Kyle Cubr reviews Chan-Wook Park’s “The Handmaiden” for Cine-File Chicago

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Widely known for his Revenge Trilogy, which includes the seminal OLDBOY, Chan-wook Park’s films have frequently employed the use of retribution. His latest work, although less violent than some of his previous outings, finds the Korean director swimming in familiar waters. In THE HANDMAIDEN, a swindler is hired by a Japanese heiress (set to inherit an exorbitant amount of priceless books) to be her handmaiden; but she is secretly planning to steal her employer’s fortune by having the heiress committed to an insane asylum through the help of her partner, who plans to marry her. The film is divided into three parts, with each part building upon the previous as new twists and wrinkles are exposed through perspective shifts. The resulting web is complex and mischievous. The love story is equal parts passionate and perverted. Love of all kinds is explored and Park does not shy away from sensual moments. From gorgeous cherry blossom trees to rolling fog over a river, the cinematography captures everything in a large depth of field. This added clarity helps to show off what’s at stake (such as the heiress’s gigantic estate) as well as to provide the audience with more screen real estate in which to catch clues. THE HANDMAIDEN finds Park in peak creative form thanks to its captivating source material, dynamic cast, and beautiful undertones.

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