Posts Tagged ‘Chan-Wook Park’

handmaiden“THE HANDMAIDEN”  My rating: B+ 

145 minutes | No MPAA rating

Profoundly disturbing, shockingly kinky and filled with “Sting”-worthy plot twists, “The Handmaiden” is a seductive/repellant tale of debauchery, betrayal and sadism.

In other words, a good time at the movies.

Those familiar with the work of Korean auteur Chan-wook Park (“Oldboy,” “Lady Vengeance”) know he’s got no problem shocking his audience. With “The Handmaiden” he metaphorically throws us up against an electrified fence.

Adapting Welsh author Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel Fingersmith, Park has moved the action from Victorian England to the 1930s and Japanese-occupied Korea.The story is told in three parts, each one concentrating on a different character’s point of view.

Our tale begins in a literal den of thieves.  Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) is a young woman working for a gang of criminals. Though illiterate, she’s ambitious and dreams of great wealth.  So she’s instantly on board when one of her colleagues (Jung-woo Ha) recruits her for his plan to infiltrate an upper-class home and make off with a king’s ransom.

It seems there’s a perverted old Korean widower, Kouzuki (Jin-woong Jo), who is planning to wed Hideko (Min-hee Kim), his Japanese ward and niece-by-marriage.  A collector of rare pornography, Kouzuki has little money of his own and cannot wait to get his hands on Hideko’s fortune. This won’t be difficult because the girl is an emotional and mental wreck.

But he has competition.  Sook-Hee will take a job as the young lady’s handmaiden, working behind the scenes as her colleague, posing as the Japanese nobleman Count Fujiwara, seduces Hideko and elopes with her.  Then the unstable girl will be committed to a madhouse and the crooks will divide up her inheritance, which now will be controlled by her betraying new spouse.

Part I follows Sook-Hee as she enters the household — a vast estate dominated by a mansion that is half traditional Japanese home, half Victorian castle. Over time she befriends her new mistress and starts to feel sorry for the emotionally-tormented Hideko.  While during the day the Count woos the young woman under the guise of giving art lessons, at night Sook-Hee becomes the girl’s lover.

Big question: When the time comes, will she be able to put aside her romantic inclinations and condemn Hideko to a life of insanity?


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