Tag Archives: The Handmaiden

Korean cinema of 2016: Women, politics, horror

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)

Women, female relationships and political intrigue were the hallmarks of Korean cinema this year.

A number of films that delved into the world of the occult, driven by unfathomable forces of evil, also stood out in a year that saw the return of some of Korea’s most renowned directors, including Park Chan-wook and Na Hong-jin, who each added significant pieces to their idiosyncratic oeuvre.

Spotlight on women

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Arguably the most globally lauded Korean film of the year, Park Chan-wook’s “The Handmaiden” took on the subject of a lesbian thriller romance, featuring two female lovers against a world of demented male figures. Provocative scenes were portrayed against a fairy tale-like backdrop.

“Handmaiden” has nabbed various international accolades since its screening at the Cannes International Film Festival in May. Vogue.com named it among the “10 Most Fashionable Movies of 2016” for its lavish mise-en-scene, while the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards gave it a best production design award.

The New York Times listed Kim Tae-ri, who stars as Japanese lady Hideko’s earthy, unabashed handmaiden Sook-hee, in a September article titled “Four Actresses Everyone will be Talking About this Fall.”

Female romance also featured in Lee Hyun-ju’s indie film “Our Love Story,” a subtle, realistic tale of an encounter between an art student and a stranger.

Antagonistic relationships between women were explored in films like Kim Tae-yong’s “Misbehavior,” which draws on the jealousy and pride between two female teachers fighting for the affections of a male student. Both Kim Ha-neul and Yoo In-young are excellently cast in their roles: One is reticent and downtrodden, while the other is vivacious, young and self-absorbed.

Director Lee Eon-hee’s “Missing,” meanwhile, saw the unlikely reconciliation between two women — a mother and the nanny who kidnapped her daughter, played by Uhm Ji-won and Gong Hyo-jin.

In a mature tale of womanhood, “Bacchus Lady” explored the world of Korea’s elderly prostitutes and the universal solitude of growing old.

Veteran actress Youn Yuh-jung portrayed the feisty protagonist, who, at 65, turns tricks for a living. Directed by E J-yong, the film offers an emotional reflection on life and death as Korea advances into an aging society. It was screened at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.

Scandalous politics

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This year also saw a number of films portraying disasters and authorities’ damnable responses.

Director Park Jung-woo’s “Pandora,” set to be streamed globally on Netflix, depicted a nuclear power plant meltdown and the lack of an emergency response system, resulting in the preventable deaths of nuclear power plant workers and residents of surrounding areas.

Kim Seong-hun’s “Tunnel” saw actor Ha Jung-woo trapped inside a collapsed tunnel for weeks on end, with members of the rescue squad wringing their hands at the ineffectual orders from those higher-up in the government.

Kim Sung-su’s “Asura: The City of Madness” depicted a bloodstained web of criminals and politicians.

The latest political thriller “Master,” helmed by Jo Eui-seok, stars actor Lee Byung-hun as a con artist who amasses astronomical wealth and bribes government officials to exert power in state affairs. The flick which opened last week, rang an eerily familiar bell in Korea, which is currently embroiled in an influence-peddling political scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye.

Ride into the occult

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Two of this year’s most striking films were in the horror genre, ruminating on morality and human nature.

Yeon Sang-ho’s apocalyptic zombie thriller “Train to Busan” showed everyday characters — from students to office workers — fighting for their lives while trapped on a torpedoing train swarming with flesh-hungry zombies. It premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival’s Midnight Screenings section and has been picked up for a US remake by Gaumont, a French film studio.

Na Hong-jin’s occult thriller “The Wailing (Goksung),” which also screened at Cannes’ Out of Competition section, took viewers on a terrifying journey toward unreasoning evil. Fourteen-year-old actress Kim Hwan-hee delivered a chilling performance as a possessed child.

A period in time

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A number of period pieces also sought to reinterpret historical events from the Japanese occupation era.

Kim Jee-woon’s “The Age of Shadows” transformed the story of Korean independence fighters smuggling in bombs from Shanghai to Korea into a stylish noir.

In “The Last Princess,” director Hur Jin-ho focused on the early stages of the Japanese occupation of Korea through the eyes of Joseon princess Deok-hye, weaving the historical into a personal tale.

“The Portrait of a Poet” by Lee Joon-ik offered a moving portrait of poet Yun Dong-ju, in colonial Korea where the Korean language was banned.

(Source: http://www.koreaherald.com)

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Note from Roger – The Handmaiden

Before getting to Mr. Durling’s note, I saw this film yesterday. It’s an extraordinary effort from the South Korean Director Park Chan-Wook. Already an admirer of his now seemingly classic works of Old Boy (2003), and Lady Vengence  (2005), I experienced an entirely new level of his artistic craft with The Handmaiden. Mesmerizing and undaunting with a raw, creative, narrative flair, Mr. Park delivers an explosive human drama – thrilling and compelling. Park’s best work to date. (See below review by Manohla Dargis, The New York Times)

11162014-Roger-Durling_t479Dear Cinephiles,

“Far too good to be watched in one sitting,” exclaims the Philadelphia Inquirer about THE HANDMAIDEN, and I couldn’t agree more.  Gorgeous, classical, and erotic, I don’t think you’ll see a more delicious film this year.  If you love cinema AT ALL, you have to see THE HANDMAIDEN.  It’s the visual equivalent of drinking champagne!

Below find the New York Times Review. It plays tonight (Tuesday) at 5:00pm, tomorrow (Wednesday) at 7:30pm, and next Sunday through Wednesday at the Riviera Theatre.

See you at the movies!
Roger Durling

Click here for tickets.

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‘The Handmaiden’ Explores Confinement in Rich, Erotic Textures
By Manohla Dargis – The New York Times

The art of the tease is rarely as refined as in “The Handmaiden.” Set in Korea in the 1930s, this amusingly slippery entertainment is an erotic fantasy about an heiress, her sadistic uncle, her devoted maid and the rake who’s trying to pull off a devilishly elaborate con. The same could be said of the director Park Chan-wook, whose attention to voluptuous detail — to opulent brocades and silky robes, luscious peaches and creamy shoulders — turns each scene into an invitation to ooh, aah and mmm. This is a movie that tries to ravish your senses so thoroughly you may not notice its sleights of hand.

It’s not for nothing that one of its heroines, Sookee (Kim Tae-ri), is a pickpocket, though that’s getting ahead of her story. It opens with Sookee weepily saying goodbye to some adults and wailing children, their gushing matched by the torrential rain. She’s off to work for Lady Hideko (a sensational Kim Min-hee), a pale beauty who lives with her tyrannical uncle, Kouzuki (Cho Jin-woong), a collector and purveyor of art and rare erotic books whose darting tongue has turned black from his ink pen. The realms of his bibliophilic senses are suggested when a client asks if one of his books is by the Marquis de Sade. “It’s Sade-esque,” the uncle says, all but winking at the audience.

The kinks grow more outré and twisted, the winks dirtier and broader. The uncle has raised Hideko from childhood, away from the world, intending to wed her for her fortune. He’s also turned her into a puppet, having trained her to read erotic fiction aloud for the delectation of his potential customers. Fate in the form of the con man (Ha Jung-woo) intervenes. Disguised as a count, he insinuates himself into the uncle’s home and seemingly into the niece’s affection, enlisting Sookee in the ruse as Hideko’s new maid. The count plans to marry Hideko and then ditch her, a plan that seems doomed when Sookee and Hideko’s lady-maid intimacy steams and then boils over.

The inspiration for all this intrigue is Sarah Waters’s ambitious 2002 novel, “Fingersmith,” a lesbian romance set in Victorian Britain in which she slyly has her way with established literary themes like avaricious male guardians and cloistered female wards. In adapting the movie, Mr. Park, who wrote the script with Chung Seo-kyung, has moved the story to Korea during the Japanese occupation. This setting initially seems more thread than cloth, conveyed in the smatterings of soldiers who pass through the story and in the mixing of languages, although it also factors into the villainy of the uncle, a Korean who’s embraced a Japanese identity, asserting, “Korea is ugly and Japan is beautiful.”

Mr. Park is a genre virtuoso, known for thrillers like “Oldboy,” whose filmmaking is notable for its visual order and extreme violence, a combination that creates a seductive, at times unsettling aesthetic of immaculate frenzy. The violence in “The Handmaiden” tends to be more restrained than in some of his other work, more psychological and rather less blunt and bloody. A notable exception is some sadomasochistic whip-work that’s far more vigorous than is found in, oh, say, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” There’s also a characteristic Grand Guignol flourish toward the end that’s outrageous enough that you may find yourself at once laughing and gasping, only to hastily avert your eyes.

It’s one of the rare times you want to look away in “The Handmaiden,” which Mr. Park has turned into an emporium of visual delights. Part of Sookee’s journey is one from perdition into opulence, from a lowly thieves’ den into the sumptuousness of the mansion. Yet appearances remain deceiving, which is one of this story’s themes. Everything inside the manor and out has been calculated to enchant, from the grounds with their carpets of green and bursts of flowering trees to the interiors with their wood paneling and floral wallpaper. Nothing is more perfect than Hideko’s petal mouth with its lusciously carnal red lipstick.

Yet beauty can be a curse; a prison, too. Hideko’s uncle has forbidden her to leave the grounds, turning her into a bird in a gilded cage. Under his steady gaze and severe hand, with the ever-present threat of violence (there are rightfully ominous allusions to a basement), she has been raised amid material plenty with luxuriously appointed rooms as well as drawers and shelves stuffed with elegant feminine frippery — gloves, hats, gowns. Mr. Park loves displaying all these goods, much like a proud merchant (or Gatsby), even as moment by moment he pushes the narrative into ugliness, scratching off the gilt to reveal a grim drama in which Hideko plays both the leading lady and slave.

Mr. Park’s attention to this world’s sumptuous surfaces at first can seem at odds with the underlying evil, as if — like the uncle — he were putting his aesthetic sensibility above all else. Mr. Park just seems to be enjoying himself too much, as the camera glides over satiny robes and bodies or pauses on an exquisite tableau. In one such display, as another of the uncle’s confined women narrates a tale, two shoji screens behind her part, an opening that mirrors the sexual conquest she’s relating. Yet Mr. Park also slips in little jokes, comic line readings and clownish faces that ease the tension, lighten the mood and suggest there’s freedom in laughing into the void.

The void is by turns enslaving and emancipating in “The Handmaiden,” which plays with familiar form as a way to deliver unexpected meaning. A rebus, a romance, a gothic thriller and a woozy comedy, “The Handmaiden” is finally and most significantly a liberation story. Mr. Park may not seem to be doing all that much with the big ideas simmering here, including how the relentless pursuit of aesthetic perfection — especially when it comes to inherently imperfect human beings — can serve as a means of terror. But the ideas are here, tucked into a different kind of erotic story, one that alternately jolts and delights as Sookee and Hideko laugh their way to a new ending.

(Source: sbiff.org)

SBIFF Showcase – The Handmaiden

From Chan-wook Park, the celebrated director of OLDBOY, LADY VENGEANCE and STOKER, comes a ravishing new crime drama. PARK presents a gripping and sensual tale of two women – a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but is secretly plotting with a conman to defraud her of a large inheritance. Inspired by the novel Fingersmith by British author Sarah Waters, THE HANDMAIDEN borrows the most dynamic elements of its source material and combines it with PARK Chan-wook’s singular vision to create an unforgettable viewing experience.

“One of the year’s sliest, sexiest thrillers. The first section is only part of the story. The rest is so suspenseful, sexy and surprising that it would be a shame to say any more.” – Entertainment Weekly

“A feast for all the senses.” – Rolling Stone

“A hugely entertaining thriller. Simmering with genuine sexual tension.” – The Guardian

the-handmaideen

Screening:
Sunday, November 27 @ 2:00pm
Monday, November 28 @ 7:30pm
Tuesday, November 29 @ 5:00pm
Wednesday, November 30 @ 7:30pm
Sunday, December 4 @ 2:00pm
Monday, December 5 @ 7:30pm
Tuesday, December 6 @ 5:00pm
Wednesday, December 7 @ 7:30pm
at the Riviera Theatre – 2044 Alameda Padre Serra

THE HANDMAIDEN
Directed by Chan-wook Park
Written by Seo-Kyung Chung, Chan-wook Park
Inspired by the novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters
Starring Min-hee Kim, Kim Tae-ri, Jung-woo Ha,
Jin-woong Cho, Hae-suk Kim, So-ri Moon
Country of Origin: South Korea
Running Time: 144 min
Subtitled

To purchase tickets click here.

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(Source:sbiff.org)

Full Lineup: QCinema Film Festival 2016

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Vernise L. Tantuco

Here are all the films in competition at the 2016 QCinema Film Festival

Aside from the films in competition, there are also special screenings, including its opening film, Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, which was nominated for a Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.

In celebration of the 20th death anniversary of the Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski, his films Blue (1993), White (1994), and Red (1994) will be screened at the festival.

For the Screen International section will screen films that have been lauded in the international film festival circuit, while RainbowQC will show movies that depict the experiences of the LGBTQ community.

Digitally restored films will be shown for Back Throwback, movies from across the country will be shown for Cinema Rehiyon, and Pinoy Spotlight features Blanka by Kohki Hasei and Area by Louie Ignacio.

See QCinema’s full schedule here.

For the films in competition, an awards night will be held on October 19.

Here’s the full lineup of movies in competition in QCinema 2016.

Circle Competition

  • Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B by Prime Cruz
  • Baboy Halas by Bagane Fiola
  • Best. Partee. Ever. by Howard “HF” Yambao
  • Hinulid by Kristian Sendon Cordero
  • Patay Na Si Hesus by Victor Kaiba Villanueva
  • Purgatoryo by Roderick Cabrido
  • Women of the Weeping River by Sheron Dayoc

 

#QCShorts

  • Hondo by Aedrian Araojo
  • If You Leave by Eduardo “Dodo” Dayao
  • Kung Saan May Naiwan by Joshua Joven and Kaj Palanca
  • Nang Lumipad ang Batang Agila by Mihk Vergara
  • Padating by Gabrielle Tayag
  • Papa’s Shadow by Inshallah Montero
  • Sayaw sa Butal by Victor Nierva
  • Viva viva Escolta by Janus Victoria

Asian Next Wave

  • By The Time It Gets Dark by Anocha Suwichakornpong (Thailand)
  • Old Stone by Johnny Ma (Chinese-Canadian)
  • Singing in Graveyards by Bradley Liew (Filipino-Malaysian)
  • Solo, Solitude by Yosep Anggi Noen (Indonesian)
  • Apprentice by Boo Junfeng (Singapore)
  • Woven Wings of Our Children by Anton Juan (Philippines)

(Source: http://www.rappler.com)