NZIFF: The Handmaiden

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Film writer Simon Shin reviews Park Chan-Wook’s new film, The Handmaiden.

Boldly erotic and deviously provocative, Park Chan-Wook’s new film The Handmaiden is a strange and powerful tale of love. Shaped by his masterful direction and the powerful performances of its strong female leads, the film lives up to its controversial hype.

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The film rips open its exquisite dress, and its various twisted undergarments, to fully reveal its naked and explosive essence of the sexual. It is definitely not for the squeamish. Director Park, a man who has made a career out of films that shock and beguile, is perhaps the only auteur to handle this material.

It is much more interesting than expected, as it takes us on a very entertaining ride to places that, conceptually, we might not want to go. It is almost definite that the novel’s author would be most surprised as to where director Park has taken it.

While the film is constantly engaging, suitably intense, always suspenseful, stylishly directed and certainly different, sadly, it does not live up to Oldboy. Even though it may not be the best film he has made so far, but it is a decidedly fresh entry into his body of work thanks to his willingness to try something different.

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