Finally, A Hitchcockian Film Worthy of That Designation.
Director: Chan-wook Park.
Writer: Wentworth Miller.
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode.
Where's it playing? Angelika Dallas
Iconic South Korean director Chan-wook Park (the man behind the Lady Vengeance trilogy and Thirst) makes his English-language debut with this hyper-stylized, titillating and highly sexual tale of family ties penned by Wentworth Miller, who yes, is the very same Wentworth Miller that starred in Prison Break and that one Mariah Carey video.
But, to be sure, it's an intriguing story — one that centers around a teenage introvert India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska in her best performance to date) who has just lost her beloved father (Dermont Mulroney) in a mysterious and tragic car accident. She might as well have just lost her mother (Nicole Kidman), too; the distance and disconnection between them is palpable.
India does have some family to lean on, though. Her father's brother, the enigmatic Uncle Charles (Matthew Goode, who is so good at being bad here that he earns his surname), appears almost out of thin air after being an absentee jet-setter for India's entire existence up until this point. And along with this new familial bond comes a new awareness of senses for our young heroine — both of her sexual self and of something much more passionate, albeit dastardly, that runs through the Stoker family blood, which is absolutely thicker than water.
Infamous for being a master of keeping things in the family (see also: Oldboy and, really, all of Park's films), Park brings to Stoker his signature paraphilia, interwoven into a story so winding and twisting that you never can quite guess which way it's going to take you. And then, just when you're head's starting to spin, it goes off and takes you in a direction any seemingly normal person's brain could never conjure.
That's what's so beautiful about Park's tortured tales: They expose humanity's (read: the audience's) inner most id. With Stoker, however, Park does his thing in a much more Hitchcockian way.
That's a term — Hitchcockian — that's thrown around too frequently with thrillers these days, I know. But, prior to Stoker, there genuinely hasn't been a film that comes even close to Hitchcock's twisted sensibilities.
This isn't just due to the taut tone of the film. Its look, with its beautifully muted color palate and stunning, slow-burning cinematography from frequent Park collaborator Chung-hoon Chung, lingers on screen for the viewer to take in like a portrait.
And that leads to the film's most unsettling achievement: To heighten the aforementioned awareness that India begins to experience as her innocence seemingly fades and gives way to the femme fatale she eventually becomes, Park utilizes the film's jarring sound design, its Clint Mansell score (Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) and a commissioned piano duet by Philip Glass to pulls the audience into India's spider web, as if its web's own strings that are being plucked.
The culmination of all of these strands? The following truth: Park has created a masterful film unlike any other.
Sure, different folks have different strokes. If you're the type of person that wants to see a comedy about dueling magicians this weekend, that's cool. But if you want to experience something truly different, Stoker will take you to places you won't expect and titillate senses you didn't even know you had.
Rating: 8 out of 10 saddle oxfords.
Also in theaters this week…
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.
Director: Don Scardino.
Writers: Jonathan M. Goldstein, John Francis Daley.
Cast: Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Steve Buscemi.
Where's it playing? All Metroplex megaplexes.
Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi play old-school, superstar magicians who must team up to perform a daring new magic trick in order to take down their rival, a new-school rock star illusionist played by Jim Carrey. Hopefully, the trick isn't on the audience and that the jokes aren't just illusions.
Director: Brad Anderson.
Writer: Richard D'Ovidio.
Cast: Halle Berry, Evie Thompson, Abigail Breslin
Where's it playing? All metroplex megaplexes.
A veteran 911 operator (Halle Berry) receives the one call that no one in the profession wants to get: There's a rapist in Lincoln Park. Apparently, he's climbing through your windows and snatching your people up. Hide your kids. Hide your wife.
Director: Pablo Larrain.
Writers: Pedro Peirano, Antonio Skarmeta.
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers.
Where's it playing? Angelika Plano and the Magnolia.
This drama, nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Oscars, centers around an adman (Gael Garcia Bernal) and the team behind the revolutionary 1988 campaign that urged voters to vote “No!” on reelecting General Augusto Pinochet for another eight years of military dictatorship in Chile after 15 years of such rule. It's like Mad Men with more mustachios.
Director: Juan Solanas.
Writer: Juan Solanas.
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst, Timothy Spall.
Where's it playing? The Magnolia.
Like an M.C. Escher piece come to life, this imaginative debut film from Argentinean director Juan Solanas is set in a universe in which twin worlds parallel each other, gravitating in opposite directions. The elite live on top, the less fortunate live below them. But despite the literal and figurative separation of their worlds, two star-crossed lovers (Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst) will not be torn apart. OK, Dunst. We get it. You like kissing a dude while he's upside down.
Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker.
Writers: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker
Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen.
Where's it playing? Friday and Saturday at midnight at The Inwood
Come on. Surely, you've heard of Airplane! It's one of the greatest satirical comedies of all time. What's that? You haven't heard of it? And we shouldn't call you “Shirley?” Fine. But that's your loss.