Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Handmaiden (아가씨)(2016)

Director: Park Chan-Wook
Writers: Park Chan-Wook, Seo-Kyeong Jeong, Sarah Waters (Novel-Fingersmith)
DOP: Chung-Hoon Chung
Cast: Min-Hee Kim, Tae-Ri Kim, Jung-Woo Ha, Jin-Woong Jo

A woman is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, but secretly she is involved in a plot to defraud her.

Park Chan-Wook is a director whose reputation will always be connected with the enormously successful film 'Oldboy' which is just one in his thematically connected 'Vengeance Trilogy'. Most people wouldn't have seen the other two in the trilogy but they both are arguably quite superior to Oldboy which relies a bit too much on the shock factor concerning its twist. Sympathy for Mr Vengeance is quite brutal to watch and Lady Vengeance is a quite cool feministic take on the vengeance. His only other Korean film I've watched is the super fun Vampire flick 'Thirst' which is just off the rocker. His English language debut 'Stoker' received mixed responses but I found it to be really good with a very cool ending.

Handmaiden is a period film set during second world war. The basic aim of the handmaiden lady in the film is revealed upfront and twist is connected to this reveal at around the midpoint of the film. Film works like a comedy one mainly due to the mannerisms of the Handmaiden but there are some kinky aspects to it as suggested by the posters. The last act is quite dedicated to some torture scenes which just doesn't sync well with the rest of the film. The overall balance is titled too much towards comedy which kind of undermines the other aspects. It is overall a very good watch but in my opinion it is the weakest one from Park out of what I've seen. Technically it is very good and I saw from a review of it that they had different coloured subtitles depending on the language spoken, Japanese or Korean. Those kind of things I might have missed through translated subtitles.

If I were to rank his films, it would be:

1. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
2. Oldboy
3. Stoker
4. Lady Vengeance
5. Thirst
6. The Handmaiden

Rating: 3.5/5