Cinema Dispatch: The Handmaiden


The Handmaiden and all the images you see in this review are owned by CJ Entertainment

Directed by Chan-wook Park

I have been waiting to see this one for a while now which is somewhat depressing considering all the other film critics got to see it some time ago, but on the other hand at least I was lucky enough to see at all which a lot of other people haven’t been lucky enough to do yet.  Now all the way back in 2010 (I think) when Netflix was still delivering DVDs, the first movie I ever watched when I took the plunge into their streaming service was oddly enough Sympathy for Lady Vengeance which… I guess doesn’t REALLY have any significance, but it was my introduction to Chan-wook Park’s work, and I ended up watching Old Boy not too long after that.  If you aren’t aware already, this is a guy who is an absolute legend that we get to experience in his prime; on par with the greats like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and John Waters.  Okay… that last one was for me, but there are comparisons to be made between those two as Chan-wook Park, like Waters, finds humor and absurdity in people just being people.  Now to be fair, Park tends to go in a much darker direction with that concept, especially in films like Thirst which is about someone desperately trying to find a way to live as a vampire while maintaining his humanity, but its honestly these touches along with his technical acumen that has led him to stand out and garner all the critical praise that he has.  So is his latest film yet another example of this director being just as brilliant as everyone says he is, or are the cracks starting to show now that his work has been at the bleeding edge of film discourse for over a decade now?  Let’s find out!!

The movie begins in Japanese occupied Korea with Sook-Hee (Kim Tae-ri) who’s been recruited by Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) who’s managed to drag himself out of the lower class but still doesn’t have the kind of money he needs to truly be accepted into high society.  What is Sook-Hee recruited for?  Well he has a plan to rob this rich guy known simply as Uncle Kouzuk (Cho Jin-woong) who’s niece Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) is the inheritor a vast fortune.  Count Fujiwara plans to have Sook-hee go undercover as the titular Handmaiden to Lady Hideko and will gain her trust so that she can start convincing her that this dashing new suitor is the PERFECT husband.  Once married, Count Fujiwara will lock Lady Hideko in an insane asylum (which I’m guessing wasn’t all that hard to do back in those days) and split some of the money with Sook-hee.  Now obviously things don’t go exactly as planned as we watch Sook-hee get closer and closer to Lady Hideko, and we learn more and more about the life she’s led and how her uncle has treated her since her aunt died some time ago.  Will Sook-hee go through with the plan that will get her all the money she could ever need, or will her feelings make it impossible to do so?  Will Count Fujiwara be able to stay civil long enough for the plan to even work in the first place?  Just what the heck is going on in that library they keep bringing up!?

“Tonight’s reading will be a selected piece from VegitoBro420 titled Mercy and Tracer go to White Castle: A tale of Love and Hamburgers.”

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