The Handmaiden Movie Review & Film Summary (2. Park Chan- Wook. It is voluptuously beautiful, frankly sexual, occasionally perverse and horrifically violent.
At times its very existence feels inexplicable. And yet all of its disparate pieces are assembled with such care, and the characters written and acted with such psychological acuity, that you rarely feel as if the writer- director is rubbing the audience. This is a film made by an artist at the peak of his powers: Park, a South Korean director who started out as a critic, has many great or near- great genre films, including . The plot faintly evokes many Gothic thrillers (chiefly . The result seems at once specifically English, specifically Korean and not of this astral plane; like Park. Every frame pulses with life, sometimes with blood. The script tells of a spirited female pickpocket named Sooki, actually named Tamako ( Kim Tae- ri), who gets a job as a handmaiden at the estate of a rich old book collector (Lee Yong- nyeo), serving him and Lady Hideko (Kim Min- hee), the niece of his late wife; she gets pulled into a scheme by a fake count who wants to marry the niece and have her committed to an asylum so that he can claim her fortune; the book collector, the fake count.
A woman is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress, but secretly she is involved in a plot to defraud her. Ah-ga-ssi (original title) 2h 24min Cannes 2016: is The Handmaiden liberatingly erotic or a male wet dream?
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Their blossoming affair is tenderly observed. The fake count is handsome and can be dashing at times. So here we go, somewhat vaguely, into the breach: nothing is what it seems in this movie, and the things that aren. Most of the story takes place in and around the book collector. It seems to change size and shape depending on a visitor.
Soon enough, the movie teaches you how to watch it, and you start asking questions, like, . One of many show- stopping setpieces is a reading of perverse erotica from the book collector.
Nearly as powerful, though far subtler, are the cross- cut sequences that feel like self- contained short stories of their own. Dialogue or recited scraps of letters or fiction become de facto narration laid over a cascade of images, brilliantly composed for a very wide frame by Chung Chung- hoon, and backed by Cho Young- wuk. As you ease into the middle third, you start to see moments and images revisited from different angles, seen or heard from fresh vantage points, or picked up slightly earlier or slightly later, altering their meaning or revealing previously withheld facts. The result is a rare film that could be equally well- represented by a billboard- sized collage of randomly chose still- frames, and a flowchart. As you might have deduced, . The movie is filled with literal and figurative nods to the act of artistic creation, from the loving close- ups of the book collector. These touches are all striking in their own right.
But they never feel ostentatiously disconnected from the story and characters. Park never loses track of these ideas or forgets about them, but they never expressed in tediously rhetorical terms.