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Film lovers of the United States: I want to thoroughly prepare you for the invasion of South Korean directors that is to come. See, over the last decade or so, there have been many South Korean directors who have made some majorly overlooked, extremely amazing movies. Three rising South Korean directors who’re now invading America include Jee-woon Kim (who released “The Last Stand” earlier this year), Bong Joon-ho (whose “Snowpiercer” is set to come out this summer) and, perhaps most importantly, Chan-wook Park, whose newest film “Stoker” is in theaters now.
Park directed the soon-to-be-remade “Oldboy” in 2003, and the once most-watched film in South Korea in "Joint Security Area," but this is his first American movie – and the language barrier does not prove to be a reason to be let down. As weird as it is to say, it may be true that South Korean filmmakers have a better knack for humor than American filmmakers. Humor, to them, seems to be more of a subtlety compared to our typical Yankee penis jokes and kindergarten pranks.
But, despite its witty points here and there, “Stoker” isn’t a movie about humor: It’s a movie about horror even though you’re not quite sure what it is at times. After India Stoker’s (Mia Wasikowska) father suddenly dies, her mysterious Uncle Charlie moves in with India and her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman in yet another recent crazed performance) – and he develops a vacillating relationship with each woman to say the least.
Matthew Goode (best known as Ozymandias from “Watchmen”) plays Uncle Charlie in a role that, perfectly marked out by a colleague, was clearly built for Michael Fassbender – but that doesn’t mean that Goode isn’t damn good himself. His character is completely enigmatic and totally bizarre – you have no idea what his next move is going to be no matter how hard you think; you know that there’s something wrong with him but you can’t pinpoint exactly what it is.
As the story progresses in "Stoker," specifically in the third act, the context of the film loses all of its ambiguity. This is different from Park’s other films because it isn’t a mystery all the way until the end, but even with its dissimilarities this is surely the work of a great auteur. The transitions that this guy uses in his editing are meticulous and downright perfect; the cinematography is beautiful; the music is masterfully placed and oftentimes haunting. Most importantly, it’s paced so that it leaves you guessing about what you don't know for two acts and then thinking what you do know during the third act.
Of course, I can’t write this article without acknowledging that “Stoker” was the last film produced by the late great Tony Scott. Known more for his fast-paced editing of action sequences than his nail-biting psychological thrillers, it’s certainly notable that Tony and his brother Ridley agreed to help Chan-wook produce the movie because, as far as enjoying a quality cinematic experience goes, there is really nothing better than “Stoker” in theaters right now.
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