Chan-wook Park brings Korean Cinema to Hollywood

Oldboy director Chan-wook Park has quite a following because of his unique and quirky style, and has done an excellent job turning the Wentworth Miller penned Stoker into something greater than it should have been. Indeed, it needed his eye for the strange and bizarre, to help lift this cockeyed look at the highly unusual Stoker family, and make it another classic piece of cinema to add to his collection of work. I, myself am fairly new to crazy, but massively entertaining Korean cinema , and also to Park, but I have been catching up. This is Park’s first English language film, so was highly anticipated by his many non Korean fans. When asked why he chose this script, he replied, “I like telling big stories through small, artificially created worlds.” (taken from Korea JoongAng Daily). This is the type of story that appeals to Park, and of course his fans by default. The only thing missing of any note is black humour, which is ever present, in one form or another, in his other works, although that is when he is also doing the writing.

The cast were all pretty much suited to their roles, with the sublime Mia Wasikowska’s India Stoker doing what she does best. Acting very strange. The look for India is obviously Alice in Wonderland inspired, with her long, limp hair and severe gaze. You know, there are gifted people out there, who can see something in a person that will translate brilliantly to screen, with another Aussie Emily Browning, being a perfect example. Like the way they can tell that someone, who looks unattractive in person, will appear beautiful when photographed and gracing the cover of a fashion magazine. Nicole Kidman played Evelyn Stoker, the put upon mother of India, with Matthew Goode playing the unfathomable uncle Charlie. They each perform their parts admirably with Mia adding another very good performance to the list, helping add to her growing reputation as a very capable and willing young actor. Her scene in the shower was extremely brave, but it was also powerful, showing a desire to experiment and go the extra distance when performing.

I actually had to watch Stoker twice, as the first viewing seemed incomplete, or that I had simply missed some dialogue or something, but no, I saw everything and heard all of it. But there are some scenes that will make better sense when clarified on the blu-ray extras. I’m a big fan of director cuts or extended editions, especially when a story such as this will greatly benefit from having more footage. I did however, get to enjoy all the Park symbolisms and metaphoric imagery sewn throughout this movie, like with India and her many identical shoes, to name but one. And it is for these reasons Chan-wook Park is a favorite amongst the Korean cinema fans, but after this great film I hope the English speaking film buff gets to appreciate his filmmaking acumen and uniqueness of vision, because he is here to stay, and that can only be a good thing, in any language.

Highly Recommended

Grade: B+ (8/10)

Nav Qateel, Influx Magazine

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