The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden

Overview

Korea, 1930s. A con man hires a pickpocket to become the maid of a mysterious and fragile heiress, in an attempt to seize her wealth. But the story takes a twist when the lady falls in love with her maid.

Metadata
Title The Handmaiden
Director Chan-wook Park
Director of Photography
Runtime 2 h 25 min
Certification
Release Date 1 June 2016
Tagline
IMDb Id tt4016934
Homepage
Trailer

Probably not a movie I would typically add to my watchlist just from the description – but it being directed by Chan-wook Park of Oldboy fame, I thought I’d give it a go. And if you enjoy cinema, you should as well.

A story in three acts, we follow a pickpocket Sookee who is hired by a fake Count who has come up with a confidence scheme that sees Sookee become a handmaiden to a wealthy Japanese heiress. But not all is what it seems… hence the three acts.

I won’t reveal any more of the plotline as it would take away from the experience. It is at first glance simply a beautifully atmospheric cinematic experience due to gorgeous cinematography and great editing throughout the entire movie – almost two and a half hours. Underneath the sexy visual veneer, the plot is not terribly complex but it does become more interesting as the story unfolds with more than a few twists.

The movie isn’t perfect. The first act is a bit too slow, and the second act really should have started earlier – but the twist that kicks off that second act brings you right back to attention and the pacing from thereon is on point. My real gripe is with some of the erotic scenes. The focus on the beautiful visuals and attempted shock value has turned a couple of them into something very close to parody which really takes away from the rest of the movie. There actually isn’t anything to see – Park does a great job of suggestive camerawork, but the directing of the actors in those scenes feels too much form over function and loses the intimacy intended in my opinion. As Tarantino is known for his Pulp Fiction style, Park’s movies have been called ‘Classy Trash’ by some, and I have to agree that indeed some of the erotic scenes deserve that label.

But don’t let that scare you off.  It’s a gripe that lead me to give the movie ‘only’ four stars instead of four and a half. There is far more to enjoy here than there is to complain about. The story has enough angles and subtexts to justify a second viewing as well. If you love cinema, find a big screen to watch this movie on.

★★★★☆

 

The Handmaiden
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