Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Handmaiden Movie Review

The Handmaiden (2016)
Buy The Handmaiden on Amazon Video // Read the Book
Written by: Sarah Waters (inspired by the novel "Fingersmith" by) & Seo-kyeong Jeong & Chan-wook Park (screenplay)
Directed by: Chan-wook Park
Starring: Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woong
Rated: --/R

My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!

In this foreign language film, a Korean woman is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress but is secretly involved in a plot to defraud her. That's not the extent of the betrayals.

With beautiful imagery and a intricate plot this succeeds on both fronts. It's a tangled story of deception with a dual story line that clips along at a good pace.
It's absolutely beautiful and a well made movie, full of subtle moments, though the relationship between the two female leads crosses the boundary of subtle and becomes erotic. While that fits some of the subject matter, it toes the line of gratuitous.
Watch it.

Chan-wook Park has directed classic Korean revenge films like Oldboy (2003) and Lady Vengeance (2005), as well as the British-American film Stoker (2013). This is an ambitious project, and he's a director to watch. I've enjoyed all of this films.

Just the first few minutes establish impressive imagery. This is a visual masterpiece. The house, or set, is incredibly detailed.
This mixes both Korean and Japanese languages. Japan has occupied Korea, creating a class divide where Koreans are servants. Sook-hee finds employment as a maid to Hideko. It's all a ruse, but a mutual attraction develops through small moments and glances.
Sook-hee poses as a naive maid in an elaborate scam, but you realize quickly  there is something between the heiress and the handmaiden. Is Sook-hee acting in the scam or does she genuinely feel something? Hideko is emotionally stunted, often treating Sook-hee like some kind of doll she can dress up. Is she just bored?

The story clips along at a brisk pace, providing just the right amount of information without being expository. The story is divided into three parts, and part two was a break in the pacing as we delve into Hideko's background. She's experience some torment from Kouzuki, her uncle and hopeful lover who collects erotic books. Part two seems like a tangent but intersects with part one rather well. The may feel jumbled at times, but by the last third we realize everything is interconnected. Deception is complicated and the writing in this is solid.

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