Stoker – Park Chan-wook (2013)

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There could have been something to this dark film about India (Wasikowska), a misfit girl whose secret family history is unbound following the death of her father, but director Park Chan-wook refused to get out of his own way, overloading the film with a hyperactive camera, an overbearing level of CGI that never quite manages to enmesh itself with the live action and a collection of somewhat pointless transition gimmicks. Through the cold, calculated muddle, Mia Wasikowska emerges as the only element of interest, but that can’t sustain a film for 100 minutes, especially when that film is ostensibly a thriller.

Getting out of his own way has increasingly become a problem with Park since the Vengeance Trilogy ended, as if he were working overtime to convince the world that he really was a visionary director. He’s not, he’s a good director, or once was; he can be again, but that’s up to him.

Quick Hits on Jane Eyre – Cary Fukunaga (2011)

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-I’ve never read the novel, and the only previous adaptation I’ve seen of Jane Eyre is the one from the 40s with Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles in the lead roles. It wasn’t intentional, but I couldn’t shake the idea of how much better this film could have been with this cinematography and art direction but populated with Welles and Fontaine.

-I did like Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender in their own roles, but was left a little dry by their lack of chemistry in the scenes they shared. Fassbender had plenty of strength of character and an immense screen presence to occupy a role that Welles made his own, though he was maybe a little too good looking to play Mr. Rochester.

-I get excited every time I see this kind of understated-yet-lush, deep-grained, autumn-colored cinematography. This is the second time Fukunaga worked with Brazilian director of photography Adriano Goldman, who also worked one another film I find to be incredibly beautiful, Cao Hamburger’s The Year My Parents Went on Vacation. The two last teamed up on the gang/immigration drama Sin Nombe, which, again, was beautiful almost in spite of its subject matter. It’s getting increasingly rare to see this style of shooting with the mass exodus to digital. Grain structure is so important to the way light (that is, the image) shows up on film, but it’s not something video does well, because it’s not designed to. It’s designed to look sharp. Which looks like shit.