Park Chan-wook

The visually stunning and breathtakingly violent dramas of South Korean director Park Chan-wook - including "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" (2002), "Oldboy" (2003), "Thirst" (2009) and "The Handmaiden" (2016) - made him one of the most successful and critically praised filmmakers in his country. Born August 23, 1963 in Seoul, South Korea, he studied philosophy at Sogang University while also nurturing a passion for cinema by organizing the college's film club and penning numerous scholarly articles on modern film. Upon seeing "Vertigo," he abandoned his initial career choice - art direction - to become a filmmaker. He worked as assistant director to several South Korean directors, including Kwak Jae-Yong, before making his feature directorial debut on "The Moon Is the Sun's Dream" (1992), a violent revenge drama. The film, and its follow-up, the comedy "Trio" (1997), did not fare well at the box office, but his third feature, "Joint Security Area" (2000), was a colossal box office and critical hit. The mystery, about a murder committed at the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, was the highest grossing Korean film in the country's history until the drama "Friend" topped its sales that same year. For his next project, Park embarked on a trio of violent and emotionally charged dramas that hinged on the theme of revenge and the devastation it wreaks in the lives of the people involved in the act. The first in the series, "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" (2002), concerns a deaf-mute who kidnaps his former employer's daughter to raise money for his sister's operation, while the harrowing "Oldboy" (2003) finds a businessman (Choi Min-sik) tracking down the anonymous kidnappers who held him hostage for nearly two decades. Park concluded the trio with "Lady Vengeance" (2005), with Lee Young-ae as a woman on the trail of a child murderer after serving a decade in prison for the crime. All three films won international acclaim and considerable box office returns in Korea and abroad; "Oldboy" also earned the Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004, which helped to mint Park as one of his country's most acclaimed and successful filmmakers. However, his subsequent efforts received a mixed responses: the curious fantasy-drama "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK" (2007), with Im Soo-jung and pop singer Rain as mental patients who believe they have strange powers, and his English-language debut "Stoker" (2013), with Mia Wasikowska as a young woman mourning the death of her father as a new and seemingly sinister man (Matthew Goode) enters her life, were moderate successes, though the vampire drama "Thirst" (2009), was both a financial hit and a shared winner of the Prix du Jury (with Andrea Arnold's "Fish Tank") at the Cannes Film Festival, and the English-language science fiction thriller "Snowpiercer" (2013), which he produced with fellow South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, was a cult hit in America and Korea. In 2016, he returned to Cannes to earn a Palme d'Or nomination with "The Handmaiden" (2016), a period drama about a thief, hired to assist in a plot to steal from a wealthy heiress, who unexpectedly falls in love with her employer.