Friday 8 March 2013

The Five Best Scenes From 'Stoker' Director Park Chan-Wook

With all the excitement that surrounded the Oscars this February, it was easy to forget that something very special was about to occur in the realm of world cinema. Yes, that's right. The acclaimed director of 'Oldboy' and 'Thirst' is back with a new psychological thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode in his first English language film. The majority of Asian directors who have made the move to Hollywood have had little success so far, aside from Ang Lee of course, but the reviews for Park Chan-Wook's latest are in and 'Stoker' is as disturbing and beautifully shot as any of his South Korean offerings. If you're interested in the effects of violence and revenge on the human psyche then you're in the right place, as this list of Chan-Wook's five best scenes should provide some insight into the auteurs fascination with the limits of morality in contemporary society. Deep stuff. Let's get started with what is arguably Chan-Wook's signature film, Oldboy.

Oldboy (2003)

Park Chan-Wook had made films before 'Oldboy', but the success of his fifth movie was unprecedented in the history of Korean cinema. 'Oldboy' is the second installment of Chan-Wook's 'Vengeance Trilogy' and tells the story of a man called Oh Dae-Su, imprisoned for fifteen years in a hotel room without knowing the reason why. The story of his release and subsequent quest for vengeance allows Chan-Wook to explore the extreme limits of human behaviour in all its forms and while 'Oldboy' is incredibly violent at times, its success and lasting appeal is due more to what it has to say about human nature and the toll that revenge can take. 'Oldboy' is the perfect introduction to Chan-Wook's style, both visually and thematically, and I would recommend it to any fans of world cinema who have still not got round to seeing it yet.

Best Scene: 'Oldboy' is infamous for a scene where Oh Dae-Su eats a real octopus live in one take but the standout moment in the whole film has to be the corridor fight. With only a hammer to defend himself, Oh Dae-Su takes on an entire mob in what is arguably Korean cinemas most iconic scene of all time. It's a world away from the slow-mo gun fights and martial art scenes that Asian cinema had become known for and its sheer artistry announced to the world that Chan-Wook was here to stay.

Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (2005)

The third part of his 'Vengeance Trilogy' saw Chan-Wook continue to explore the themes of revenge and violence that are synonymous with his career, but with a new cast and a female protagonist. Lead character Lee Geum-Ja is finally released from prison at the beginning of the film, after serving time for murders that she did not commit. 'Sympathy For Lady Vengeance' is far from just a carbon copy of its predecessor however and while it may not have been as widely seen as 'Oldboy', the film has become a huge success in its own right and is now regarded as one of Chan-Wook's signature movies.

Best Scene: SPOILER ALERT! Upon discovering that schoolteacher Mr Baek is responsible for the murders that our heroine was originally convicted for, Lee Geum-Ja contacts the surviving parents and relatives of the dead children to decide the murderers fate. What ensues is a compelling study of humanity at its darkest that disgusts and fascinates in equal measure. I can't find a clip to share with you but that's probably for the best, as the emotional power of the scene would lose its impact without seeing the events that precede it.

I'm A Cyborg, But That's Ok (2006)

Romance is often an overlooked element of Chan-Wook's work but amidst all the blood and death, human relationships are an integral part of every film he has made. 'I'm A Cyborg, But That's Ok' is an unusual film, even by Chan-Wook's standards. Love plays a bigger part here than usual, in the form of an unstable protagonist who believes that she is in fact a cyborg, yet becomes confused as she falls for a fellow patient at a Korean mental institute. The high production values are typical of Chan-Wook and while there are moments of violence, 'I'm A Cyborg' definitely stands out as unique, even amongst the directors unusual and varied body of work. Definitely worth a look.  

Best Scene: 'I'm A Cyborg' features less violence than your typical Chan-Wook film but my favourite moment has to be when the protagonist Young-Goon goes ballistic and kills a host of people at the institute using her cybernetic enhancements. The light and almost jaunty approach that Chan-Wook takes in directing this scene makes the entire thing seem even more surreal than you would expect.... but is it real or is it all just in Young-Goon's head? Watch the film to see for yourself!

Thirst (2009)

There's not much I can say about 'Thirst' that I haven't already discussed here in my Korean horror feature, except to say that it's one of my favourite Asian films of all time and is easily the most underrated of Chan-Wook's work to date. The word 'vampire' is often a turn-off for many film fans these days, thanks to you-know-who, but Chan-Wook revitalises the genre with this unusual love story which is both beautiful and grotesque at the same time. 'Thirst' is the most purely enjoyable film in Chan-Wook's filmography and its intelligent take on Korean horror makes it a stunning introduction to a thriving new national cinema.      

Best Scene: The effects are amazing throughout 'Thirst', especially considering the low budget and the scene that best showcases this comes towards the end of the film, where the two central characters face off in a climactic struggle to survive. Chan-Wook's films always have fantastic endings and this one is up there with 'Lady Vengeance' as one of his best.

Stoker (2013)

Chan-Wook's first English language film is an atmospheric thriller which drips with gothic foreboding. There's a disturbing undercurrent of violence throughout which is enhanced by a creepy central performance from Mia Wasikowska as a recently bereaved daughter who seems to have some unusual issues to say the least. Nicole Kidman is also fantastic as the brittle yet seductive mother but its Matt Goode who stands out for me as the charming uncle who returns for his brothers funeral after an extended time away from the family. His performance is chilling in its restraint and just one expression says a thousand times more than any dialogue could convey. 'Stoker' is a stunning example of a director at the height of his talent. Every scene is overflowing with Freudian symbolism and each transition is beautifully directed. It's clear that every single shot in 'Stoker' has been carefully composed to an artistic degree that surpasses even Chan-Wook's most stunning films that he made in Korea.

Best Scene: Spoiler alert! In only a couple of short scenes, Jacki Weaver steals the film as a distant aunt who decides to stay in town for a few days after the funeral to keep an eye on the family and their new arrival. Weaver's final scene in the phone booth and her encounter with Goode's character is more Oscar-worthy than anything she did in 'Silver Linings Playbook' and I think her part was criminally overlooked.

So what do you think of Park Chan-Wook's films? Are these the best scenes from his movies? And what do you think of Chan-Wook's latest film 'Stoker'? Let me know your thoughts by commenting, liking and sharing below. Thanks!

No comments:

Post a Comment