The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden ★★½


This is one of the most acclaimed films of 2016, so I went back and finished it out of a sense of duty. And, well...ugh. It's certainly well made for what it is. But there's something about Park's camerawork and art direction that can make even the most benign visual object (a tuxedo, a leatherbound book) seem lurid and vulgar.

By the time this was over, I resented him and the film for making me feel like a prude, because the sex scenes were just so louche and squallid even as they were gussied up in all that high-toned Japanoiserie. I had trouble pinpointing my difficulty, and I think it comes down to this: be raw and porny, or be tender and fun, but don't be one while pretending to be the other. Dishonest sex isn't sexy.