Review: Park Chan-wook breaks from violent past with sensual tale The Handmaiden
- Credit: ©Magnolia Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection
Best known for his violent Vengeance trilogy, the South Korean director has made perhaps his finest film with a good yarn based on Sarah Walters' novel.
The Handmaiden (18)
Weening yourself off an addiction is a terrible thing, but if that addiction is violence, then it's probably worth the effort.
In one of his previous films, Thirst, South Korean director Park Chan-wook imagined a devout priest, who becomes a vampire and has to deal with how to control urges that repulse him.
You may also want to watch:
Park gained international infamy with his Vengeance trilogy (Sympathy for Mr V, Lady V and Oldboy). Since its conclusion he has been flailing around trying to find something to take it place and largely failing.
Now though he has turned to a novel by British novelist Sarah Walters, one of her Victorian lesbian tales, and has found his salvation.
- 1 Fire crews battling large house blaze
- 2 Ford and Jaguar crash in second incident near village in same night
- 3 Seven cosy pubs to visit in Norfolk this winter
- 4 BBC Autumnwatch returns to Norfolk for another season
- 5 Jailed this week: Primark brawl, attempted murder and abuse
- 6 950-home bid takes step forward after £7m developer contribution agreed
- 7 Revealed: The most expensive towns to buy a home in Norfolk
- 8 Road closed after crash involving car and two tractors
- 9 'I remember shutting down' - Singer on cancer diagnosis at Norfolk hospital
- 10 Hundreds more trees on route of Norwich NDR have died
He has sublimated his violent tendencies with sex, and made perhaps his finest film. What gets you first is the old fashioned virtue of a good yarn.
Set in the 1930s during Japanese occupation Sook-hee (Tae-ri Kim), an expert pick pocket and thief is engaged by a swindler (Jung-woo Ha) to work as a handmaiden to a rich Japanese heiress (Min-hee Kim) to advance his scheme to wrest her from the strict control of her sinister uncle (Jin-woong Jo) and persuade her to elope with him. It is all a little contrived but gripping and then just before the hour mark, the story pulls the rug from beneath us and things get really interesting.
Though it may represent a break with his most celebrated films there is still plenty of dark overtones, and towards the end, overt nastiness.
Mostly though it is sensual and erotic: not hot and heavy, more cold and controlled. The sinister uncle is a bibliophile, and the whole film has the marvellous sense of slowly turning the pages of a really impressive book, written in detailed and ornate prose, that you never want to finish.