What typically happens when a prestigious Asian Director makes the
transition to their first English language film is that the resulting
feature is a stylistically watered down, less edgy affair and the worst
film of their career. Presumably, Hollywood studios interfere so much
they end up robbing them of what people loved in the first place. I can
firmly say with utter relief that this is not the case with Chan- wook
Stylish, artistic, beautiful, controversial and feeling much more like a movie from his native South Korea; Chan-wook Park is bang on form. All that's changed is the actors are American and speak in the English language, and the location of course. I sincerely hope Hollywood takes note that this is how to do it right! Don't interfere with the artist and corrupt and americanise their vision. However, I have heard there was a 20 minute enforced cut made to the film by an editor for the studio. Here's what the Director has to say about it:
"It's just such a different animal from what I've experienced in Korea," he says, "but it's just like how you can't really complain about the weather in the States when you're going over to shoot a film. The Searchlight people had good taste, though. There were some differences of opinion, but at least they didn't make any nonsensical remarks."
Chan-wook Park is responsible for such acclaimed movies as 'Oldboy', 'Lady Vengeance' and 'Thirst'. Until now at least, 'Oldboy' was his most famous movie, and an American remake nobody wants is due for release soon. 'Stoker' is admittedly less violent and more subtle than those movies, but only because frequent action isn't suitable for this particular script. It's primarily a character study focusing on the loss of innocence, and I'm sure some less contemplative people hoping for frequent action will be disappointed. When it comes to style and controversy though, this movie delivers and was everything I'd hoped it would be. It's stunning to look at and almost every shot is symbolic. More often than not it's sexual symbolism regarding loss of innocence, and the same goes for the frequent symbolism in the dialogue. Furthermore, there's a wonderful Hitchcock feel to it and clearly pays homage to 'Shadow Of A doubt' with a character called Uncle Charlie.
The writer is Wentworth Miller, an actor, and this being his first screenplay makes it all the more impressive. Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary, Chloe) is credited as contributing writer. Based on the quality of this movie, Wentworth Miller needs to get writing some more screenplays.
I also felt the subject matter was a perfect match for Director Chan-wook Park, who's no stranger to controversial themes. It's a really rather pervy film, even if done subtly, artistically, and almost entirely non-explicitly. However, there's one particular scene I found gloriously wrong and solidified my opinion that the filmmakers had at least been respected and the goal of the studio wasn't to tame and americanise the Director. However, it will be interesting if a Director's cut comes out, or at least deleted scenes to see what cuts were made and if they were a good move making it less baggy or toning it down. The important thing as of now is that the result is a great movie. Movie critic Chris Tookey, for The Daily Mail, was disgusted by the film, so it can't be that toned down. A one star review from this man almost guarantees greatness.
The title and characters' surname 'Stoker' has obvious vampiric connotations, so some will be wondering if it's a vampire movie. Well it is and it isn't There are no fangs or capes or turning into bats, but the name 'Stoker' is certainly no coincidence. Vampire mythology, literature and movies are loaded with symbolism of the sexual predator seducing the innocent. Furthermore, one of the definitions of the word 'vampire' is non-literal, simply meaning a person who preys on others. Vampires are also natural hunters and killers and there's a nature verses nurture aspect. These themes are essentially what the movie is about.
Nicole Kidman plays mother 'Evelyn Stoker', and Matthew Goode plays charismatic, creepy Uncle 'Charles Stoker', but there's simply no argument as to who steals the limelight and it's Mia Wasikowska (Alice In Wonderland, Jane Eyre), as 18 year old 'India Stoker'. The actress is 23 but easily passes for an 18 year old. Her character is the main focus of the film and I feel she was perfectly cast for the role. She's old enough to be sexy, yet young enough looking so you feel a little conflicted about thinking so, and, despite her innocent appearance, has a facial quality that you can believe hides a personality more sinister. The character she plays is deeply intriguing and her acting as a dark, sexually ripe, moody introvert was magnetic and convincing. If it happened to be awards season, I'd say she was in with a chance of some nominations, but then when does subtle acting as a quiet introvert ever get nominations?
It may only be the beginning of March, and there's been a lot of great movies so far in 2013, but I think 'Stoker' is the best film of the year at this point. It's not only the exception to the rule that Asian Director's first English language features are watered down missteps, but it's a film I thoroughly enjoyed and left the cinema genuinely excited about. You know that feeling when you find a movie that you really connect with and you can't wait to tell everyone about it? It's one of the best feelings in the world. Produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, 'Stoker' is an example of Hollywood getting it absolutely right, so please go and support it.
Action / Drama / Thriller
Action / Drama / Thriller
India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) was not prepared to lose her father and best friend Richard (Dermot Mulroney) in a tragic auto accident. The solitude of her woodsy family estate, the peace of her tranquil town, and the unspoken somberness of her home life are suddenly upended by not only this mysterious accident, but by the sudden arrival of her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), whom she never knew existed. When Charlie moves in with her and her emotionally unstable mother Evie (Nicole Kidman), India thinks the void left by her father's death is finally being filled by his closest bloodline. Soon after his arrival, India comes to suspect that this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives. Yet instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless young woman becomes increasingly infatuated with him.
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June 07, 2013 at 10:00 PM