Stoker: when a young girl’s close father dies, his mysterious brother appears – a charming, yet mysterious character that she slowly becomes besotted with. Being a Chan–Wook Park movie, this has his stamp all over it – meticulous direction and framing, packed with striking, bold, elegant, and often haunting visuals. It’s a richly textured film, full of vivid colours, fabrics, designs, and patterns – ultra-visual cinema. Story-wise, it’s a relatively simple three-hander, focusing on layered and complex characters – that unravel, and become more intertwined as the events unfold. Perhaps because it’s a coming-of-age movie, it sticks out as being very level compared to previous works, shying away from the drama and (sensational) gore that director is used to providing, instead coming over as delayed intensity. Written by an actor, and directed by one of the world’s greatest – Stoker is a unique beast where the Korean director appears to be anticipating any ‘lost in translation’ moments from the script, by emphasizing the focus the universal visuals – you could watch this in any language and still make full sense of it. An immersive, throwback Hitchcockian thriller.
Coco Before Chanel: follows the early life of Coco Chanel, who would become one of the most important fashion designers in the world, like, totally, ever! So she starts out as an orphan, and slowly grows up / whores herself into the most ungrateful super-leech in the world; this character is so unlikable that you wonder why anyone in the film tolerates her, let alone why all of the men are fawning and fighting over Coco. Early 1900s France is a lovely setting but the story, and eventual romance, are tedious. I never, ever thought I’d watch a film like this and be craving more dress-making, tailoring, and general fashion talk… but that’s how boring everything else in the movie is. Above all else the snail’s pace destroys any hint of momentum; as the film dwells on gentry lifestyle, a sulking brat-like Coco and boring class-struggles.
I scraped through the first 90 minutes, couldn’t have given less of a crap about the final 20.
Alternative plans: left my lady to it and made my supper early – mentally filed this in my crammed cabinet of boring period dramas. Couldn’t get the Stellastarr* song ‘My Coco’ out of my head… so not all bad. Other walkouts…
IP Man (AKA Yip Man) [Blu Ray]: partial-biogaphy of grandmaster martial artist Yip Man, as he fights to protect his town through the Japanese invasion of 1937. This is a jaw-dropping homage to the old martial arts films; choreography, subtle wire work, sound effects and filming of the action. This all peaks during a 1-on-10 fight indoors, which is action-tastic, bone-snappingly brutal and phenomenal to watch. Storywise, the film starts off amazingly with random schools of martial artist groups challenging each other to fights, but as soon as the war / Chinese history kicks in it slows the film down to a crawl. Annoyingly, there’s random leaps forward in time about every ten minutes; is it a week, month or year… we don’t know. Outdoors the BD picture great, but inside it’s very grainy – and the entire second half (invasion) looks depressingly washed-out and devoid of any colour. Films that handle the Sino–Japanese war have a tough job, and IP man succeeded nationally (although falls down internationally) in doing this; because it’s over-sentimental – but you can’t hold that against such a nationally proud, historical piece. Overall, IP Man starts with a massive bang, but the entire second half becomes a bit of a struggle, although the great action will keep you in your seat.