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The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi, 아가씨)

Director – Park Chan-wook – 2016 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 155m

****1/2

Available on BFI Player from Friday, March 18th

Weighing in at a lengthy two and a half hours, this lavish, sexually-explicit, South Korean pot-boiler is based on Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel Fingersmith, but moves the location from Victorian England to Japanese colonial-era Korea.

Waters’ tale concerns a conman’s plot to marry and then defraud a wealthy English heiress by confining her to an asylum. He bribes a young London pickpocket (the titular ‘fingersmith’) to take on a job as the wealthy lady’s maid, hoping to get her to persuade the woman to marry him. However, his plan falls apart when the two women fall for each other.

When director Park Chan-wook discovered the BBC had already made a 2005 miniseries, he transposed the plot to 1930s Korea (a Japanese colony at the time), co-writing his script with regular female collaborator Jeong Seo-kyeong. Broadly speaking, it substitutes well-off Japanese for well-off English, and Koreans for everyone else. The print being released in UK cinemas helpfully subtitles Japanese dialogue in yellow and Korean dialogue in white… [Read the rest]

Reviewed for All The Anime.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Memoir Of A Murderer (Salinjaui Gieokbeob, 살인자의 기억법)

Director – Won Shin-yeon – 2017 – South Korea – 118m

***

A K-thriller with a memorable premise: serial killer with Alzheimer’s suspects man dating his daughter is also a mass murderer – at the London Film Festival 2017 and London Korean Film Festival 2018

At the start of Memoir Of A Murderer, Kim Byung-su (Sul Kyoung-gu) walks dazedly out of a dark tunnel into a white, wintry landscape. Like so much in this convoluted South Korean thriller, that might be highly significant or symbolic, a metaphor, a journey, a state of mind. Or it might not. It’s undeniably a visually striking and arresting starting point. In the manner of frame stories or flashbacks in so many films, we return to this sequence towards the end. But it’s not clear at the start that this is a flashback, and it’s no clearer at the end when this scene recurs.

That’s indicative of some of the games screenwriter Hwang Jo-yoon (co-screenwriter of Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy, 2003) and director Won Shin-yun want to play with their audience. They’re plugging into a long cinematic tradition of films dealing with impossible memory and that peculiar subset thereof most notably represented by Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000) in which a main character suffers from amnesia or memory loss.… Read the rest