"Oldboy" director brings new-look vampire to Cannes

SEOUL Tue May 12, 2009 7:47am EDT

SEOUL (Reuters) - The South Korean director who won the Grand Prix at Cannes for "Oldboy," a film that gave revenge a fresh and disturbing twist, returns to the festival with a movie that puts another Hollywood staple, vampires, in a new light.

Park Chan-wook sees his movie "Thirst," about a Catholic priest turned vampire and which will be in competition at Cannes when it opens this week, as a morality tale.

"I wanted to make audiences more conscious of the moral aspects of choices, whether large or small, by presenting a once-in-a-lifetime, life-or-death decision and exaggerating it to the extremes," Park said told Reuters in an interview.

"Many of South Korea's modern films do not dodge, but squarely confront, moral questions that other films in other countries tend to see as anachronistic."

Park, known for films that question human nature through scenes of shocking violence and dark humor, presents a blood-drenched thriller in "Thirst," which opened in South Korea this month to critical acclaim and strong box office receipts.

The movie, called "Bakjwi" in Korean, stars veteran actor Song Kang-ho as the priest who becomes a vampire during a medical experiment and who is then seduced by a bored housewife bent on murder, played by rising star Kim Ok-vin.

"I thought I could add some changes to this old genre by approaching the subject -- vampire-ism, so to speak -- without the usual mystery or romanticism but from a realistic perspective where being a vampire is sort of a disease," Park said.

The movie will be the first Park has entered in competition at Cannes since "Oldboy" in 2004. He will be up against movies including World War Two drama "Inglourious Basterds" from director Quentin Tarantino, who championed Park five years ago.

After "Oldboy," Park finished his revenge trilogy with "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance" and then made the offbeat movie "I'm a Cyborg but That's OK."

"I felt exhausted and a bit devastated after the trilogy, which is why I made a 'cute' film. 'Thirst' marks a new start for me," he said.

"Thirst" was the first Korean film to receive production funding and a distribution deal from Hollywood studios with Universal Pictures and Focus Features investing in the project in a vote of confidence for Park, U.S. entertainment trade publication Variety reported.

Industry trade paper Hollywood Reporter also said that "Oldboy" is heading for a Hollywood remake with Steven Spielberg's Dreamworks studio likely to take the lead in production and Will Smith being floated as the possible star.

"Whoever makes the film, I would like it to turn out as a completely new movie," Park said when asked about the remake.

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)