April 19, 2007


Oldboy / Cho Seung-Hui "So, the New York Times has identified the guilty party, and it's Park Chanwook." Dave Kehr's terse comment: "Ridiculous, as well as faintly racist."

"And if you want to argue that this violent film provoked this disturbed young man to commit this atrocity, you should be prepared to explain why all those who saw Oldboy, and The Matrix, and Saw, didn't do the same," adds Time's Richard Corliss.

"I really didn't like Oldboy," writes Robert Cashill, "but can better see what Park was driving at regarding love with the other two films [in the 'revenge trilogy']. Alas, the shooter does not seem to seen the forest for Park's trees." And: "In the spirit of inquiry, and to shed a little light on the subject for anyone unfamiliar with the films, I've decided to post a discarded draft of an article I wrote for last summer's Cineaste." The first question in the interview: "Some audiences find it difficult to look past the violence of your films. Is your main intent to shock and provoke?"

Updated through 4/23.

On a related note, Chuck Olsen: "Cho was not a vlogger."

Update: Mike Nizza, the NYT blogger who got all this going in the first place, steps back: "With Mr Cho expressing so many other reasons for his shooting spree, it is hardly time to start blaming movies."

Updates, 4/20: Well, for Gerald Kaufman, opining in the Telegraph, there's no question - Cho was "directly inspired by a recent South Korean splatter movie, Oldboy," and the MP feels it's high time to revoke "the apparent God-given right of every film-maker to depict what was described in the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange as 'lashings of the old ultra-violence.' In fact, the so-called ultra-violence in that movie, though deeply unsettling, was as nothing compared to the sanguinary content of Oldboy or of the John Woo murder movie Face/Off, which Cho seems also to have seen and, Heaven help us, been inspired by."

"A Virginia Tech professor, Paul Harrill, alerted us of the similarity between images," wrote the NYT's Mike Nizza in the blog post that set off the storm. The Paul Harrill who writes Self-Reliant Filmmaking came to mind, but I had no idea he was one and the same. Now he's posted a "Last Word on the Subject": "Let me be clear: My comparison of these two images was not meant to suggest in ANY way that movies, any movie, 'made him do it.' Likewise, my comparison of these two images is IN NO WAY an attempt to make ANY generalizations based on racial, nationalistic, or any other sorts of lines.... My point in all of this, however misguided the effort, was to initiate a conversation about what Jill Godmilow calls 'the pornography of the real' - in this case, news outlets using a mass murderer's fantasies as sick spectacle and - let us never forget - as a source of revenue."

Grady Hendrix at Slate: "In the end, Oldboy bears no more responsibility for the Virginia Tech shootings than American Idol, but it's fortunate that it has come up. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter a few years ago, Oldboy's director Park said, 'My films are the stories of people who place the blame for their actions on others because they refuse to take on the blame themselves.' And that's one of the smartest things that anyone's said so far about the motives of Cho Seung-Hui."

Update, 4/21: "One of the most jolting moments at this year's Sundance Film Festival came in the closing sequence of a movie called Dark Matter: A disaffected Asian college student abruptly snaps and goes on a bloody rampage, killing professors, classmates and, finally, himself. The audience was plainly shocked, and some critics attacked the finale as a jarring gimmick that, narratively, came out of nowhere." Jeff Goldsmith reports in the Los Angeles Times: "At the close of Sundance, film distributors seemed unsure what to do with such a bleak film, and it was uncertain whether it would be released theatrically or go straight to DVD. Now the film is getting interest again as a theatrical release."

Update, 4/23: "We have been here before," writes AO Scott in the NYT. "The extreme, inexplicable actions of a tiny number of profoundly alienated, mentally disturbed young men have a way of turning attention toward the cultural interests they share with countless others who would never dream - or who would only dream - of committing acts of homicidal violence." He then goes on to address the outlandishly absurd piece Stephen Hunter dribbled onto the pages of the Washington Post last week.

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Posted by dwhudson at April 19, 2007 2:34 PM


When I saw that picture, I didn't think of Oldboy, but I did think of a good old boy! Let's blame everything!

Posted by: Jerry Lentz at April 19, 2007 6:15 PM

This is crap.

Everybody needs to put down their pointy fingers and accept that bad shit happens and some people are just wired wrong.

It doesn't make anyone feel better, but that's the truth.

And OldBoy is an excellent movie. I have seen it several times and I still know that hammers are for hammering nails and not pulling out teeth.

Posted by: Piper at April 19, 2007 6:29 PM

Oldboy looks like he's going to hit somebody else. Cho looks like he's going to hit himself.

Posted by: at April 20, 2007 12:08 PM