My second domestically available Blu-ray commentary is for the 10th anniversary release of Park Chan-wook’s Thirst, one of the most original modern vampire tales. It focuses on a priest stricken with a vampiric virus that keeps him young, and it chronicles his attempts to free a beautiful younger paramour from her loveless marriage dominated by a stern, alcoholic mother-in-law. It takes the concept of the tragic-romantic French novel and play Therese Raquin by French author Émile Zola and offers a more supernatural twist on it with some additional narrative elements.
Although his Vengeance trilogy, particularly the violent and squirm-inducing Oldboy, shone a strong spotlight on Chan-wook and his work, Thirst definitely made an international splash and solidified his reputation as an important director. He would then go on to make the eerie Stoker, starring Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, and Matthew Goode, for Fox Searchlight.
As with The Andromeda Strain, I received some nice praise for my commentary work. Thirst review quotes are excerpted below with links in the logos to the original sources.
“The only extra comes in a newly-recorded Audio Commentary By Entertainment Journalist and Author Bryan Reesman … and it’s pretty awesome. The balance between being scholarly and fun to listen to is really, really tough to hit in these things, but Mr. Reesman has done an exquisite job in his rhythm here, seeming as if he knows what cultural or cinematic elements those watching might actually really want to know about. An early example: he begins discussing the nature of Christianity among Koreans, then quickly and meaningfully shifts gears into Park Chan-wook’s ability to let the audience do their own thinking in how they figure out where the Catholic priest has traveled. He chats about the previous projects of both the director and lead actor Song Kang-ho (mentioning Bong Joon-ho a bit), and while he certainly seems prepared, he maintains a great conversational rhythm that doesn’t in the slightest, seem overly calculated. Great work.”
“The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary track from journalist Bryan Reesman that proves to be quite interesting. He speaks about how the film came at the tail end of the ‘peak of Asian horror,’ when loads of Korean and Japanese horror pictures were making their way to western shores. He then speaks about CJ Entertainment’s business model, how Thirst actually got investment from Hollywood’s Focus Features, the film’s international distribution and box office success, the nobility of Kang-ho Song’s character and the state of Christianity (and Catholicism specifically) in Korea to this day. He also speaks to the director’s penchant for not giving the audience all of the answers, the French novel that inspired the film, the quality of the cinematography featured in the film and how it adds to certain qualities of the story, the digital effects and wirework used in the picture, the way that abuse is portrayed in the film, other pictures that the cast and crew have been involved with, how it’s odd to provide commentary over a sex scene!, the way that the characters feed off of blood or sex, how characters shift blame during the course of the plot, the importance of the age difference between the two core characters and what that brings to the story and quite a bit more. It’s a pretty insightful talk, focusing less on facts and trivia and more on the themes that the picture deals with and how it uses those themes and ideas to create a genuinely fascinating movie.”
“In this commentary, journalist and author Bryan Reesman shares plenty of interesting information about the production of Thirst and its themes, the evolution of Park Chan-wook’s work, and contemporary Korean cinema. There is even good information about Korean label CJ Entertainment and its domestic and international business. The commentary was recorded exclusively for Kino Lorber.”
“Although the special features are very slim, I think the excellent audio commentary by entertainment journalist and author Bryan Reesman definitely makes up for that. He goes into really incredible detail about Chan-wook himself; his films; the actors and their careers, as well as the amazing cinematography by Chung Chung-hoon, and the technical mastery used in the film. It’s a must listen!”
“While there may not be much by way of special features on this new Blu-ray, there’s a delightful audio commentary with author Bryan Reesman that’s worth a listen. Reesman clearly is very interested in Park Chan-wook’s interest in using the genre to study class concerns in Korea, and it’s a pleasure to listen to a voice that clearly cares very deeply about ‘Thirst.'”
“The writer does a good job breaking down the various themes of the film while also dropping insights as to the production, Park’s filmography, and Korean cinema in general. A well researched and revealing commentary.”
“The main attraction here is an all new commentary by New-York based journalist and author, Bryan Reesman. Reesman opens up by talking about this film within the context of what he refers to as the new-wave of Asian Horror. ‘Thirst’ came in on the tail end of this wave of films, and Reesman wrote a piece for MovieMaker magazine on this trend in 2005. The author is clearly well-versed in the genre and while going into specifics at times, the track is anything but dry. Well worth a listen for fans of the film, or Chan-wook Park in particular.”
“The Blu-ray for Thirst contains a commentary by journalist and author Bryan Reesman which provides an enlightening cultural background…”
“Reesman’s commentary is entertaining and enlightening at points…”
I also received these fans note via Twitter:
@BryanReesman really enjoying your commentary track on THIRST. interestingly, the Korean title really is translated as "the bat", but i agree 'Thirst' is a better title. but both suggest impulses that in an animal might be excused…
— Lucas Smith (@LSMITHCINE) June 23, 2019
@BryanReesman loved your commentary on Thirst (2009)! At the time when commentaries are dying, really glad some still do them. Have you done any others? If not, hope you will. Great stuff man!
— Dean Cassady (@Deanysus) August 15, 2019