Cert: 18 Runtime: 144 mins Director: Chan-wook Park Cast: Min-hee Kim, Tae-ri Kim, Jung-woo Ha & Jin-woong Jo
You can even curse at me or steal things from me. But please don’t lie to me. Understand?
Probably one of the most widely acclaimed film at Cannes last year, Chan-wook Park’s return to Korean cinema. The Handmaiden was lauded as a masterpiece and a welcome return to wook. So what is The Handmaiden about? Set during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1930s, a young handmaiden named Sookee (Tae-ri Kim) is hired by Hideko (Min-hee Kim), a reclusive heiress who lives in a sprawling mansion under the watchful eye of her domineering Uncle Kouzuki (Jin-woong Jo). But Sookee harbours a secret – she has been recruited by Fujiwara (Jung-woo Ha), a scheming con artist posing as a Japanese Count, to trick Hideko into entrusting him with her fortune. However, when Sookee and Hideko begin to develop unexpected emotions for each other, they start putting together a plan of their own…
This film is pretty insane. First it is a subversion of the characters’ social classes. The maid is wise and supportive, and the handsome gentleman frees the naive and beautiful queen from her boring and superficial life. In its first part the film subverts this formula, then the second part of the film reveals a new layer of the first part, and each characters’ motivations begin to unfold into a complex and involving romantic thriller with thematic depth. Visually, the film is incredible. Every shot feels meticulously controlled by Park Chan-wook. The colour palette consistently matches the tone of the scene and the camera flows through each scene perfectly.
There is a lot of sex in this film, but it’s done tastefully and the cinematography in these scenes accurately depicts the passion of the characters. The music enhances every scene. The music in this film is amazing and gives the film the feel of an epic. The film builds slowly to start, but once it picks up it doesn’t let up. The film is tightly written and involves several complex and intriguing characters participating in complex interpersonal relationships. The performances are fantastic across the board, and although I’ve only seen the film once I can tell it may be even better on repeat viewings.
Cert: 18 Runtime: 120 mins Director: Chan-wook Park Cast: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu and Hye-jeong Kang
Even though I’m no more than a monster – don’t I, too, have the right to live?
A few years back I was in my local HMV looking for new movies to watch, a few of my friends told me Oldboy was worth a watch. After purchasing it I didn’t even open the cellophane for about a year. When I eventually watched it I regretted my decision not having this film in my life much sooner. When I heard Spike Lee was making a re-make of this classic I was rather surprised, even more that Chan w00k-Park had given his blessing. So before I watch yet another Americanization of a good foreign language film, I thought I would make the original my blast from the past. On the day of his daughter’s birthday, Dae-su Oh (Min-sik Choi) gets completely drunk and is arrested. His best friend No Joo-hwan (Dae-han Ji) releases him from the police station, and while calling home from a phone booth, Dae-su Oh vanishes. Indeed he has been abducted and imprisoned in a room for fifteen years. One day, he is suddenly released, receives clothes, money and a cellular and meets the Japanese chef Mi-do (Hye-jeong Kang) , and they feel a great attraction for each other. However, Dae-su Oh seeks for his captor and the reason of his long imprisonment. While looking for revenge, Dae-su Oh discloses deep secrets from the past.
The first word that springs to mind when thinking about this film has to be graphic. There are certain scenes which will make those of nervous disposition recoil until they are firmly wedged between the back and seat of their sofa, and they are likely to spend much of the film there as violence is frequent. In most of the extreme cases it is simply the implication of violence and the viewer’s imagination when left to its own devices like this will cause its own disgust. The best way I can justify these scenes is simple. It is all about sending a message, and these do just that. If you can cope with this then you will break down the initial barrier the film leaves lying in the way of your enjoyment.Another barrier will be the massive culture shock experienced when viewing the film. This is a Korean language film adapted from a Japanese animé series, so there are obviously large cultural differences to the western world. Some of the images used will require quite some thought to fully understand, and the script on translation does lose some of its flow, as any animé or graphic novel fans will associate with.
Chan-Wook takes on a policy of “trust the director”, and leaves many questions throughout the film which gives it a somewhat disorientating feel at times. This method of directing can seem quite inaccessible, however all loose ends are tied up very satisfactorily in the enthralling and shocking climax. This is an ending to rival the classic Kaiser Sozé twist in the tail of The Usual Suspects.Old Boy is a film which assesses the deepest corners of the human heart. The middle of three films which make up Chan-Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy it is undoubtedly the masterpiece, with a more powerful message than Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. This film has power because of the depths to which it explores the flaws and forces the human heart possesses, stronger and more destructive than any wisdom can overcome. The performances of the main cast and most importantly the director to send this message to the viewer leave this film as about as close to perfection as I can see any film getting.
Cert: 18 Runtime: 98 mins Director: Chan-wook Park Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode
He used to say, sometimes you need to do something bad to stop you from doing something worse
So have you seen Oldboy? If yes well done, if no watch it now. Chan-wook Park is a genius director and when I heard of Stoker being his first English I became very excited. Stoker is not about vampires just to let you know. India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) was not prepared to lose her father and best friend Richard (Dermot Mulroney) in a tragic auto accident. The solitude of her woodsy family estate, the peace of her tranquil town, and the unspoken somberness of her home life are suddenly upended by not only this mysterious accident, but by the sudden arrival of her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), whom she never knew existed. When Charlie moves in with her and her emotionally unstable mother Evie (Nicole Kidman), India thinks the void left by her father’s death is finally being filled by his closest bloodline. Soon after his arrival, India comes to suspect that this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives. Yet instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless young woman becomes increasingly infatuated with him.Stoker is a psychological thriller that you might not expect. It’s not the usual type of the genre. The storytelling is in pure style and it features its terror in a completely twisted way. It’s a weird cinematic experience that might stuck in your head for some time.
It didn’t offer much new to the plot but it creates a both melancholic and terrifying atmosphere to the picture which made it fascinating. What’s more fascinating is the film-making understands the psychosis beneath it and it clearly shows them on screen. Stoker is quite peculiar but in a remarkably stunning way.The story is just simple but it is told very differently. Thrillers usually slowly builds the tension of the plot until it gets to the point that everything what’s happening is not right. Here, it already shows the oddness of their lives. The only thing it does now is to explore what’s happening to the characters and what they are going to do. The plot isn’t really that complex but it’s all rather provocative. It embraces the strangeness that is manipulated from the two Stokers. It’s not ought to be scary or anything. It’s all about taking the ride on their horrifying acts. These scenes are, without a doubt, bizarre and somehow disturbing.The film has a set of amazing talents. Mia Wasikowska has always been lovely and talented. She gives a sense of weirdness inside of her innocence which is perfect to the character. Nicole Kidman makes a great desperate mother. Matthew Goode adds some creepy mannerism to the psychotic Uncle Charlie. It’s easy to get infatuated by his deceiving charms.
The violence is a bit tamed for a Chan-wook Park film, but here, he aims more at the fortitude. He fills them with an impressively energetic style which helps executing its eerie. The gorgeous cinematography captures the melancholia of their world. Everything is just stunning.The story isn’t really that subtle or original but Stoker is a stylishly made film that will give you a quite different experience. Instead of jump scares or whatever tricks that typical thrillers use, the film rather tests the anxiety of the audience in these strange haunting exteriors. The film is not trying to be innovative but the reason why it’s interesting is because of its intense use of film-making styles. It leaves the clichéd modern thriller plot points for a while and it simply tells the story by exploring these people’s little twisted lives. Overall, it’s visually captivating despite of the horror underneath the surfaces and that what makes the film so appealing.