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Park Chan-wook Talks Differences Between Korean & American Films, How 'Stoker' Fits In With His Filmography & More

Interviews
by Drew Taylor
March 19, 2013 7:00 PM
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If there is one movie that has caused unending debate around The Playlist water-cooler, it's Park Chan-wook's English-language debut "Stoker." First screened at Sundance and making its slow creep across the country now, it's a twisty, unerringly perverse riff on Alfred Hitchcock's "Shadow of a Doubt," wherein a mysterious Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) comes to visit his long lost family following his brother's equally mysterious demise. Mia Wasikowska plays the young daughter of the deceased, and an admirably batty Nicole Kidman is the new widow. We got to sit down with director Park and discuss what made "Stoker" so appealing as his first English language movie, how he decided on the composers for the film, and where the film fits in with his filmography.

Those who have already seen "Stoker" know that it is baroquely stylized, a main point of contention for those who form the "con" side of the "Stoker" debate, the aesthetic in keeping with Park's previous films, the so-called "Vengeance Trilogy" ("Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance," "Oldboy," and "Lady Vengeance") and his vampire epic "Thirst." Even if you dislike it, you can't keep yourself from talking about it. (This writer is very much in the pro camp.) In person, it's nice that Park owns the visual opulence and obvious influences of the film, while maintaining that it is still very much a part of his already established filmography. Oh, and he loves Philip Glass.

What made you want "Stoker" to be your first English language project?
I liked the fact that the script wasn't very reliant upon dialogue. It wasn't a dialogue-oriented film. I liked how it had a lot of room to bring visual elements and sound elements out. This is very much how I like to make films in Korea. Those films allow for a lot of things to be brought in to really enrich the film's world.

Speaking of sound – how did you decide on the composer for this?
Well, first came Philip Glass, which I had to because I wanted him to write the piano piece during the piano duet. I love Philip Glass' work, not only as a film composer but also as a musician. The film score work that he does always amazes and shocks me. One of the great things about making an American film is getting to work with people like Glass, someone I have admired for a long time. It was a dream come true. That's how the piano music came to be.

As for the score, I was really familiar with Clint Mansell's work from back in the days of "Pi." I really loved Clint's work on "The Fountain." I was very happy to work with Clint.

What's interesting too is that Emily Wells, who does the song at the end of the film, she was somebody who I wasn't familiar with but when I wanted a song to come at the end of the film and speak to what happens to India, my sound editor came up with this great suggestion. He said, "You should go and listen to this brilliant singer/songwriter perform." So I went to a club in Silverlake where she performed and was immediately attracted to the work she doing and she started to work on the song from scratch. I was amazed by how receptive she was to what the film is about and she was able to absorb everything about the film and express it in a musical way. It amazed me.

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