The Handmaiden (2016)

UK Curzon Artificial Eye 2 disc Blu-ray special edition with the theatrical cut and the longer extended cut

Text below written 2018-01-15

 

Yes, Park Chan-wook is back in South Korea from the Hollywood quagmire with a universally hailed erotic drama thriller based on
a novel by Sarah Waters, and it's a visually gorgeous film ... and with some explicit lesbian lovemaking scenes (that supposedly
rendered it the UK 18 year rating i guess).

The only problem for me that arises with every new film from iconic Park Chan-wook, is that my expectations are enormous. After
his mindblowing Vengeance trio some 10-15 years ago and his wildly inspired Night Fishing experiment in 2011, i'm always expecting
something special from Park. But, after his disappointing Hollywood effort Stoker i'm afraid he may have been bitten by the Hollywood
Bug and catched some of the mainstream virus that can wreck any movie. Is this the case here ?

Answer is No, but The Handmaiden could've been told in a slightly less conventional way maybe. Yes, we get to see the story unfolding
from 2 different views, So-kee's and Hideko's, but that's it ... and every scene is played 2 times so we really will get it and that's just too
simplistic ... but obviously Park wanted this internationally targeted film to be understood by a Hollywood-mainstream damaged western
audience when it premiered in Cannes 2017. OK, it's straight-forwardly told but it's visually gorgeous and bizarre enough to be enjoyable

To the left above the 168 minutes extended version ; to the right the 146 minutes theatrical version

1930's japanese occupation of Korea and a korean girl, So-kee (Kim Tae-ri) is hired as a handmaiden to a storming rich japanese woman,
Lady Izumi Hideko (Kim Min-hee). Soo-kee is hired as Okju or Tamako (japanese name) and she's really a criminal scheming to steal the
riches of Lady Hideko. Her partner in crime is the japanese Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) who's planning to abduct and marry Hideko.
But, also Hideko's pervert uncle Kouzuki is after her inherited fortune as he needs money for bying and forging erotic litterature.

The actors are great and the film looks delicious as a sweet pastry, and then there are some explicit lesbian lovemaking scenes and a twist.
But not the masterpiece as the sleeve claims it to be, a great film it is though.
My favourite films of Park Chan-wook still are: Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002), NEPAL - Never Ending Peace & Love (2003), Old Boy
(2003) and Night Fishing (2011) ... and i haven't seen his Dracula movie Thirst yet.
I rate The Handmaiden to be (almost) as good as his Lady Vengeance film and the oddity I'm a Cyborg but that's OK (only I liked that one)

Presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with an DTS-HD MA 5.1 korean and japanese audio with english subtitles. One blu-ray in a long 168 minutes
version and one in 146 minutes version. Extras, not so many unfortunately, only: a short making of featurette, a very short director interview,
a shorter than very short cast introduction and some very brief Cannes Premiere footage

 

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