I think I am the first person to coin the phrase ‘motion painting’. Meaning, every frame of a movie seems like it’s own work of art with distinct brushstrokes, making a moving work of art, panel by panel. The Handmaiden is a ouija board wrapped in a vivid Katsushika Hokusai print, hidden behind an Agatha Christie set of nesting dolls. I have not been this unsure about who is (literally and figuratively) screwing who, and which character would make it out alive since I saw The Usual Suspects, and then, Cut Snake.
The overt storyline, is that a young Korean woman is sent to the home of a Japanese heiress to use trust to gain access then steal from the household. Along the way, I was treated to stunning set design, lingering camera work, startling eroticism and more plot twists than Mission Impossible 1 thru 5.
This Park Chan-Wook film is not for the faint of heart. It starts with deceptive straighforwardness. Then starts to slowly unfold a convaluted sharp, hammered blade, forged in a thousand fires of deceit. At one point I wondered if the editing would lead to the revelation that much of what was protrayed was actually a dream sequence.
I’m glad I saw it, but am not sure if I recommend it for general consumption. I would say, this will be in select theatrea in October for your viewing pleasure, but proceed with caution.