Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Foreign-Film Wednesday: The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden (2016) Dir: Park Chan-wook. 

Based on Sarah Waters'  2002 novel Fingersmith, The Handmaiden transposes Waters' Victorian-Britain setting to Japanese-occupied Korea and concerns a pair of con artists and a woman yearning to escape her brutal and sexually-exploitative uncle who wishes to marry her for her money.

Sook-hee is a thief and petty criminal who poses as a handmaiden to a wealthy woman, Hideko, who has been raised by her aunt's husband, a collector of rare erotica. "Count Fujiwara" is an associate of Sook-hee's who is conspiring to marry Hideko with Sook-hee's help. Shenanigans ensue.

The first time I saw this movie, when it was in theaters in 2016, I didn't know anything about it nor had I read Fingersmith; I still haven't read the book but I want to. The movie is constructed in three parts; by the end of part one, what I thought was going on, wasn't what was going on. By the end of the movie, I didn't know what was going on, but it seemed like everyone got what was coming to them, more or less. So it was satisfying in that sense.

The movie has a lot of explicit and frankly edgy sexual content and I'm not talking about the sex between the two women. A friend of mine took someone on a first date to this movie and I would not recommend that. LOL. It's genuinely suspenseful, twisty and intense. It's beautiful to look at and the actors are graceful and convincing. There is some gruesome violence towards the end.  

It's a long-ish movie at about 2 and a half hours but you won't feel the time pass at all, so firmly will it grip your attention. Pop some popcorn and settle in for a wild ride.

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