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10/10
Masterclass Cinema
ctowyi7 July 2016
This is hands down the most perfect film I have seen so far this year. I gave a score of 5/5 to movies like The Revenant, Spotlight and The Songs We Sang. But even with these excellent films I can always find a spot that doesn't quite sit right with me. With The Handmaiden, it is perfect; every frame handcrafted to perfection. Even with 4min of explicit sex taken away by my country's dumb censors, this is still perfect every way I see it.

Auteur Park Chan-Wook's The Handmaiden is a superb exercise in form, structure and tone. With the latter, Park (Oldboy & Joint Security Area) has achieved something extraordinary. If any scene were to linger a few seconds longer or he had decided to focus on a certain issue, the film would have veered off to a different territory. As it is, and with all the major characters' kooky off-kilter portrayals, I can't pinpoint whether I was watching something real or abstract. I was also kept in awe by the intricate and resplendent set- design which suggests something dark and Gothic is working the undercurrents. There are of course some serious girl on girl action but that never encroaches into the spine of the story.

Adapting Sarah Waters' Fingersmith, a Victorian tale awash with all manner of Dickensian motifs, Park spins an engrossing tale that ebbs and flows with a Hitchcockian suspense; it withholds as much as it discloses; it is an erotic tale that beats with raw fervour. It is at once a love story but also a menagerie showcasing human beings in their vilest forms. Park's finger hovers over all the buttons, teasing us gleefully but it is with the ultimate restraint that he never descends down to the usual tropes. The story is divided into three chapters; each told from a different character's perspective. The structure is Rashomon-esque but Park puts his own stamp on it. The film may be nearly 2.5 hours but I hardly moved in my seat; my senses kept spellbound as each twist hits me hard. When it ended I couldn't believe 2.5 hours have whizzed by. The plot is pulsating and it never lets up. There is even an octopus in it! This is definitely the most perfect film I have seen this year. You may not agree with me but for me this is cinema of the masterclass level.

It's sexy time!
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10/10
Sublime cinema - like Hithcock with the extremity of Oldboy and the sexual candour of Blue is the Warmest Colour.
sossevarvo22 July 2016
I consider Park Chan-Wook to be among the greats of cinema, alongside Scorsese, Tarantino, Fellini, Truffaut, Coppola, Tarkovsky and Nolan. So I had huge expectations going in, and boy, they were met.

TheHandmaiden is a masterpiece in pretty much every sense. It is visually exquisite, Costumes, production design, cinematography, music, all combine to create a lush vision of Japan-occupied Korea in the 1930s. Park Chan-Wook is a visually meticulous filmmaker and no film so far of his has showcased his knack for visual storytelling better than the Handmaiden. I went into this film totally blind, which I honestly recommend all people doing, because the plot itself unfolds in such a beautifully engineered fashion.

My best description of the film is a Rebecca-like Hitchcockian thriller with the extremity and depravity of films like Oldboy and Battle Royale, and the humanistic sexuality of Blue is the Warmest Colour. All actors are stunning in this film. The two women share an honest, tender romance that is both passionate and moving, with a refreshing candour about the nature of sexuality that is almost never seen in Hollywood productions. The Count is an incredibly charismatic performer who remains appealing despite his many despicable acts.

But as always with a Park Chan-Wook film, the real star is the director himself. The way in which this story is crafted is nothing short of engrossing. The outrageous, depraved, sexy, fascinating plot is crafted through multiple perspectives, dashing across back and forth in time, to masterfully reveal key plot points across a never less than spellbinding two hour run time. Some would say the film is slow, but I felt as though the extended running time worked in the film's favour, in order to build character to the extent that the finale for the film feels momentously epic, a real feat considering the movie showcases only four key characters.

I was utterly engrossed by this beautifully made film.
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10/10
Just amazing
tenshi_ippikiookami5 August 2016
"The Handmaiden" is a crazily imaginative and beautiful movie by Chan-wook Park, who is at the top of his game in this story of a pickpocket that tries to steal the fortune of a naive, innocent rich woman that has been secluded in a mansion in the middle of nowhere. Of course, things will start to get complicated soon enough.

Chan-wook Park has done a great job in adapting the original novel by Sarah Waters, and mixing it with the history of the Japanese invasion of Korea at the beginning of the twentieth century. The plot is a little bit silly sometimes, but Chan-wook Park makes it all tight and fast-paced, and even the most silly moment becomes a moment of beauty and fun. From the first moment, the viewer will be enthralled by the story of these two women and their relationship, and every plot development will just add fun to the whole.

If the plot and the direction weren't amazing enough, the movie is as beautiful as they come. From the darkest moment, the most violent, to the most intimate, beauty transpires in every frame, and every scene comes to life and threatens to pop and break free from the screen. This is helped by the amazing work of all the cast, who does an incredible job in bringing this tale to life (it could be criticized, though, some of the heavily accented Japanese, for characters that are supposed to be able to pass as them).

All in all, "The Handmaiden" is proof that a movie can have a plot, amazing direction, acting, scenery, craziness and the most beautiful package possible. And even if it is almost two hours and a half long, it feels like a breeze.

You will fall in love with this movie. Just plain great.
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9/10
Park Chan-wook crafts another masterpiece!
wcoleparks21 June 2016
When going into a movie by one of your favorite directors, it is easy to set high expectations. Rarely does the film fully meet those expectations, but when it does it is something special. Such is the case with Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden (Mademoiselle). He has crafted an intricately woven tale of love and betrayal that highlights everything he can do so well from heightened sexual tension to gorgeous imagery.

The film, which is an adaptation of the novel The Fingersmith, revolves around a woman who is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress. This is the very basic summary to a film that has a lot of depth underneath the surface and requires the audience's attention throughout the film. And as the plot goes on we discover the newly hired handmaiden may have some ulterior motives along with many of the other characters. Nothing is revealed too quickly and the film is split into a three-part structure that slowly pieces things together through flashbacks. It also uses a storytelling device that is typically owned by Tarantino where the same scene is shown from multiple perspectives and each adds a new layer to the story. All of these devices are used to full effect and create surprising twists on par with Park Chan-wook's Oldboy.

What is immediately apparent from the start of the film is how well Park Chan-wook's aesthetic fits into the time period. His eye for gorgeous shots and camera angles makes the house in the film look like a work of art. The grounds around the house are also highlighted so well. Wide shots and lingering camera movements let you appreciate every little detail on screen and marvel at the beauty of it all.

The score also fits in perfectly with the time period. It is never bombastic and always subtle, and perfectly captures the mood and feeling of each scene. Whether an intimate moment between the two women or a heated exchange between characters it's hard to realize how great the score is because of how organic it feels.

Framing is also a very important addition to the story. Through the use of mirrors and reflections, Park Chan-wook suggests the double-sided nature of the characters. Also, he often obstructs part of the frame with an object and hides characters behind walls or glass to suggest we may not really see everything that is going on before us. This aspect of the film in particular I feel will only get better with subsequent viewing when you can understand all of characters motivations and desires.

One thing that Park Chan-wook did so well with Stoker was creating a palpable feeling of sexual tension without using nudity or anything overtly sexual. In this film he succeeds with that throughout the entire film. Every look and every glance the two woman share conveys a longing and desire that permeates the whole film. In this film however, he continues that passion past suggestion into full on sex. There are multiple scenes with extended nudity but they are all filmed so artfully and sympathetically it always feels warranted. The scenes never feel awkward or exploitative and always are tasteful and almost poetic. Somehow despite what I was watching I still found myself admiring the camera-work and beautiful cinematography.

One thing that surprised me in the film and I have not seen in Park Chan-wook's other work is the humor. It was never slapstick and usually more circumstantial, but the whole audience laughed out loud on numerous occasions. He showed a surprisingly great understanding of timing and every joke landed. One scene in particular dealt with suicide and could have come across as insensitive or callous. Due to the perfect timing, it was hilarious and even further developed the relationship between the characters.

During the last act of the film, it does get unusually violent. There is a torture scene that seems out of place with the rest of the film. Though effective in its own right and thoroughly thrilling, it didn't sit right with me due to how subtle the rest of the film had been.

This is a film that really stays with you and will take multiple viewing to really appreciate the complex story. The first film I have seen in a long time where I continued to think about it throughout the day and had multiple conversations about all aspects of the film. With The Handmaiden, Park Chan-wook has crafted a film that fully displays the craft and technical prowess he can show and it includes a story that that only gets better the more you think about it.

The Handmaiden (2016) Directed by: Park Chan-wook Screenplay by: Seo-Kyung Chung, Park Chan-wook Starring: Jung-woo Ha, Min-hee Kim, Jin-woong Jo, Tae Ri Kim Run Time: 2 hour 25 minutes
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9/10
Not Old Boy, but that's OK
etismyname-0931816 July 2016
Sex. One of the most overused element in cinema and often mis-used and unnecessary. I was concerned when this movie is announced, a mis-used sex scene could make the movie feels cheap.

This movie did manage to get it quite right.There were scenes of sexual attractions in many parts of the movie but it did not take away all other elements that were done well in the movie.

Thematically beautiful, the mansion itself is split half between a western and Japanese. The costume design and cinematography are perfect. The west : grand and luxury; The Japanese : Clean, simple elegant design.

The story can be summed up as a hero saving a princess and is split into 3 parts. I loved the first two parts, the third part was the only disappointing part where the plot was predictable and not as interesting and it being the last part makes the movie fell short.

The music is perfect. Just like Old Boy, music is more crucial than other movies. Old Boy is a movie that would make you think of a modernized hero revenge movie that is both realistic and unbelievable. The music have strong presence to help build up that world. Same goes with this movie as it is also a very realistic setting (you know the period of time it is based upon, the characters motives are clear and their actions are) yet with some very unbelievable events when you add everything together.

It isn't a perfect movie, I saw some editing that could be improved here and there. The last part was also a small disappointment for myself. But it is a damn unique movie that you have to watch.
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8/10
A very refined and directed movie
jeffrymiranda-2585812 January 2018
This is all about greediness and its betrayal. During the first part of this movie, it kind of doesn't make any sense; however, during the second part is when things start to get way better.

I have to though that even though some of the translations in English are sometimes grammatically incoherent, one, as a viewer can still infer or grasp the message. The softness of language in this movie, draws you more into the setting, atmosphere and characters.

On the other hand, the acting skills shown by all of their actors and actresses are simply flawless and amazing. I don't what is it about these asian actors that they don't overplay nor fall into too much screaming or cheesy acting. This is something else!

I highly recommend this movie to understand better the depths of our most innate human emotions and nature.
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9/10
Blue is the Warmest Color + Oldboy = The Handmaiden
BrendanMichaels10 August 2016
Not the craziest film content wise, that award goes to The Neon Demon, but definitely the craziest film storytelling wise. Park Chan-Wook's The Handmaiden is almost as good as the film that put him on the map, Oldboy, and brings such ferocity and energy that it will be one of the most unforgettable films of 2016.

Think of The Handmaiden as The Duke of Burgundy F'd Up Edition. This film is pretty twisted in the most unexpected ways from the cinematography that is very reminiscent of Possession in that it always keeps moving, eroticism that is reminiscent of Blue is the Warmest Color, performances as spellbinding as Carol, and the insanity of Park Chan- Wook as expected.

The cinematography is some of the most entrancing of the year. Shots that look like they came out of The Master. It's shots like these that make me wonder how was this even possible? It looks so damn cool!

The performances are perfect in sucking you into this world of erotica, selfishness, and trickery. Both female leads were fantastic. Min-hee Kim and Kim Tae-ri are amazing with sharing their sexual tension with the audience watching. It's films like these that are the most memorable. Making you feel how ther characters are feeling. Jung-woo Ha and Jin- woong Jo were great as these sexually and financially repressed men who do the most screwed up things to feel the pleasure they so desire. Nothing wrong with the cast at all.

Of course Park Chank-Wook hits it out of the part with directing. How else would this immaculate vision be done without him niche for detail. He always knows exactly what to do to get an emotion out of his audience and I applaud him for that.

The only negative is that during the middle briefly the pacing slows down a lot and it became really unbearable because I wanted to know exactly what was going to happen next. Thankfully it doesn't last that long and it's really minor that probably won't affect others viewings.

If you have any interest in The Handmaiden or you've just heard about it for the first time I strongly suggest checking this out as soon as it comes out. I'll definitely re watch it when it releases in theaters. Easily one of the best films of the year and one I hope to re watch soon.
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10/10
Tour De Force!
Stijak9119 September 2016
The controversial film from Korean master Chan-wook Park evokes the sexiness of Abdellatif Kechiche's "Blue is the Warmest Colour" and Park's own signature violence and thrills. Set in the 1930s Japanese occupied Korea, it's a story of a young female pickpocket (Kim Tae-ri) who becomes a handmaiden to a beautiful Japanese heiress (Min-hee Kim). However, she must manage to convince the heiress to marry a conman (Jung-woo Ha) who poses as a count, for which she will get a chance for a better life. She gets into a moral dilemma when she starts developing feelings for the heiress.

The Handmaiden is a triumph on every level. The film is divided into three chapters, all giving different perspective. This way, the story is perfectly structured to give more and more insight as the film progresses, but at the same time, keep the viewers guessing. It offers a few surprises along the way as well. Visually, it's a feast for the eyes. The term "every frame a painting" gets overused, but it really fits here. I'm not only talking about cinematography, which offered plenty of memorable shots and beautiful scenery, but the costume and set design. The three leads all gave terrific performances. Musical score by Yeong-wook evokes, or better said, amplifies the emotions and the suspenseful tone. Despite the run time of 2 hours and 24 minutes, it never gets dull, it's very evenly paced throughout. I couldn't look away for a second.

One thing needs to be addressed, the film is quite explicit. That being said, it never gets vulgar, the sex scenes are done in perfect taste, they never feel out of place and they're not there just for the sake of it. The relationship between the characters and the physical presentation of it are integral to the film. It's a film about passion, abuse, jealousy, betrayal and deception, but most of all, it's an atypical love story, which will make one love and hate the protagonists at the same time. It's original and daring work of art that will stick with viewers long after it's finished.

Whenever Chan-wook Park makes a film, it must undoubtedly be compared to his masterpiece, "Oldboy". I don't think that "The Handmaiden" surpasses it, but it comes very close. With this film, he proved himself to be one of the greatest working directors today. It's the best film I've seen this year, one that I can't wait to revisit. It's not to be missed.
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8/10
Classy South Korean Erotic Thriller Divided in Three Parts
claudio_carvalho1 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
In Korea, the pickpocket Sook-Hee (Tae-ri Kim) is hired by the Japanese heiress Lady Hideko (Min-hee Kim) to be her personal servant. Hideko is supported by her Uncle Kouzuki (Jin-woong Jo) and the gold-digger "Count Fujiwara" (Jung-woo Ha), who is indeed son of peasants, wants to marry her to steal her inheritance. Sook-Hee is a small-time thief of the ring of the conman "Count Fujiwara" and is sent to help him in the confidence game. But soon Hideko and Sook- Hee get close to each other and become lovers. But Sook-Hee is pressed by Fujiwara to betray her friend. When Fujiwara marries Hideko, they go with Sook-Hee to an asylum and the nurses hold Sook- Hee believing that she is Hideko. Why Hideko poses of servant and leaves Sook-Hee in the asylum to stay with Count Fujiwara?

"Ah-ga-ssi", a.k.a. "The Handmaiden", is a classy South Korean erotic thriller divided in three parts and directed by Chan-wook Park. The first part is slow paced and shows the development of the relationship among Sook-Hee, Lady Hideko and "Count Fujiwara". The second part shows the abusive relationship of Uncle Kouzuki and Hideko since her childhood. The third part has many twists and shows the fate of each leader character. The cinematography is very beautiful and the eroticism is elegant and stylish. The screenplay has surprising plot points. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazl): "A Criada" ("The Maid")
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7/10
The Korean legend returns; more debauched than ever, but funnier too.
jvanhuys19887 October 2016
I saw this tonight at London Film Festival and Park Chan Wook was there, to answer Q&A. A very special moment to me.

I would advise anyone new to Park Chan-Wook's filmography to first explore his vampire flick 'Thirst' which has a similar style. 'Oldboy' is a cult classic, but more of an opium-filled, octopus eating thrill-ride, which this film is NOT, so be advised. I also think having SOME knowledge of Japanese rule in Korea is essential for understanding this film, or it will be above your head. Do some surface-level research on Japanese annexation of Korea and specifically the infamous 'comfort women'.

Completed that? OK now you're ready for this journey.

Now let's focus on the best part. The villain. This IS the best villain in recent memory. Seriously as far back as Hannibal Lecter. Uncle Kouzuki, is more creepy than Burton's Penguin. Compulsory viewing. I cannot mention anymore out of fear for spoiling the intricate plot. Highly recommended.
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8/10
You gotta hand it to Park Chan-wook
videorama-759-85939116 October 2016
The Handmaiden is a beautifully told story in a beautifully shot film. Some of it's chosen exterior locations are so captivating and mesmerizing, you almost feel you're there, or wish you were. The actresses are beautiful and perform nothing short of excellent, the young girl (The Handmaiden) especially, such a professionally acted job. You'd expect more so sex scenes, that kind of left me a little downtrodden. The major lesbian one, amidst only a couple of others, in this near two and half hour piece, is one of the hottest and most explicit, I've ever seen, this one again, beautifully shot. The story involves a young girl, a new handmaiden, forced to defraud the wife of the husband, only the young girl falls for the wife, where the story kind of manipulates you, as to where the girl's intentions will lead, where revenge is thrown in too, as we go back in time to an earlier period, involving our young girl, and the wife, where we find ourselves returning to some old scenes, but with added stuff- purpose here. This is one you'd have to watch a couple of times to get the complete picture. Didn't understand the change in color of the subtitles, my only qualm. Acting by all is top notch, and our handmaiden is definitely something to ogle at. A handmaiden who's beautifully made. We too have some violence, and some humorous moments. Hopefully this film will command more attention from moviegoers in Adelaide, as here's one faultless cinematic experience, you should experience, and by no accounts, miss, as it will be your loss. The most impressive thing here though, above everything else here is the filming/photography from obviously a very talented photographer.
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7/10
Intriguing drama
grantss15 July 2017
Korea, 1930s. Sook-Hee, a young Korean woman, goes to work as a handmaiden for Lady Hideko, a young Japanese woman who the heiress to a fortune. Sook-Hee's motives are rather nefarious - she, in league with the charming but unscrupulous Count Fujiwara, a con man, intend to defraud Lady Hideko of her fortune. However, Sook-Hee soon develops a fondness for Lady Hideko and this could potentially jeopardise the plan.

Intriguing drama, directed by Chan-wook Park of Oldboy, Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance fame. First half is brilliant, with good scene-setting, plot development and an amazing twist.

If the focus and momentum of the first half were kept up we were heading for masterpiece territory. However, the second half is less compelling and plausible, with a few plot developments that don't make sense and some twists that seem there for twists sake. Momentum is lost as we have a new round of backstory, and this seems overwrought and overly long, and much of it seems unnecessary.

There are one or two surprises towards the end but the resolution of the main plot is pretty predictable from a point.

Ultimately, an interesting and reasonably absorbing story but could have been brilliant.
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6/10
Beautiful imagery, disappointing content
Anaslair13 April 2017
The photography in this movie is absolutely stunning. The landscapes are amazing and so are the indoor shots. The manipulation of colour is done masterfully as well.

But other than that I had trouble finding any substance to the film. I enjoyed some scenes, the interaction between actors, but most of them did not feel real so I didn't really take anything from it.

There are several slow parts where scenes are replayed from a different perspective and it's mostly interesting for the sexual discovery the characters partake. Actually, there is not much to it other than the sex.

It was okay, different from what I usually watch, but I was expecting something more special, especially after watching such an amazing trailer.
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6/10
Well-made, but I wanted something grittier
Leofwine_draca9 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I admit to being a little disappointed when I found out that master film-maker Park Chan-wook's latest film would be THE HANDMAIDEN, a remake of a lesbian romantic drama filmed by the BBC as FINGERSMITH. This one relocates a tale of Victorian London to South Korea, where a murky plot involves mucho double-crossing as a con man decides to employ a maid to help him seduce a Japanese heiress due to inherit a fortune.

Like the rest of Park Chan-wook's output, this is an expertly-made piece of drama, with sumptuous costumes and filmography, and fine performances from the cast. A pity, then, that it turns out to be merely a romantic drama with a few dark twists. The emphasis is on explicit sex throughout. Imagine if the director had instead put his talents to making another film like OLDBOY - now that would have been something special. This lengthy, languidly-paced film has some good storytelling methods and nice twists throughout, but otherwise it feels disappointingly shallow.
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6/10
Tedious, long winded, beautifully shot
jadavix10 January 2017
"The Handmaiden" is a fairly tedious, hard-to-follow art movie.

It looks great, like a photography book come to life... sort of. But just because it's nice to look at, doesn't mean it's fun to watch.

The story is told in three parts, each introduced by an on-screen title. The movie goes back and forth on the timeline a bit.

It's so long-winded in parts that I stopped caring who everyone was and what they were doing. This is anathema in any movie, but more so for one that fills you in after the fact.

I am generally loath to assume that the only reason someone says they like an adults only movie is because of the sex. Here, I have to make an exception. Yes, it does have some fairly graphic lesbian scenes - though not much compared to "Blue is the Warmest Colour". And yes, this lesbianism is between two pretty, young Korean actresses.

Supposedly, at least most guys love to see women make out, and most of them also have a preference for Asian women. I realise I am an anomaly in not being that excited by either. And take the sex out of the movie, and what do you have?

A photography book you'd enjoy flipping through, but not enough of a story to make you want to take it home.
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Engaging and attractively packaged and delivered
bob the moo29 March 2017
I knew nothing about this film coming into it, other that it being very well considered, and that it has some strong sexual content. This is probably the best way to watch it, as I did not know where the plot was going to start or go. Essentially a con man plans to seduce, marry, and abandon a wealthy unmarried woman – taking her from her uncle and then taking her money. To do this he employs the services of a young pickpocket to work as her handmaiden, and help work the plan from the inside, so to speak.

What the film does with this basic plot is enjoyable and engaging. The narrative is solid, holds the interest without effort, and is very well paced and structured. I wonder would it work as well if I had known the source material, or had more knowledge of the wider plot. As a con, the plot is solidly enjoyable and avoids the silly flamboyance of some films where such a plot would be allowed to turn into a 'caper'. Within the plot are some surprisingly sexual elements, and these sit across the sweet, the sensual, and the dark. There is also a good amount of humor where it matters – in particular in part 1 of the film, this is used well in relation to the main character.

The direction, production values, and general pacing of the film, all work together to give it a beautiful appearance and tone. It is quite sensuous to watch, with such great colors, sets, costumes, and designs. Within this the actors are all strong. Min-hee Kim and Tae- ri Kim in particular are engaging, although the downside of me being into their characters/performances was that it made the heavy nudity in some of their extended scenes feel a bit exploitative in nature. Jung-woo Ha is solid throughout, and Jin-woong Jo is just the right level of monster for the plot to work.

A richly enjoyable film, that sits across so many elements and looks so good that it keeps the plot engaging throughout.
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9/10
Cinema at its Finest and a Commentary
lisa_mechelle23 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Stunning cinematography, a clever plot with many twists, and a cast that pulls you into the story. This is the best movie I have seen in 2017 and one of the best movies ever.

I read a lot of reviews and noticed that while some reviewers where disturbed by female sexuality and pleasure, calling this movie pornographic, nobody even mentions being offended by the torture scene which for me was the one part of the movie I had to look away from. (it is very brief and important to the story so you can just hide your eyes as I did if these things disturb you)

Most of all this is a story about love. The two scenes that stood out for me had nothing to do with sex or violence. One is a simple scene that happens on a road where you see two souls connect. Another happens in a library where you see one character express and liberate another character from so much pain and degradation.

Simply a beautiful film in every way and a must see.
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4/10
Pornography and an Over-the-top Plot
clg23830 October 2016
It's pornography (including sadism) interwoven with an intricate, silly plot--if this intrigues you, fine! I had trouble with the absurd set-up to the film, which is (and feels) way too long because the graphic sex scenes are virtually endless. There are three points-of-view, and the film invariably slips out of POV from time to time. That said, the settings, costumes and cinematography. are absolutely gorgeous, as are the female actors. Except for a twist or two, the film goes nowhere and is about nothing. The Korean and Japanese dialogue (as translated) often sounds like a cross between what one would find in a romance novel and hard-core pornography--breathless, over-the-top, no pretense of being remotely realistic. Nevertheless, the reviews have been extremely positive and the people in the audience when I attended seemed really to like this film--I am hard-pressed to understand why. While the characters in the movie are lusting for each other, and making an all-out effort to titillate viewers, I hunger for a story that has character development and a journey worth traveling.
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7/10
Worth seeking out
Moviepham24 June 2016
Watching The Handmaiden is an interesting, evocative experience similar to the director's other work, even though it does not reach the heights of Oldboy (2003), it is highly entertaining. The story is really captivating, leading you on until it is ready to reveal what is actually underneath the film's skirt. As with most films that are separated into parts, there is a slightly weaker one in the middle, as the movie slows down and back tracks for you to catch up. However, overall this was a really interesting script that suited the new setting (Korea under Japanese colonial rule) well.

Similar with Park Chan-Wook's other films that I have seen, Oldboy (2003) and Stoker (2013), this is a gorgeous movie. Beautifully shot sets that look incredible, and the estate on which most of the film takes place is an incredible location. The beautiful costumes replicating the early 20th century time period make this film quite visually stunning. The performances by the three main stars Kim Min- hee, Ha Jung-woo and Kim Tae-ri were all exceptional.

One of the film's strengths is its ability to seamlessly incorporate comedic elements into what could have been quite a serious movie. In a movie that involves themes such as suicide and fraud, it is hard to believe how many times it made the audience laugh out loud. Although the tone does get darker at times, the lighter moments make it just a really fun movie as well. Although the music wasn't as amazing as the song used in the international trailer, it does serve its purpose effectively. There are also minor details like the use of color in the subtitles to distinguish between Korean and Japanese which I really appreciated.

The film also involves a high level of debauchery that leads to it being very sexually graphic in many parts of the film. Although the director has done similar things in the past, I felt like in those earlier films it served more of a purpose whereas in this film, while there are some moments that do develop characters and the story, there is an abundance of gratuitous sex scenes that elongate the movie a little too much.

I found The Handmaiden to be a really enjoyable film that didn't disappoint my expectations of the director. It was a really intriguing story that is complimented by the great craftsmanship of all those involved. The film does show some unjustified sex scenes that may be off putting to some viewers but some may also enjoy it.
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4/10
Sex Still Sells
mannacio7 November 2016
It it preposterous that, at the time of this review, The Handmaiden had an 8.1 rating on IMDb which would make it the equal of such films as: The Wizard of Oz, The Grapes of Wrath, the Best Years of our Lives and Annie Hall. And that would rank it higher than Shane, The African Queen, The Searchers, and Sophie's Choice. All of the aforementioned films are among the top 100 films of all time, according to the AFI. Nor was this movie overrated by one demographic group.

This movie did not have an MPAA rating but would certainly have deserved an X rating with the number of explicit sexual scenes. None of this would matter if the sexuality needed to be so explicit to advance the plot. It didn't.

There are movies which are fundamentally about a sexual relationship, and are honest about it, such as The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover or the Last Tango in Paris. One should expect THESE films to be quite explicit. The Handmaiden is NOT such a film. There IS a story being told and EVEN THOUGH the father is quite depraved it is not necessary to exploit this in telling the story. In fact, it is a diversion from the telling of the main story line.

So why was the story told in this way? The answer is clear: sex sells. It even sold a substantial number of those who reviewed the film at IMDb. Amazon appears to have mastered the use of the sensational. Now it is true that there is some excellent cinematography, but that cannot redeem this film.

Clearly, a film goer cannot depend on IMDb or even on the combined ratings of the critics to find worthy entertainment. More caution is required.
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6/10
Fetishization detracts from plot
maddyindahouse19 December 2016
This movie disappointed me. I knew that coming out of a relatively homophobic country, it probably wouldn't be groundbreaking in that sense, but I still hoped that it would set a good standard for lgbtq movies.

The plot itself is great. It follows the plot of 'fingersmith' rather closely, except it is set in 1930's Korea. It has many plot twists and strange characters that keep you on your toes.

The cinematography is also, of course, beautiful. The costumes and sets are magnificent and appealing. It has a great soundtrack and also good acting.

So why do I give it a 6/10? It mostly has to do with the fetishization of lesbians. The sex scene is ridiculous. They scissor, for chrissakes. No one does that in real life. It is dramatized and obviously panders to a male audience. It does nothing to further the plot. I was incredibly disappointed in this scene. It was a complete waste of 10 minutes (yes, 10 minutes). It watches like porn, the kind made specifically for men.

To make matters worse, the two female characters are not very fleshed out. They meet, they have sex, now they're in love. There is barely any conversation between the two. The two lead actresses do a superb job of portraying sexual tension, but it is thrown in your face early on. Being gay was not exactly the norm in the 1930's. It's unlikely that two women would act so, well, gay around each other so soon after meeting. That adds to the idea that their relationship is being used for the sex appeal and not for the plot.

Yes, this movie is worth watching. But don't go into it expecting an empowering message for lgbtq viewers. They could have done a lot more with the relationship movie, but instead they decided to play it safe, throwing away an accurate representation of a gay relationship. I suppose the world is not ready for a real lesbian movie.
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7/10
A beautiful movie spoiled by too many erotic scenes
thor202930 March 2017
My opinion-.

I can already say that the production of this film by Park Chan-Wook known for his famous trilogy on the revenge of the years 2000 is nevertheless a brilliant director, but here I found images and sublime decors, it is this which left me the best impressions. For the rest, I found the film far too long with all these flashbacks, there is a time when I got lost in the story, so what bothered me the most and without being a prude, It was all these scenes more than erotic and quasi pornographic that irritated me, there was way to make a film simply erotic without being saturated by all these scenes far too daring that for me have spoiled the film, i am sure many have enjoyed these lesbian scenes, if i had wanted to see a porn, i would have tapped a believe me and i saw with the years, so the choice is not that the scenes shocked me in As such, was that they did not have to be so daring, in short, as their opinions are said to each one. I can nevertheless also point out that the actors were very good in their respective roles. In conclusion, a superb realization, beautiful scenery and beautiful pictures, which make me put a 7/10 nevertheless ..
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3/10
Wish I had known before I watched
ammich24 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This is a complete spoiler, so don't read this if you don't want to know. I wish I hadn't spent valuable time watching this film. It's simply soft-core porn. I am not a prude or homophobic... but so much of this movie was devoted to perversion (the uncle and his book buyers) and titillation. I just wish I had watched something else. I admit it's wonderfully made. The storytelling was superb. But, icky.
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3/10
Essentially Boring
gian5518 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
If you have a penchant for pornography, this is for you. It delivers a convoluted and essentially meaningless plot that seems to have been constructed merely for the presentation of the sex scenes. It presents devious men who misuse and abuse women, but it reveals more about devious women who misuse and abuse each other. The movie is beautifully filmed, but not so well edited. The actors (pornstars?) are good at their trade; however, they portray women in a negative way—as self-obsessed sex objects.
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3/10
A lot of sex scenes not contributing to the main story
yctrk25 November 2016
According to me, this movie was like a soft porn movie which seems like having a subject. Does it contain a main story? I'm not sure because the main focus was the sex scenes.. I haven't checked the parents guide before watching the movie. This was a clear mistake because I did not want my 20 year old daughter to see some scenes that is very explicit.Parents guide is necessary not only for our kids is also an important guideline when choosing a movie to watch. Finally, it was a waste of time for me.Even the existence of Jung Woo Ha whom I like very much has not been enough for me to give a higher rating for this movie. If you do not have conservative concerns and just want to have some leisure time; watching nice lesbian girl characters their foreplay scenes could be entertaining for you.
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