Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Shane Carruth's "Upstream Color" & Park Chan-Wook's "Stoker" advance screening Premiers at SIFF Cinema: March 12 - 14 | Director in Attendance: March 14

Two major advance screening premiers this month at SIFF! The past decade has seen Korean cinema take Western Society's love of shock and thrills, imbued it with meaning, almost grotesque humor, stylistic flourishes, a frenetic sense of risk, propelled through a often labyrinth of inventive narrative hooks and thrown it back at us. Seemingly upping Hollywood at it's own game and delivering some seriously joyous, brooding, psychotic, perverse, playful, absurd thrills. So it's with paradoxically hesitant anticipation that I went into Park Chan-Wook's new film "Stoker" last night. Anticipation for all the reasons listed above, hesitation for him now on Hollywood ground, directing films in English with a cast including Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode. Nonetheless I had hope of him delivering a psychotic fusion of Jean-Pierre Jeunet ("I'm a Cyborg but that's OK") and Alfred Hitchcock ("Old Boy") as a american psycho-drama. Well, good thing I went in with a degree of trepidation, attuned to how this setting and cast could go amiss. As the psychological thrills simmered throughout, yet never reached the cohesion of a boiling point. Seemingly a case of 'lost in translation' it's eccentric cast of sociopaths and the ultra-privileged elicit neither your sympathy, or even quite the dynamics of a love them/hate them dichotomy of the despicable. Here's hoping Mr. Park makes a quick return to more fertile (Korean) cinema ground again soon!
The second, and more anticipated premier, is the long, long awaited follow-up to Shane Carruth's brilliant bit of low budget, smaller cast, sci-fi of 2004, "Primer". His newest, "Upstream Color" screened already at SXSW last weekend to near-hysterics online. Filling a void left by Soderbergh, Aronofsky, Fincher and many of the other promising genre-directors of the 2000's, who went on to make solid, but more formula-based films with larger budgets and celebrity casts. Carruth has the very real potential to be their equivocal for this decade. "Upstream Color"'s Sundance screening garnering no small amount of critical praise from The Village Voice, The LA Times and yet more attention in the pages of the New York Times for it's inclusion in MoMA's prestigious New Directors/New Films series, along with a Lion's share of the contents of Film Comment's 'Best Undistributed Films of 2012' survey of last year. I'm not going to say much more about Carruth's film in advance of SIFF's preview screening as seeing it 'blind' is the best way to appreciate it's particularly moving, bucolic and at once nightmarish vision. Even with reading the above New York Times interview (and I recommend you don't) you'd not be prepared for the fusion of cinema forms on display so disparate as the visual aesthetic of Terrence Malick and the corporeal, psychological drama/trauma of early David Cronenberg. How's that for a unexpected junction?! I'll even go as far as to say the hyperbole you've heard issue from the festival screenings along the lines of "the most original new sci-fi film of this decade", isn't unfounded. Witness Carruth's newest yourself when it returns for SIFF's theatrical run next month.