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Entries in Chang-wook Park (7)

Tuesday
Nov262013

Review: Oldboy (2013)

Greetings, Dear Readers. Michael C. here. Since Nathaniel is on record as being emphatically NOT a fan of Chan-wook Park's original Cannes prize winner, I thought it fitting I, an enthusiastic Oldboy lover, would step in to review Spike Lee's hotly anticipated English language remake.

One of the smallest changes to Spike Lee’s American remake of Oldboy is the most revealing. A subplot involving hypnosis has been excised from the film. No doubt the filmmakers decided mass audiences wouldn’t accept such an outlandish plot device, but therein lies the fatal error. An Oldboy that comes anywhere near plausible reality is no Oldboy at all. 

Park Chan-wook’s original version pulsed with bonkers confidence, dancing on the edges of sanity, and, when need be, careening right over the cliff. In dragging the remake closer to the director’s realism comfort zone, this version has drained the story of the operatic pitch it requires.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Mar032013

Review: "Stoker" Disturbs. But To What End?

A slightly abridged version of this review was previously published in my weekly column @ Towleroad

Thirst > Stoker

A few years ago Park Chan-wook, the acclaimed genre fabulist from South Korea, made an award winning vampire film called Thirst. With the exception of the Swedish instant classic Let The Right One In, it's the best vampire film of the past 20 years. Second best might not seem like high praise but consider the volume of competition!  

In Thirst, a priest and reluctant vampire, infects a young girl with his addiction and she flips from moody troubled teen to lusty adult trouble-maker. Is she his impressionable victim or his soulmate apprentice? Or is she much harder to pin down? Having raved about Thirst when it was released (including a Best Actress nomination for Kim Ok-bin right here) and being a shameless Kidmaniac I walked into Stoker with high expectations. Despite the title's nod to Bram Stoker, I was not expecting an English language pseudo-remake of his earlier vampire feature. There are no literal vampires this time but the central power play relationship and overall bloodlust are like eerily similar echoes. Even the supernatural powers remain: India (Mia Wasikowska) even begins the film boasting of her preternatural hearing in voiceover while she hunts a defenseless animal in the tall grass. It's like a Terrence Malick sequence with brutality in place of spirituality. India's hearing is so acute she even catches spidery footsteps (So do we since Stoker shares with Thirst masterfully creepy and super detailed sound design.)  

A Stoker family dinner. Bloody steak.

"Don't disturb the family" is a stupid fun tagline for Stoker's ad campaign and poster since the warning is pointless. This family was disturbed long before you bought a ticket. [more...]

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jan232013

Clips w/out Context: Nicole Kidman in "Stoker"

So many people have sent me that first official clip from Stoker over the past week, a monologue from Queen Kidman, that I figure it's a sign from the cosmos that I've been neglecting my genuflections. (I had had another big Nicole (!) piece planned last week and then they went and snubbed her/spoiled it. And then there was The Hours anniversary and I thought maybe I had Kidmandeered the blog too much. Apparently not!)

Lights on. Camera. Actress!

Almost every time someone has sent or linked to the clip they've done so with a variation of "OMG!!!" or "all the Oscars for Nicole!" in their text and a quick check of online reactions fall roughly along those lines too. My reaction was more like "..." with a side of "♥"

...which I shall explain alongside the clip and Stoker @ Sundance madness after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Sep222012

Thoughts I had while watching that "STOKER" tease

As you may now Park Chang-wook of Thirst fame has trained his keen cruel eye on something a little less supernatural and subtitled for his next film Stoker. We got the first taste of it on Entertainment Tonight days ago but... you know... (how long do you think I can milk this "but I have pneumonia!!!" excuse?). So herewith some unedited thoughts I had while watching it...

Personally speaking I can't wait to see life tear you apart."

• Love La Kidman lashing out. These opening eye daggers reminded me more than a little of The Golden Compass and I mean that as a compliment. That book trilogy was beyond and Nicole Kidman really got that character (Mrs Coulter) so it's such a pity that the movie didn't really get the book and the ending didn't even get the ending and no other movies will be gotten to get it all retroactively like! I have pneumonia.

• I'm tickled that this isn't a biopic on Bram Stoker! 

video and more thoughts after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul192012

Links

Comic Convos an animated summary of Michael Fassbender's role in Prometheus. Hee
Trespass Our friend Glenn reviews The Dark Knight Rises 
Slate's Tanner Colby gives HBO a free drama series pitch, a bridge between the America of Mad Men and the America of The Wire if you will... 
Filmmaker Magazine 25 New Faces of Independent Film 
Cinema Blend 5 Batman villains they wish Chris Nolan had used in his trilogy. But, you know, you can only use so many and Batman does have the best rogues gallery.
Hollywood.com the latest hiccup for The Wolverine. Jessica Biel is not on board after all. So much pre-production trouble with this movie.  Now the role may go to Tinker Tailor's Svetlana Khodchenkova

Today's Video Must See
Here is Annette Bening and Warren Beatty's eldest child Stephen who was born Kathlyn.

He doesn't speak about his parents at all in this video but the internet is saying that this is Stephen Ira Beatty so I believe (everything on the Internet is true, right?). Stephen makes a joke about staring at us uncomfortably to end the video but the only thing uncomfortable about this charming motor mouthed super smart kid staring at me is a) how hideous the walls in this room are and b) freaking out over how much he EXACTLY looks like a cross between his parents. Especially when he smiles. Well, more Beatty than Bening but still...  Right?

Finally, you should know that Park Chan-Wook's first English language film Stoker, featuring a dreamy triangular cast of Mia Wasikowska as a lonely girl, Matthew Goode as her shady Uncle and Nicole Kidman as her unstable mother is no longer the 2012 release we were hoping for. It will open on March 1st, 2013 in limited release. Don't be sad. We still have more Nicole Kidman coming in 2012 with The Paperboy. Next year: Stoker and Oscar Bait The Railway Man.

Tuesday
Aug022011

Stoke Yourself For Stoker

JA from MNPP here, curious if y’all have been following the delightful casting news that’s been coming out bit by bit day after day for Oldboy director Park Chan-wook’s first English-language film Stoker. I mean just the fact that PCW is making an English-language movie’s exciting enough – not that I have trouble with subtitles, I'm fervently infatuated with every movie he's made, but it means one of my favorite directors is getting to round up some of my favorite Hollywood actors, which he’s doing in spades.

First, some background: Stoker’s script was written (under a pseudonym) by Prison Break actor Wentworth Miller, and is described as “a dramatic thriller about a young woman whose eccentric uncle comes back into her life after the death of her father.”

Attached to the script way back when it was first being talked about were Carey Mulligan and Jodie Foster, which already got us thinking something really good is going on with the script or Park's exciting enough all on his own to snatch up such solid names... hopefully both! Unfortunately scheduling got drawn out and Carey took off to star opposite Michael Fassbender in Steve McQueen’s upcoming film Shame (can’t blame her for wanting to go hang with Fassy for awhile) and Jodie went to work with Roman Polanski on Carnage (also can’t blame that). But Park & Co. managed no downgrade in their replacing – Mia Wasikowska and Nicole Kidman (making up for this) stepped right in. Now them's a two-fer.

The role of the “eccentric uncle” was rumored for awhile to be recent Oscar picker-upper Colin Firth, but somebody apparently decided to age the character down a whole bunch and the role went to the 50 year old Firth’s 33 year old Single Man boyfriend Matthew Goode instead. Even though he might not pack the immediate wallop that Firth does, Goode’s shown a lot of promise in the past – he was mesmerizing in The Lookout.

We don’t have word yet when filming begins, but we're thinking it must be soon since three more names have hopped on board over the past week – Lucas Till, who played Havoc in the recent X-Men movie; Alden Ehrenreich, a cute young thing that caught Steven Spielberg’s eye and can be seen in both of Francis Ford Coppola’s most recent efforts; and most awesomely Jacki Weaver, who shoulda won that Supporting statue last year for her terrifying turn in Animal Kingdom just for the way she arched her eyebrows and smiled that sinister Grinch’s smile. If you’re keeping count, that's three count ‘em three singular Aussie actress sensations for the price of one. Can’t beat that!

Thursday
Apr282011

Unsung Heroes: The Production Design of 'Oldboy'

Michael C from Serious Film here. I watched the subject of today's column again recently for maybe the third or fourth time and it simply demanded to be written about.

 


What is it about Chan-wook Park’s Oldboy (2003) that makes it so difficult to shake? 

My thoughts kept returning to it for months after seeing it for the first time. I certainly admired it for its wickedly clever plotting and for the actors' fearlessly committed performances. Yet there are lots of movies I admire that don’t haunt me like this one did.

I think I find my way back to Oldboy so often because it feels unlike every other movie out there. The world of Oldboy is presented as a version of reality (nothing takes place without an explanation, however over-the-top) but the more I think about it, the more I realize Oldboy is as much a fantasy as Star Wars or Blade Runner. Only instead of being set in the future or on a different planet, it takes the world we know and edges it into the stuff of nightmares. A place where seemingly normal locations such as a schoolyard or a computer lab are warped and foreboding in ways we can’t always put our finger on. 

And that is just what the production designer Seong-hie Ryu does with the mundane locations. The script of Oldboy calls for a few places where there is no precedent to draw from. The task of designing a room where a man has to remain imprisoned for fifteen years for no apparent reason is a daunting one. That horrible little room is the emotional core of the whole story. It needs to make an impression. Ryu responds with a masterpiece of art direction, and he does it with some cheap motel furniture, a sickening color scheme and above all else that hellish “inspirational” painting on the wall.

But as unforgettable as that room is, the real tour de force of production design is the apartment of the story’s villain Woo-jin Lee. Just as challenging as crafting a cell worthy of the film's riveting opening sequence, is the creation of a stage suitable for the operatic tragedy of Oldboy’s climax.

So many of the details are so perfectly chosen, from that pond with its narrow walkways to the ominous littering about of antique cameras. My favorite detail is that amazing giant cube that opens up into a closet. It serves the multiple purposes of 1) being objectively fascinating to look at. I’ve never seen one of those before. 2) Fleshing out the character of Woo-jin Lee. Be wary of any man with a closet like that. 3) Being just the right amount of creepy and portentous, and 4) Being a great subtle symbol for the hidden secrets that are about to reveal themselves. Not bad for one piece of furniture.

That apartment, along with that prison where Oh Dae-su spends those fifteen years, goes on a list alongside Jack Rabbit Slim’s in Pulp Fiction and the lair of the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth. Movie locations I will not soon forget