Ah-ga-ssi   2016   South Korea The Handmaiden
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Director:Chan-wook Park
Studio:Moho Film
Writer:Seo-Kyung Chung, Chan-wook Park, Sarah Waters
IMDb Rating:8.1 (31,683 votes)
Awards:1 win & 4 nominations
Genre:Drama, Romance
Duration:144 min
Languages:Korean, Japanese
Chan-wook Park  ...  (Director)
Seo-Kyung Chung, Chan-wook Park, Sarah Waters  ...  (Writer)
Min-hee Kim  ...  Lady Hideko
Kim Tae-ri  ...  Sook-Hee (as Tae Ri Kim)
Jung-woo Ha  ...  Count Fujiwara
Jin-woong Jo  ...  Uncle Kouzuki
Hae-suk Kim  ...  Butler
So-ri Moon  ...  Aunt of Noble Lady
Yeong-wook Jo  ...  Composer
Chung-hoon Chung  ...  Cinematographer
Jae-Bum Kim  ...  Editor
Sang-beom Kim  ...  Editor
Tae-ri Kim  ...  Sook-Hee
Si-yeon Ha  ...  Maid 3
Ha-na Han  ...  Junko
Ha-dam Jeong  ...  Maid 5
Eun-hyung Jo  ...  Young Hideko
Eun-yeong Kim  ...  Maid 4
In-woo Kim  ...  Audience Member
Dong-hwi Lee  ...  Goo-gai
Kyu-jung Lee  ...  Maid 1
Yong-nyeo Lee  ...  Bok-soon
Comments: Usually films about rich people and their money-sex-power issues get a big yawn from me, but this film had a number of pluses that engaged me: the humor; the actors; the Pulp Fiction/More Than Blue/A Stranger of Mine style storytelling where scenes are revisited from a different perspective and/or additional information is presented that sheds new light.

Most of the funny bits come from newcomer Kim Tae-ri who more than holds her own with the veterans. She's got a bright future, I think.

Min-hee Kim and Jung-woo Ha are fine, fine actors. Ha is almost always good, and but his role didn't require too much. Kim shows once again that material can't hold her back. She has a few embarrassing moments but also just as many moments where she rises above the script errors. I think the "wooden expression" our friend plsletitrain pointed out were in those instances where she couldn't figure out how to transcend the material. Cho Jin-Woong has become a favorite. He's not good in the first two acts because the director didn't give him a chance. He shines in Part III. It would take a Gary Oldman or better to have done anything with what he was given in Parts I & II.

Just when I thought the film was running out of gas it started over with the "Here's what you missed the first time" retrospective. It gave the film new life even when too much melodrama was sprinkled in.

The porn-porn was hit and miss. I enjoyed The Treacherous more than this film, but they're two different kinds of films. The Treacherous didn't aspire to the bourgeois "but I'm a good film, a worthy film" The Handmaiden does so hoity toity types couldn't blow hot air about it. In the end, The Handmaiden is a solid, inconsequential film with about as much weight as a balloon, and Park has solidified his place as just another director who knows which buttons to push in order to maintain his high budget Hollywood style. Not that there's anything surprising or wrong with that.

Summary: 1930s Korea, in the period of Japanese occupation, a new girl (Sookee) is hired as a handmaiden to a Japanese heiress (Hideko) who lives a secluded life on a large countryside estate with her domineering Uncle (Kouzuki). But the maid has a secret. She is a pickpocket recruited by a swindler posing as a Japanese Count to help him seduce the Lady to elope with him, rob her of her fortune, and lock her up in a madhouse. The plan seems to proceed according to plan until Sookee and Hideko discover some unexpected emotions.

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