Octopus-Eater Double Feature
Octopus-Eater Double Feature
By: Marla Eizik
One of the awesome things about living in Seattle is being close to SIFF Cinema, the Seattle International Film Festival’s home for awesome movies. Aside from the festival every Spring, SIFF’s two cinemas play incredible and sometimes obscure films and documentaries. Every time I see a film there, I’m blown away. The last double feature I saw, two Chan Wook Park films, was no exception, and I knew I had to write about it.
The thing about Chan Wook Park is he is one crazy-pants director. If you have Netflix, go watch Thirst, one of his more recent films and the most raw and strangely comical vampire movies of all time. If you’re tired of hearing about sparkly vampire boys, trust me, watch this one instead. In fact, most of his films are streaming on Netflix, so go check them out, including Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance. Park’s style is all quick cuts and chopped up timing, with powerfully visceral scenes that will make you squirm, if you’re a normal person. And then he gets you with these horribly comedic takes that will make you feel bad for laughing. It’s no wonder he’s called the Asian Quentin Tarantino.
When I found out SIFF was playing a double feature of Park’s iconic film Oldboy and his newest release Stoker, my first thought was “Yes. This is happening.” I’d been wanting to see Stoker for months, after watching the creepy trailer and deciding that maybe Nicole Kidman can pull off the bitter old widow role. I was super stoked (buh dum chhhh) and while I hadn’t seen Oldboy yet, my boyfriend is a hardcore Park fan, and just hearing him go on about the film made me eager to see some weird Korean cinema. And man, I was not disappointed.
I’ll try to not spoil Oldboy for you (go! watch! now!) but essentially it is the ultimate revenge story. Most of Park’s storylines revolve around revenge, if you couldn’t tell from the other titles. The general premise is Oh Dae-Su is held prisoner in a hotel for fifteen years, gets out, and is pretty pissed at the people who locked him up (for reasons that are still completely unknown to him). What else to do but fall in love with a cute sushi chef and find the guys that locked him away for “talking too much”. My favorite scene is probably when he eats a live octopus. Yeah, seriously. The thing is squiggling around in his mouth while he’s chomping down and it is the most disturbing and hilarious moment that I just had to giggle, along with everyone else in the theater. And apparently the actor who plays Dae-Su actually ate the octopus, and since they had to get the shot just right, he ate several. WHAT. Park is a master at making scenes that are so disturbing that they seem just ridiculous, which acts as comic relief in his otherwise dark films.
After Oldboy, we had fifteen minutes to recover before Stoker came on. The great thing about these movies is there’s so much building suspense and shocker moments that you don’t really need any blood or violence, but there is still plenty of that to go around too, so everyone’s happy. Stoker is a story about a quiet only child named India, and after her father dies she’s left with a bitter mother that never understood her, and a creepy uncle that comes to live with them after his brother is gone. And that’s about all I can tell you without giving it all away. The storyline itself really isn’t all that unusual, but it’s the way it’s shot that makes all the difference. Park likes to mess with time sequences and take certain scenes out of order and stitch them together again; not enough to disorientate you completely, but just enough to make you pay attention. I’m not the kind of person to pay a lot of attention to camera angles and fancy cuts (just give me the gore and suspense, dangit!) but it’s worth it to watch Park’s movies and look closely at how he shoots certain scenes to ensure an image sticks in your mind. He uses the angles to tell more of a story than the plot itself, and it gives his films more depth than I thought imaginable. He does this with Stoker, and the result is stunning.
So there you have it: tentacle-consuming prisoner revenge and creepy pale family drama. Marathon some Park on the next rainy day, and while I can’t promise that you won’t have nightmares, I can promise that you will be entertained, in the most baffling and wonderful way.
About the Author: Marla was first introduced to the world of nerdom through Friday night Star Trek sessions with her family. As a child, she used Star Wars as a comforting tool and was known to sneak out of class to hang out in the library. Currently she lives in the great city of Seattle and is saving money to attend the University of Washington. Marla’s dream is to travel the world in search of the best books and food.