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Klavan On The Culture

DVD Review: Stoker

June 28th, 2013 - 12:13 pm

Gorey Storey.

There are some films in which style triumphs over content, Stoker is a film in which style overpowers content, hurls it to the ground then chokes the life out of it. Directed by Park Chan-wook, the South Korean who did the entertaining Vengeance trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), Stoker is so full of mysterious symbols, portentous glances, and cinematic and literary references that when you find out what it’s all about, you think, “That’s it??? That’s what all the fuss is for?”

A girl’s father dies. A mysterious uncle shows up (named Uncle Charlie, so everyone who’s seen Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt knows what we’re dealing with). The girl, her mother and Uncle Charlie begin to form a romantic triangle. So far, so good. But then we find out the underlying secret. We’ve seen it before. And the theme, involving nature and nurture and freedom and inheritance and so on, has been done much better and deeper on Dexter.

Well, it’s not boring, just thin. And all the acting’s good — Mia WasikowskaNicole Kidman and Matthew Goode. And if the style is too much, at least it really is stylish. The whole picture looks like an Edward Gorey sketch. All in all, I’d say you might enjoy the pretty pictures, but don’t expect too much from the story itself.

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I've mentioned this before in the comments, but one of the things I like about this blog is that AK is able to unearth things coming out of US popular culture that I miss. He's directed me to some pretty interesting books and movies. I had a look at this, and thought that maybe the story would have worked better had it taken a more traditional path and the girl had not been such a sociopath. It would have been fun to see her outwit her uncle, and appear a little more vulnerable to get us rooting for her. More like an updated Shadow of a Doubt, with a tougher girl to represent our greater feminist sensibilities in this age.

Shadow of a Doubt surely provided inspiratioon for Stoker, or is it just a coincidence that both uncles in the two stories are named Charley? I had to look up Edward Gorey, and I see what AK meant by the comparison of the look of the film with Gorey's sketches. Interesting factoid: Gorey was asexual. As always, an appreciated post.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Uncle Charlie. You mean William Demarest?
1 year ago
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