It’s a shame that popcorn isn’t allowed in the grand theaters of Cannes, because if ever a movie called for binge eating out of a tub, eyes riveted to the screen, it’s Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden (French title:Mademoiselle), which jolted awake every bleary-eyed reporter at its packed debut screening Saturday morning. An adaptation of Welsh author Sarah Waters’s kinky, award-winning 2002 historical crime novel, Fingersmith, set in Victorian England, Park moves the action to 1930s Korea under Japanese colonialism, where class and tradition still loomed large, but a rich family could flaunt status by having electricity — which plays a dramatic role in the movie — in their big homes.”Was that as good as I thought it was?” a fellow critic asked as the lights came up; this Cannes selection has been disappointing thus far, so it was hard to discern if we both loved the movie because it’s actually good, or because it was just the metaphorical drop of water in our drought. Luckily, Amazon, quickly establishing itself as a movie distributor with art-house tastes and respect for the theatrical experience, bought the rights in February, so you will get to see it on the big screen.
The story, which is broken into three parts, each told from a different perspective, begins with a young woman named Sook-hee (newcomer Kim Tae-ri) leaving an orphanage to become the handmaiden of a Japanese heiress, Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee). We follow Sook-hee as she is thrust from her humble beginnings into a forbiddingly vast house with a seemingly fragile mistress who hasn’t ventured beyond the property’s walls since she was a child. Lady Hideko awakens screaming from nightmares and tells tale of her aunt, who went mad under the same conditions, and hanged herself from the cherry tree just outside Hideko’s window. She also complains of exhaustion from her “reading lessons” with her creepy uncle with whom she lives and who is a collector of rare books, guarded by a cobra and kept in a secret chamber, to which Hideko must report every day. In an even creepier twist, Hideko is well-aware that her uncle — an ambitious Korean man who married her dead mother’s dead sister — raised her so he could marry her and take her fortune.
Read the rest at: Korean Lesbian Revenge Thriller Takes Cannes — Vulture