In Japanese-occupied Korea, a conman operating under the sobriquet of “Count Fujiwara” hires a pickpocket named Sook-Hee from a family of con artists to become the maid of the mysterious heiress Lady Hideko, whom Fujiwara plans to marry and to commit to an asylum in order to steal her inheritance.
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Digital. Being in many moments an example of the visual bastardization that dominates the current industrial film production, especially in cinematography and obtuse camera movements (the first scenes of sex between the actresses are terrible), this film finds after the end of the first part, with the first twist, a clearing of the director's formalist capacity, showing in the torture's scene its major opus.
Pulling a twist on top of another twist was a bold move. The film is beautifully put together and a constant visual treat, but I think that it could have been shorter, a bit less gratuitous with all the steamy sex, kinkiness and sadism of the crazy uncle, and explored better Sook-hee's backstory... It felt like all the attention went to Lady Hideko. But this was great, juicy and fun to watch!
the political background of a colonial japan and the main theme of the woman's representation in art history make this film fundamental for what it represents. the narrative unfolding and the (sometimes) gratuitous display of violence/sex of park make it somehow a smaller work. it is also an highly entertaining film.
I know I'm in the minority, but I was never that taken by Park Chan-wook's Oldboy: its style was irresistible, but the jury is out on whether or not its perverse twists meant anything. The Handmaiden is much more satisfying: not just an exercise in J-horror-Gothic fusion, but a tale of female sexual liberation that ultimately feels cathartic rather than exploitative. And still perverse, if that's what you want.
Park's adaptation of 'Fingersmith' that transposes Water's Victorian novel to occupied Korea is a magnificent take on gender politics, duplicity and erotica. Exquisite in detail the film is not only a thriller and a romance but also often a very black comedy. Kim Min-hee is wonderful here as is Kim Tae-ri In the title role. Camera work by Chung Chung-hoon is a marvel conjoined with the editing team.
Director Park Chan-wook's deeply dark, deeply lush visuals seem to promise another blood-soaked tale of revenge and depravity, as did "The Handmaiden's" wonderfully unnerving trailer. The biggest surprise, then, might just be how slight this tale proves - a frequently laugh-out-loud period piece that effortlessly translates the British comedy of errors to WWII-era Korea. Not a major work but more than a diversion.
Unarguably lush to behold, Chan Wook's saturated colours and sensational camera movements captivate the viewer with sensuous images. But in spite of his artistic achievements with film form, the content of this film is difficult to stomach, from the porn-esque narrative to the gore and sadomasochistic tendencies. There really isn't much substance beneath the surface.
74/100 - Good.
In Park Chan Wook's wonderfully lustful The Handmaiden, pain is beauty and beauty is pain. Using fetishism as liberation of the self, Wook's carefully weaved narrative deconstructs the levels of imprisonment circumstances dictate for his characters. It's not until there is an acceptance of mirrors that one's fate truly starts unfolding.