Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (#110 of 2)

Sundance Film Festival 2013: Stoker

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Sundance Film Festival 2013: <em>Stoker</em>
Sundance Film Festival 2013: <em>Stoker</em>

Korean director Park Chan-wook, perhaps best known in the West for his “Vengeance” trilogy, makes his English-language debut with Stoker, from a 2010 “Black List” script by Wentworth Miller. The film plays out from the point of view of India Stoker (Mia Wasikowksa), a teenaged girl whose father dies suddenly, leaving her to grieve with an emotionally distant mother Evie (Nicole Kidman). An uncle she’s never met before (Matthew Goode) arrives shortly after, a man who India finds herself attracted to despite a suspicion of his motives. When his mysterious arrival coincides with a series of disappearances, India becomes determined to find out whatever secrets he might be hiding.

Park’s eye seems to capture the banal, the beautiful, and the grotesque all at once. The opening shots of the film are especially striking, taking in the large gothic landscape on the grounds of India’s father’s sprawling, ominous-looking estate. Another scene in, which India and her uncle play the piano together, is claustrophobic, disturbing, and strangely beautiful thanks to sumptuous cinematography by Chung Chung-hoon. The entire atmosphere of the piece seems to suggest a looming danger, the potential and aftermath of violence. And while the violence here is more understated than that of Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, it’s handled with an unflinching lens that simultaneously tantalizes and implicates the viewer.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Ballot Tim Peters’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tim Peters’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tim Peters’s Top 10 Films of All Time

In the interest of iconoclasm, and of pointing one’s critical finger at great movies that were created, you know, sometime after the 1970s, what follows is an alphabetically-arranged list of what this reviewer thinks are world-historically worthwhile films produced after 1986, the year of his birth. The standards of judgment that these movies were able to so spectacularly and consistently surpass are the standards of a person who is, well, in his mid-20s, and who is agitated and restless and frequently lonesome. Those standards involve, more cinematically-speaking, the intensity of the movie; the intelligence of the movie; its willingness to admit that life is often disappointing, drab, and deceptive; and a preference for protagonists who are struggling to resist the rather deadening expectations of the society in which they’ve found themselves living. Given the quantity of critical cinematic verbiage that’s emanated forth on the Internet prior to, and in the wake of, the release of the 2012 Sight & Sound Top 10 list, this reviewer will say no more, but merely and humbly direct your attention to the list he’s provided.