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Things Go Better In Korea
on 20 August 2017
Orson Welles wrote that when a director gets to Hollywood, he can finally "play with the WHOLE model train set", but I think it somehow backfired for director PArk Chan-Wook, who in Korea has developed a hyper-melodramatic style -- a Korean High Baroque -- that makes him one of the world's most interesting directors to follow (try Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, I'm a Cyborg), yet his one English-language film feels constrained, muted.
Fo r example, the three main characters are each stuck with only one mask to wear: Mia Wasikowska as the teen daughter India is blocked in suspicion, cold hate in her black eyes (usually glaring at you sideways (see DVD box cover)); Nicole Kidman as her mom sustains a smoky scowl through an alcoholic haze (and the occasional phoney smile), and Matthew Goode as Uncle Charley, half smiling and glassy-eyed, forever hides a Big Something... but the whole movie is likewise static, a twisted psychological thriller trembling in aspic, struggling hopelessly to move ahead.
It's typical of the film, I think, that the intrusive character in the family is named Uncle Charley, getting you to say "a-ha: Hitchcock!" but the allusion is an illusion: it doesn't lead anywhere. Likewise, I don't see what story-threads the climax of the film tie up: arbitrary blood-letting because you have to end it some time?
Okay, so why three whole stars? Well, the photography is gorgeous, music is handled beautifully, and above all it's a film by Park Chan-Wook: watching him fall helps you appreciate it when he really flies.