Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nikki Finke Slurs Oldboy

Nikki Finke has written a piece that not only notes a possibly spurious link between the Virginia Tech shootings and Chan Wook park's Oldboy but also lays into the film pretty squarely and with little or no real basis for argument. here she goes:

...the pic received amazingly good and even great reviews from critics in the U.S. and around the world who (for reasons that escape me) loved its unsettling and terrifying tale of revenge told with relentless energy. Wrote Carina Chocano of the Los Angeles Times: "It says something when you come out of a film as weird and fantastical as Oldboy and feel that you've experienced something truly authentic. I just don't know what. I can't think of anything to compare it to." Well, now we know to compare it to real life, don't we? I just don't understand how critics with even a shred of humanity keep supporting films that celebrate violence in all its awfulness. Makes me nauseous.

Now we know to compare it to real life? First of all, Nikki, surely we can compare almost all films to real life. Even Eraserhead - just to take one example - is cleary a film associated with real life. Indeed, Eraserhead is more closely linked to David Lynch's experiences with baby Jennifer than Oldboy is to the Virginia Tech shootings - and, yes, this is mainly because it is a film made to relate to this moment in life, and Oldboy was not made to relate to any massacre that hadn't happened yet but - this is the key part - the massacre was not made to relate to the already existing film either.

Was Cho Seung-Hui motivated in simply trying to live out Oldboy? Where's the evidence for that? Did he see images in Oldboy that he could use to indulge himself, to feed into his own power plays and fantasies? Well, maybe he did, it seems probable to me. But that's something a whole lot of people do every day, isn't it, with all kinds of sources, not just Oldboy? Indeed, The Bible wouldn't be one-half as well selling if people couldn't use it to fuel their fantasies and induglences. Remove the drama - and even non-dramatised documentary narratives - that can't be used in this way and... bookstores would be virtually empty, TV would have to go off of the air and cinema would disappear in a puff of smoke.

Motives can't be called upon exclusively to explain Cho Seung-Hui's actions. I'm motivated to pay my rent, put food on the table and keep the cinema tickets and DVDs rolling in - but I don't go out mugging old people to boost my coffers. Motive isn't enough when a moral line has to be crossed. The first person to even find a shred of real evidence that Oldboy, or any other film, can actually lead to a moral breakdown in a viewer wins everything I own, including my Chan Wook Park DVDs. Countless times it has been suggested that such evidence was uncovered... and then the investigation is revealed as flawed, biased, faulty or just plain irrelevant.

As I commented in the piece about Dark Matter a few days back, the world needs films that deal with difficult and painful human experience. Dark Matter may well be one such film, Oldboy certainly is. And it's a moral film, and a wise one, and, sure, it features people doing a lot of horrendous things but it doesn't conclude that these things should be done. Do I really have to bring up Macbeth, say, and the horrible things enacted in that most revered, canonised masterpieces of drama?


carrie_lofty said...

Wonder if she would have picked one of the new-style slasher films, or maybe even dipped into Tarantino's canon, had the shooter been white?

Anonymous said...

You fail to see the obvious link the brilliant Nikki Finke has picked up on... Cho Seung-Hui and Chan Wook Park are both Korean. Case closed.

Brendon said...

I wasn't going to mention that because, effectively, it is marking Finke as a racist.

I was holding back.

But all comments are appreciated. No matter how angry or extreme.

Brendon said...

Don't know if that follows... I think the Korean filmmaker would still have gotten the stick.

Rich D said...

This is why I just don't give Nikki Finke any credance anymore. Not that I ever did all that much to begin with.

Still, it was only a matter of time before the usual accusations were to be hurled through the media that always seem to be bandied about in the aftermath of such an incident. I guess I have to give Finke a little credit for at least thinking outside the usual "Grand Theft Auto/violent video games/rap music is to blame" box.

So the kid was wielding a hammer in a photo that looked similar to a promo shot from OLDBOY? I could probably find without too much trouble a painting of Jesus holding a hammer. Does that make Mr. J. H. Christ culpable?

And if Finke thinks that OLDBOY is a celebration of violence, she needs to stop writing about film altogether.

Anonymous said...

C'mon. Nikki Finke didn't break this story. The NY Times did. And they got their info as stated by Finke from a Vtech professor who found the similarities. While her statement about violent films towards the end is overblown and suprising (as always, this lady hates horror and genre films), you can't deny that this kid probably saw the film and mirrored it during his killings. The fact that he's Korean and the film is Korean is not a racist observation. If you read his scripts on the Smoking Gun, you'll find he was fond of violent films. You can't blame films, but from a psychological standpoint (more than a social) you can't deny that he found inspiration in films and music (Collective Soul's "Shine") for his worldview. We have no social responsiblity to put out movies that lack violence, agreed. But movies influence all of our lives, and if you're crazy, that is still true.

Brendon said...

The NY Times forged the connection, Nikki slurred Oldboy.

I think the fear is that, actually, had Oldboy not been Korean, the link wouldn't have been discussed. That's where the allegations of racism crept in.

Of course movies influence us. But not to kill.

Anonymous said...

i thought he was influenced by the video game counter strike! that would make more sense.

Anonymous said...

Yes, anonymous. Blaming his actions on one form of media instead of the other makes a lot more sense. Millions of people watch violent movies and play violent games yet none have ever been compelled to murder. Are they just ticking bombs or was this person just prone to violent behaviour regardless of what forms of media he was exposed to.

And also, people are trying very hard to link games and movies with this murderer but yet no connection have been made to his direct references to Islam and Christianity. As I see it religion may have had a more prominent role in his actions then many would care to admit.

And yes anonymous, movies do influence our lives but does that mean that if I watch Pink Flamingos I'd better steer clear of any fresh dog droppings or otherwise the compulsion to gobble it all up will overcome me? I honestly can't see how someone would, at that moment of blistering anger and frustration, think back on movies he's viewed and try to ape scenes from them. He wanted people dead, for what ever reason, and I doubt he needed movies to inspire him or to teach him how to murder.

EzekielRawlins said...

It saddens me that one of my favourite films will now be forever linked to this individual. I find it interesting that every news report I read recently about it describes it as a film that glorifies violence. To me, it's actually a very tragic story, almost Shakespearean in nature.