The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden ★★★★½

Official selection (Palme d'Or) of 2016 Cannes Film Festival, directed by Oldboy provocateur Park Chan-wook, The Handmaiden is based on Sarah Waters' 2002 novel Fingersmith, with the action transposed from Victorian England to Japan-occupied Korea in the 1930s. Most of its runtime is with Sook-hee (Kim Tae Ri) and Hideko (Kim Min-hee) narrating large sections of their own distinctively prickly points of view. Sook-hee is a thief masquerading as a meek lady's maid in order to help a con man in his scheme to marry a rich noblewoman, but the story takes a twist when the lady falls in love with her maid. The Handmaiden starts out looking as if it'll be a deeply serious/depressing tale of a Korean "comfort woman" forced to service the occupying Japanese military, but Park quickly turns it into an intelligent, funny and daring erotic thriller. Lavish production designs and enthusiastic cinematography, add keenness to the obscenity of an arthouse production.

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