Ah-ga-ssi [The Handmaiden] (2016)

Ah-ga-ssi
Director: Chan-wook Park
Writer: Seo-kyeong Jeong, Chan-wook Park
Based on: Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith
Cast: Min-hee Kim, Tae-ri Kim, Jung-woo Ha, Jin-woong Jo, Hae-suk Kim, So-ri Moon
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2016
[Review by cornholio.]

Plot:
Sook-Hee (Tae-ri Kim) lives with her adoptive family who ply their trade as thieves and with various cons. When a regular collaborator with them, called Count Fujiwara (Jung-woo Ha), suggests a new con, Sook-Hee suddenly finds herself training to become a maid to the rich Hideko (Min-hee Kim), one of the Japanese occupiers in Korea. Hideko lives in a remote estate with her uncle Kouzuki (Jin-woong Jo), an avid book collector. The Count was a guest of theirs and saw the perfect opportunity: he would marry Hideko and then get rid of her, but keep her money. All he needs is a confidante who makes sure that Hideko makes the right decisions. And so Sook-Hee travels to the estate to make sure their plan goes off without a hitch.

I expected many things from the film, since I both loved the book it’s based on and Park’s Vengeance Trilogy and Stoker. Happily it all managed to keep up with my expectations. It’s a beautiful and gripping film.

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Stoker (2013)

Stoker
Director: Chan-wook Park
Writer: Wentworth Miller, Erin Cressida Wilson
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole KidmanJacki WeaverDermot Mulroney, Alden Ehrenreich, Harmony Korine

Plot:
India (Mia Wasikowska) just lost her father Richard (Dermot Mulroney) in a car accident. But on the day of his funeral, her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) appears. India didn’t know he existed and her mother Evie (Nicole Kidman) barely knew it herself. Charlie stays and slowly gets closer to India, who is initially abrasive. But he does seem to have his own agenda.

I expected grand things of Stoker. And despite my high expectations, I was completely blown away by how good the film actually is. It’s tense, it’s beautiful and it has an amazing cast. Hats off to everybody.

stoker

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Chinjeolhan geumjassi [Sympathy for Lady Vengeance] (2005)

Chinjeolhan geumjassi
Director: Chan-wook Park
Writer: Seo-Gyeong Jeong, Chan-wook Park
Part of: The Vengeance Trilogy
Cast: Yeong-ae Lee, Min-sik Choi, Shi-hoo Kim, Yea-young Kwon, Ji-tae Yu, Kang-ho Song, Hye-jeong Kang, Byeong-ok Kim

Plot:
Geum-ja Lee (Yeong-ae Lee) was just released from prison after more than a decade where she did time for kidnapping and killing a young boy. In prison she was known for her beauty and kindness, but as soon as she is out, Geum-ja starts ruthlessly working on her plan for revenge on the person who really was responsible for the murder, with the help of former inmates. At the same time, she tries to reconnect with her daughter (Yea-young Kwon) who was adopted by an Australian couple.

At the start of the movie, I thought that I would end up not liking it, that it would be a surprisingly weak ending to the unofficial trilogy. But the further it went, the absurder its sense of humor got, the more I enjoyed it. By the end, I was loving it just as much as the other two films.

sympathyforladyvengeance

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Re-Watch: Oldeuboi [Oldboy] (2003)

Oldeuboi
Director: Chan-wook Park
Writer: Jo-yun Hwang, Chun-hyeong Lim, Joon-hyung Lim, Chan-wook Park
Based on: Nobuaki Minegishi and Garon Tsuchiya‘s comic
Part of: The Vengeance Trilogy
Cast: Min-sik Choi, Ji-tae Yu, Hye-jeong Kang, Dae-han Ji, Dal-su Oh, Byeong-ok Kim

Plot:
Dae-su (Min-sik Choi) is a drunk who is thoroughly screwing up his and his daughter’s life when he’s kidnapped. After 15 years of imprisonment for reasons unknown to him, he’s released. Still having no clue what happened, he slowly tries to figure things out, find his daughter again and take revenge on whomever imprisoned him.

I remember watching Oldboy for the first time. I was alone at the movies (at the time that was still a rare thing for me) and I practically ripped the armrest out cause of all the tension. When I left, I never wanted to see the film again. But it didn’t let go of me, so I decided to give it another go. And it’s still amazingly good, even if I am a little more jaded.

oldboy

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Boksuneun naui geot [Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance] (2002)

Boksuneun naui geot
Director: Chan-wook Park
Writer: Mu-yeong Lee, Chan-wook Park, Jae-sun Lee, Jong-yong Lee
Based on: Nobuaki Minegishi
Part of: The Vengeance Trilogy
Cast: Kang-ho Song, Ha-kyun Shin, Doona Bae, Ji-Eun Lim, Bo-bae Han

Plot:
Ryu (Ha-kyun Shin) doesn’t have it easy: his sister (Ji-Eun Lim) is slowly dying of kidney failure, while he slaves away in a factory, trying to raise the money for a transplant. He tried to donate his own kidney, but unfortunately has the wrong blood type. That he’s deaf doesn’t help with things either. Then he stumbles on a possibility to sell his kidney, in exchange for one of the right blood type. Quite illegally of course. But everything goes wrong and Ryu is left with a kidney less, no money and he’s fired from his job – when the official transplant comes through. So he and his girlfriend (Doona Bae) hatch a plan to kidnap the factory owner Park’s (Kang-ho Song) kid (Bo-bae Han). And things only go downhill from there.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is beautifully shot, well told and utterly bleak. It grips you and doesn’t let you go until the very end. Amazing.

sympathyformrvengeance

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Bakjwi [Thirst] (2009)

Bakjwi
Director: Chan-wook Park
Writer: Chan-wook Park, Seo-Gyeong Jeong
Based on: Émile Zola‘s novel Thérèse Raquin (rather loosely)
Cast: Kang-ho Song, Ok-bin Kim, Hae-suk Kim, Ha-kyun Shin, In-hwan Park

Plot:
Priest Sang-hyeon (Kang-ho Song) volunteers to participate in a medical experiment to find a vaccine for an infectious disease. But instead of helping science, Sang-hyeon gets infected with vampirism. But with a growing lust for blood, there are also other desires that are stirring within him. And in his childhood friend’s wife Tae-ju (Ok-bin Kim), whose relationship with her husband Kang-woo (Ha-kyun Shin) and his mother Lady Ra (Hae-suk Kim) is rather strained, he finds just the person he wants to fulfill those desires with.

This is a strange little film. I struggled a bit with it, but I was nevertheless drawn into its atmosphere and story.

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