Since debuting at Cannes, Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden has gradually made the rounds. We’ve heard it’s sexy and thrilling and gorgeous, but as it hits the fall festival circuit and more people have seen it, we’ve also heard tell that it’s funny, not usually a quality we anticipate from the director behind Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Maybe it’s because I’m looking for it, but that comes across in this new French trailer.
A few obvious humorous flourishes shine through in this trailer, even if you don’t happen to speak French, Japanese, or Korean. Outside of that new element, there’s an overall different feel to this latest look at The Handmaiden. Perhaps it’s the intended audience, or the marketing wants to key on different components as the release approaches, but while the Hitchcockian suspense still stands front and center—slicing string score and all—it feels bigger, broader. Maybe that’s just me, but there’s an epic sensation that wasn’t necessarily present earlier on.
Working in South Korea for the first time since his English-language debut, Stoker (my favorite movie of 2013), The Handmaiden look like both vintage Park Chan-wook and something outside of his comfort zone. Based on Sarah Waters’ erotic Victorian novel, Fingersmith, and set in during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1930s (much like Kim Jee-woon’s recent TheAge of Shadows, though in a very different context), the story follows a con artist who places a spy in the home of a wealthy heiress.
Here’s the official synopsis:
From PARK Chan-wook, the celebrated director of OLDBOY, LADY VENGEANCE, THIRST and STOKER, comes a ravishing new crime drama inspired by the novel ‘FINGERSMITH’ by British author Sarah Waters. Having transposed the story to 1930s-era colonial Korea and Japan, Park presents a gripping and sensual tale of a young Japanese Lady living on a secluded estate, and a Korean woman who is hired to serve as her new handmaiden, but who is secretly involved in a conman’s plot to defraud her of her large inheritance. Powered by remarkable performances from KIM Min-hee (RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN) as Lady Hideko, HA Jung-woo (THE CHASER) as the conman who calls himself the Count and sensational debut actress KIM Tae-ri as the maid Sookee, THE HANDMAIDEN borrows the most dynamic elements of its source material and combines it with PARK Chan-wook’s singular vision and energy to create an unforgettable viewing experience.
Starring Ha Jung-woo (The Yellow Sea) and Kim Min-hee (No Tears for the Dead), The Handmaiden hits a limited number of theaters thanks to Magnolia Pictures and Amazon Studios on October 21.