally) scattershot as the panicked response of Park’s military inner circle. The title of the movie is a sexual pun—though there is no reason to pity the women hired to pleasure this president, since they know better than anyone that prostitution exists in many forms. Last Bang is an audacious piece of analysis, both bitter and gleeful.
Tristram Shandy: A Cock
and Bull Story
October 7 and 8
Steve Coogan, familiar from director Michael Winterbottom’s fab 24 Hour Party People and BBC America’s talk-show spoof I’m Alan Partridge, brings his distinctively British persona—stupid condescension—to this Winterbottom movie about a production of Tristram Shandy. Laurence Sterne’s eighteenth-century novel is described here as “postmodern before there was even a modern.” Cock and Bull goes it one better: It’s a post-postmodern comedy about Coogan’s attempts to stretch himself as an actor by doing a classy period piece. We see bits of the Shandy filming but more of Coogan’s jockeying for increased screen time, rejecting bad scripts from his agent, and trying to fend off a sex scandal. All this plus a glowingly game Gillian Anderson. As meta-comedy goes, a genuine find.
A thriller all the more thrilling for its assiduously languid pace and hushed tone, Caché concerns a series of threats a French TV host (Daniel Auteuil) receives—scrawled, childlike drawings with slashes of bloodlike red; unnerving videotapes of the outside of the man’s house. These intrusions understandably freak out his wife, played by Juliette Binoche, who also fears for the safety of their teen son (Lester Makedonsky). Auteuil—perfect as a morose sap—believes the threats are the work of someone he knew as a young boy. There’s an act of abrupt violence midway through that makes audiences scream and jump, but otherwise, writer-director Michael Haneke maintains such a tight rein on our emotions that we sit spellbound, stunned by our own helplessness in the face of such a disturbing story.