Nostra at My Filmviews has organized an intriguing blogathon designed to push writers out of their comfort zones. It presents five obstructions (one per month) that force you to avoid the typical approach. I'm not thrilled about doing this one, but I won't shy from the challenge. This assignment is writing a review composed entirely of statements from other writers. To preserve my sanity and ensure that the original author is given proper credit, I've separated each person's comments into a unique paragraph. My choice is Stoker, the American debut from legendary Korean filmmaker Chan-wook Park. Released earlier this year to great acclaim, it includes remarkable imagery and a dark tale of family and violence. I've provided notes following the review that call out the source of each quote. It's one of the pivotal films of the first half of 2013, and that makes it a perfect choice for this obstruction.
"Stoker isn’t setting out to do anything new. Its story will seem familiar to many, and even derivative to some. The question one needs to ask oneself coming away from the movie is how much that matters. I, for one, don’t think it matters all that much. I don’t believe the story needs to blaze any new trails because there is so much else that the film does so well – specifically, the sensory delights it unloads on its audience. What’s more, Stoker is able to use many of those sensory moments to underline its theme of the end of innocence."
"Leave it to a Korean director to cast his first American film with two Aussies and a Brit (with supporting work from another Aussie, a Virginian and Harmony Korine… because, why not?), and have it written by a once-famed television star. Basically, Stoker is a random mixing bowl of talent that results in a film tailored to Park’s style, with plentiful dashes of Hitchcock. In short, everyone in front of and behind the camera is on point here."
"On paper, Stoker’s plot outline would look flat and conventional; at heart, it’s a startlingly simple story. The strength is all in the execution, particularly Goode’s steely-but-smiling performance and Wasikowska’s sullen, reluctantly captivated response. Their interactions, and Kidman’s fluttering obliviousness, make Stoker feel like a third film adaptation of Lolita. And Park mines immense tension out of a narrative that only seems predictable after the fact. A lush, rich wave of emotion, usually repressed and occasionally explosively released, buoys the film past its pedestrian structure."
"The real beauty of Stoker comes from Park’s incredible style. He directs the actors towards a mannered style of acting uncommon in modern films. He also infuses the tale with a great Southern Gothic tone — all the more impressive considering Park is not American. Then there are all the visual tricks: freeze-edits, camera swoops during dialogue scenes, sudden close-ups, carefully placed shaky-cam, incredibly creative scene transitions, and a looseness of chronology to keep the audience consistently on edge."
"The final act of Stoker walks a fine line between the sensational and the silly. Mr. Park is less interested in narrative suspense than in carefully orchestrated shocks and camouflaged motives. Learning the truth about Charlie does not so much explain what had come before as turn everything upside down, scattering the puzzle pieces in a colorful, brutal cascade."
Sources (in paragraph order)
Ryan McNeil, The Matinee
Alex Withrow, And So It Begins...
Tasha Robinson, A.V. Club
Corey Atad, Movie Mezzanine
A.O. Scott, The New York Times