I don't know if it's just me, but the 2009 slate of foreign language films was incredibly weak, wasn't it? Oh sure, there were plenty of well-loved films from countries far and wide, but with fewer and fewer getting a release it seems like this "genre" (if you want to call it that) was all but a dry well this past year. I saw far less foreign language films from 2009 than I have in years past, and many of those that I did see were disappointing (Coco avant Chanel, still the highest grossing foreign language film at the US box office for 2009) or good-but-not-great (The White Ribbon, to be released in May this year).
Of course, A Prophet has allowed 2010 to start off strong but other buzzy festival titles from 2009 such as The Maid (seen by me at MIFF09, it's quality, but so far unreleased), The Milk of Sorrow (as yet no word on a release, despite it's Oscar nomination), Police, Adjective (no word on a release) and a good 95% of the rest of the Academy Award submission list all seem to be taking the incredibly slow path to a direct-to-DVD release. Not that there's anything wrong with that these days as anyone who has seen Joachim Trier's Reprise can attest to.
Nevertheless, I did manage to see Chan-wook Park's Thirst earlier this week. I have only seen two Park films and one of them ranks very highly (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) and the other ranks very, very low (Oldboy) so I wasn't sure what to expect from this very arty take on the vampire tale. Thankfully it was closer to the former and not the latter as I ended up enjoying Thirst very much. I liked how it became a completely different movie in the final 40 minutes. I loved the three lead performances by Kang-ho Song, Ok-bin Kim and Hae-sook Kim (apologies if I have typed their names incorrectly, but I am merely going by what IMDb tells me). I loved how Chung-hoon Chung's camera is always moving or investigating something, whether it be a lump on a vampire's face or a wrinkle on a mother's face. I liked how Young-ook Cho's score was always taking me by surprise, throwing in an assortment of instruments and arrangements that I didn't expect from an Asian vampire film.
Overall it is just a wonderful film. Sure, there is so much going on there in the background - and, let's face it, the foreground too - that my simple brain can't possibly comprehend, but it is a slickly made and thought-provoking film. B+
Now, if only we could finally get a release of some kind for Joon-ho Bong's Mother, or Scandar Copti & Yaron Shani's Ajami, or Paolo Sorrentino's Il Divo or...