Park Chan-wook

I assume at this point that we’re all numb to the never-ending stream of remakes flowing into our theaters. Another one is announced and we no longer sigh or shake our heads. Outrage is long gone. All that’s left is passive acceptance. But every once in a while, a remake actually has the potential for greatness (unlike, say Robocop). It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, knowing that there’s a few genuinely talented filmmakers infiltrating those vast legions of action figure, board game and internet meme adaptations to secretly produce something that’s not a colossal waste of talent, time and money. The announcement that Hany Abu-Assad has signed on to remake Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance gives me that same warm and fuzzy feeling. Abu-Assad won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his latest film, Omar, and his previous film Paradise Now was similarly lauded with all manner of awards. This Mr. Vengeance redux might be the rare case where a remake sees an artist offer his own unique take on a film he or she cares deeply about, rather than a cheap ploy to churn out some action figures (or in the case of Stretch Armstrong, to give those action figures the cinematic treatment they apparently deserve).

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park

In his American film debut, Stoker, director Park Chan-wook‘s sensibility remains intact. Nothing about his sense of humor, eye for framing, or his stylish and brutal portrayal of violence has been softened or altered. The film plays in genre, which Park refers to as a “castle” he likes to regularly take twists and turns in. The critically-acclaimed director doesn’t see himself above genre, though. Park doesn’t subvert genre staples but fully embraces them with a slightly twisted view. We briefly spoke with Park about his genre work, how he’s made an R-rated version of Peter Pan, and more in our spoiler-y chat with him

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park lady vengeance

Park Chan-wook is one of South Korea’s top directors, and ever since his 2003 hit Oldboy crossed the ocean to rave reviews and cult status he’s become the most familiar Korean filmmaker to American audiences too. Of course, those audiences have remained small as foreign language films rarely reach or appeal to the masses. That starts to change this weekend though as Park’s English debut, Stoker, hit theaters on Friday in limited release with plans to expand throughout the month. (Check here to see if it will be playing near you.) While many of our readers are already familiar with Park’s films, many others will experience his work for the first time with Stoker. It’s a good movie, a beautiful one in fact, but it’s far from his best. (My review here.) That said, once you see it expect to walk out of the theater jonesing for more of his unique and endlessly fascinating vision. To that end, because I love sharing brilliant foreign films with fellow movie-lovers, I humbly offer up this list of Park’s Korean films ranked least best to best along with where you can find them…

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Short Starts presents a weekly short film from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. The new film Stoker represents a departure for South Korean director Park Chan-wook. It’s not only his first English-language feature but also his first time directing a screenplay written by someone else (Wentworth Miller, in this case). Whether this is a new phase in his career or just a one-off remains to be seen, but it’s certainly something new. Holding that in mind, let’s look back on another moment of transition in Park’s career. His first feature, The Moon Is… the Sun’s Dream, premiered in 1992 but break-out success didn’t come until 2000’s Joint Security Area. In between he directed 1997’s Saminjo (totally unavailable outside of South Korea) and one darkly comic short film that is probably his best-regarded early work.

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Stoker Movie

Editor’s note: This review originally ran as part of our Sundance 2013 coverage, but we’re re-running it to coincide with its arrival in limited theatrical release on 3/1. Park Chan-wook‘s films are held in deservedly high regard for various reasons. They’re often filled with desperate characters trapped in twisted, madcap situations, and while their worlds are violent and deadly places they’re never less than beautiful. He has an eye for framing and staging intensely attractive scenes of people laid bare emotionally and physically. His first English-language film, Stoker, opens in US theaters next month, and it’s already one of the year’s most visually appealing and strikingly stylish films. Unfortunately that’s pretty much all it is. India Stoker’s (Mia Wasikowska) father has died suddenly, but before she and her emotionally estranged mother (Nicole Kidman) can even begin to grieve, an uncle (Matthew Goode) she was previously unaware of arrives on their doorstep. Soon India’s already fractured world takes an ominous turn as people begin to disappear and Uncle Charlie’s interest in her moves in some inappropriate directions.

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Stoker

At the beginning of Stoker, India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) tells us she can hear things more clearly than most people, a talent that is quickly apparent seeing as every noise and sound in India’s life is amplified. From the crunching sound of an egg shell to the sharpening of a pencil, Stoker‘s sound design seems to take its cues from the opening credit sequence of Dexter, by turning seemingly innocent sounds into violent ones. Stoker’s director, Park Chan-Wook, makes his American debut here, but is well-versed in creating creepy worlds where violence and passion live hand-in-hand. This world is brought to eerie life by composer Clint Mansell, who creates a score that works seamlessly with Stoker’s unique sound design, plus a catchy hip-hop influence from Emily Wells and a new piano duet by Philip Glass. India’s voiceover, which begins the film and explains her unusual talents, is captured in the soundtrack’s first track, “I’m Not Formed by Things That Are of Myself Alone” and bleeds into Wells’ “Becomes The Color,” an upbeat song with a haunting chorus and a deconstructed ending that makes it the perfect introduction to Mansell’s score. His first track, “Happy Birthday (A Death in the Family),” has a light piano refrain that directly mirrors the chorus in “Becomes The Color,” introducing the importance of piano and creating a sense that everything heard (and possibly seen) in this world is simply an extension of something else.

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What is Casting Couch? It’s starting to wonder how many times Hugh Jackman can play Wolverine before his sideburns start to stick that way. Hot on the heels of the announcement that the original Professor X and Magneto, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, would be joining Bryan Singer’s X-Men: First Class sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Past, comes word that yet another actor from the original X-Men trilogy, Hugh Jackman, is also negotiating. This makes sense, of course, because Jackman’s brief cameo in First Class was the first indication we got that Matthew Vaughn’s reboot and Singer’s original films might actually exist in the same universe. Now that Singer has Stewart, McKellen, and Jackman on board, the only other actors he needs to poach from those first X-Men movies is…well, no one. It’s kind of amazing how well those movies cast these three guys and how poorly they cast every single other character. Hopefully this is the end of the colliding of worlds. [THR]

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Snow Piercer artwork

Whether due to coincidence or collusion, 2013 is the year three of South Korea’s best film directors will premiere their English language debuts. Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand will hit screens first in January, while Park Chan-wook’s Stoker will follow suit a few months later. Both films look to exist firmly in their director’s respective wheelhouse leaving Bong Joon-ho‘s Snow Piercer as far more of an unknown entity. One of the biggest questions has now been answered though as The Weinstein Company has reportedly picked up distribution rights for the film in North America, the UK and a few other English-speaking regions. No official release date has been set, but Deadline seems to believe a Summer 2013 premiere is to be expected. Snow Piercer is based on a French graphic novel called Transperceneige and plays out almost exclusively aboard a futuristic locomotive. The world has become an iced-over post-apocalyptic wasteland, and the only real safety is on this train which is constantly in motion. The last vestiges of humanity live aboard distinctly divided along class lines, but rumors of a rebellion from the lower decks reach the one-percenters living above and threaten to derail mankind’s last hope.

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Stoker poster

Three of the leading South Korean film directors are set to make their English language debuts next year, and while we’re incredibly excited to see all three succeed we’d be lying if we said we weren’t a little bit nervous too. First out of the gate will be Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand in January, and last to hit theaters will be Bong Joon-ho’s Snow Piercer late in the year. Nestled in between those two is the March release of Park Chan-wook‘s Stoker. But judging by the recent trailer debut and this newly released poster I don’t think we need to worry anymore that Hollywood has squashed Park’s creativity and talents. In a world where most poster “designs” are simply photoshop jobs appealing to the lowest common denominator Park and Fox Searchlight have opted instead to go with true art. Check out the full poster below.

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31 Days of Horror - October 2011

They said it couldn’t be done. A fifth year of 31 Days of Horror? 31 more terror, gore and shower scene-filled movies worth highlighting? But Rejects always say die and never back away from a challenge, so we’ve rounded up the horror fans among us and put together another month’s worth of genre fun. Enjoy! Synopsis: Father Sang-hyeon (Song Kang-ho) is searching for ways to help his flock, but when a failed medical experiment leaves him with a thirst for blood and a craving for life’s more carnal desires he finds serving the Lord may no longer be an option. Complicating things further is a young woman named Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin) whose plea for help leads to seduction, murder and a threat to his new lifestyle. Director Park Chan-wook‘s last Korean film before turning his eye towards his upcoming American debut (Stoker) is a sexy, bloody, beautifully shot and blackly comic horror film.

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Stoker Trailer

There’s nothing quite like a dead dad, a hot uncle, and a wicked mother to really mess a kid up. After all, that classic formula worked out totally okay (read: horribly) for young Hamlet and myriad others who were inspired by Shakespeare’s classic work, so why not just keep on keeping on with said formula? Sound a little played out? What if Park Chan-wookwas steering it? Oh, you’re interested now, are you? The Oldboy and Thirst director finally brings his talents to an English-language feature with the Wentworth Miller- and Erin Cressida Wilson-penned Stoker, starring Mia Wasikwoska, Matthew Goode, and a deliciously evil Nicole Kidman. The film’s first trailer makes its Hamlet bones clear early on, introducing us to India (Wasikowska), her nutball mother (Kidman), her recently departed dad (Dermot Mulroney), and the uncle she never knew she had (Goode), who comes to, ahem, attend to some things after ol’ Daddy Stoker’s death. And then, well, then things take a turn. Take a look:

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Park Chan-Wook

Just as Hollywood was preparing to bid a tear-filled farewell to South Korean director Park Chan-wook after he finishes work on his English-language debut, Stoker, word comes out of Variety that he might be sticking around in the scene for a little while longer to direct a long-shelved Western script called The Brigands of Rattleborge. A product of screenwriter Craig Zahler, The Brigands of Rattleborge was a script that appeared on the Black List of best unproduced screenplays all the way back in 2006, and apparently it has remained unproduced up to this point because there’s just so much violence inherent to the story that making it would be seen as too big of a risk for anyone with balls less brassy than the guy who made Oldboy. What exactly is a brigand of rattleborge? You see, The Brigands of Rattleborge was titled in a kind of obsolete vernacular. Brigand is an old-timey word for someone who robs people in the woods or the mountains, and Rattleborge, well, your guess is as good as anybody’s on that one. There is a synopsis for the script though, and it says that the story is about a doctor and a sheriff who are looking for revenge against a group of bandits who terrorized a small town during a terrible thunderstorm.

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Park Chan-wook is a talented filmmaker who’s never afraid to get experimental and crazy with his work, so film fans have been looking forward to his first English language movie for quite a while. The director’s breakthrough into the world of Hollywood will finally come in the form of a film called Stoker, which stars Mia Wasikowska as a teenage girl who’s forced to reconnect with a strange and probably dangerous uncle after the untimely death of her father. Just hearing that Park has gotten the chance to direct names like Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, and Jacki Weaver is enough to make Stoker a heavily anticipated release already, but today some new news broke that makes the movie look like even more of a surefire delight. According to Film Music Reporter, composer Clint Mansell has scored the film, and is currently recording its music at Air Studios in London. Mansell has been doing film work for a while, but he’s probably best known as being a longtime collaborator of Darren Aronofsky’s. Their work together has created some of the greatest scores of the last decade or so, with the soundtracks for Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain probably being the high points. Mansell was also responsible for the mellow tones that made up the score for Duncan Jones’ debut film Moon, a track list that surely shows up on a lot of movie score nuts’ top-ten of the 2000s lists. He is also a particular favorite of our own Allison […]

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At this point, you’d have to be insane to not trust an Oldboy rumor that comes from Twitch, as those wily boys have single-handedly dropped all the big news when it comes to Spike Lee‘s English-language remake of  Park Chan-wook‘s masterpiece. And this latest piece of casting news that they’re reporting? I’m not afraid to admit that I think it’s interesting and somehow both bold and spot-on. The Twitch-ers are reporting that Colin Firth has been offered the role of Adrian, a role that functions as the Woo-jin part from Park’s film – better known as the primary villain of the film. Firth would face off against Josh Brolin, who has long been attached as the film’s lead (the Oh Dae-su of Lee’s take on the material). While Firth was first known to most American audiences for his fluffier work in films like the Bridget Jones’s Diary films and the ever-charming Love Actually, he’s lately taken on considerably meatier roles, particularly his Oscar-nominated work in A Single Man and his Oscar-winning role in last year’s The King’s Speech. A true villain’s role in Oldboy would be a compelling addition to his resume, and one I’d cut out my own tongue to see.

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In 2003, director Park Chan-wook made his presence in the film world felt by crafting Oldboy, a revenge film about a guy who is mysteriously imprisoned in a shabby room for fifteen years and then is one day released and given a limited amount of time to find and take vengeance on his captor. It rose above the legions of other rank and file revenge films through superior crafting and a great lead performance by Min-sik Choi. It was good, everyone liked it, and people were happy. Flash forward to recent months, and now there’s news that Spike Lee is going to direct a movie called Oldboy, a revenge film about a man who gets locked in a shabby room for fifteen years and is then one day released and given a limited amount of time to find and take vengeance on his captor. We don’t know if it’s going to be any good, everyone is mad that something else they like is being remade, and no one is happy. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Maybe some people are happy. And maybe I could be coming around on this project as well, because at the very least Lee has just found a great actor to play whatever his version of the Oldboy protagonist will be called. It’s been a rumor for a while that Josh Brolin was at the top of the wish list to star in this film, and now Deadline Ami-dong confirms that those rumors were most likely […]

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It was only a matter of time after Jacki Weaver’s Oscar nominated turn as the grandmother from hell in the Australian thriller Animal Kingdom that she would start popping up in American films. First up will be a role in Nicholas Stoller’s Five Year Engagement due out next April, but a second US-based film has just been added to her schedule and it’s exciting news to say the least. Deadline Sydney is reporting that Weaver has joined the already strong cast of Park Chan-wook’s English language debut, Stoker. The film, written by Prison Break‘s Wentworth Miller, tells the story of a teenager (Mia Wasikowska) dealing with her father’s recent death and the arrival of her odd and eccentric uncle (Matthew Goode) whose return home coincides with a rash of disappearances around town. Nicole Kidman is set to play Mia’s mother, and it’s presumed that Weaver will take on the grandmother role again. Hopefully this doesn’t mean she’ll try to have poor little Mia killed.

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Remember that remake of Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy that nobody wanted whether it was a remake of the movie, or an adaptation of the original source material, or whatever? It was supposed to be dead, but Rob Hunter knew that the evil would come back in another form. Despite the fact that nobody in the world thinks a Hollywood production of any version of Oldboy whatsoever is a good idea, it is a dream that won’t die. Sure, it will no longer have Will Smith and Steven Spielberg bringing it to life, but it may have found a new director to champion its cause. Twitch is reporting that Spike Lee has entered negotiations to direct the long gestating project, with Mark Protosevich of Thor and I Am Legend set to write the screenplay. I think the idea of Spike Lee tackling the gore splattered revenge roots of this property is a heck of a lot less scary than Spielberg and Smith trying it on, but does Lee’s name make this a project that anybody is now looking forward to happening? I’m no Spike Lee fan, so I probably have no room to speak on the matter. I hate this idea. But there are a lot of fans of Lee’s work out there. Do any of you overlap into being fans of Oldboy as well? Will there be a group of fans willing to stand up and champion this project against the wave of negative reaction it’s gotten so far? Choose a […]

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There’s something exciting about a talented director picking up a new piece of equipment and giving it the test run everyone else is thinking about. We reported earlier about Park Chan-wook and Park Chan-kyong shooting a short film (30 minutes) entirely on their iPhone (or maybe one they borrowed from a friend after asking politely), and now a teaser reel of footage is online. Is it interesting that Park used a piece of technology that’s probably in your pants right now to make his movie? Yes. Is it even cooler that he got it into the Berlin Film Festival? Sure. Would it be even better if he’d used a more traditional camera so the movie didn’t look so bad? Definitely.

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Park Chan-wook Picture

There’s nothing not to love about Park Chan-wook. The man delivered Old Boy, two brilliant Sympathy For… films, and the strangest bloodsucker story this side of Shadow of the Vampire. Now, he’s done what everyone else has only talked and joked around about. He stopped playing Angry Birds and started shooting a movie with his iPhone with his brother, Park Chan-kyong. Paranmanjang (which loosely translates to Life of Ups and Downs) is not feature length, but at 30 minutes, it’s fairly substantial. It was made for around $133,000 (which is more than we were planning to invest in our phone-based film), and tells the story of a fisherman who catches a mysterious woman when she gets tangled in his net. Park had this to say about using the phone:

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We don’t usually like to report “maybe” stories because more often than not they never come true. But there are exceptions to our strict editorial standards… I’ll wait for the laughter to die down… and those exceptions usually involve rumors regarding people or projects that actually interest us. People like Korean director Park Chan-wook, director of Old Boy, Sympathy For Lady Vengeance, and Thirst. The LA Times’ movie blog, 24 Frames, is reporting that Park is in negotiations to direct Stoker for Fox Searchlight and ScottFree (Ridley and Tony Scott’s production company). The movie would be Park’s English-language debut, and is based on a script by Wentworth Miller (Prison Break). Carey Mulligan and Jodie Foster are already attached to the project, and the fine folks over at Twitch have a plot synopsis. “After India’s father mysteriously dies and her estranged uncle comes to live with her and her mother, people start to go missing in her hometown and India discovers that her uncle may be the cause.” Sounds like perfect material for Park, and the names associated with the project are promising. Although we’d be perfectly happy if he avoided a Hollywood debut all together…

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
B+


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