Weird, exciting, and vibrant, Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden is an erotic tour through a world of subjugation, trickery, and betrayal framed by a bizarre love triangle. The story was inspired by the novel Fingersmith by Welsh writer Sarah Waters, with Park and his co-writer Chung Seo-kyung adjusting the setting from Victorian England to Japanese-occupied Korea during the 1930s. The structure of the film is cyclical, re-telling the story three times from different viewpoints and revealing new truths with each telling. There’s an unreliability to the narrative, as truth and facade alternate with each new perspective. But ultimately, The Handmaiden has an fervent romanticism about it, as the heart of the story is about love, sexual exploration, and self-discovery – all with a tinge of deviancy.
The eighth film from Quentin Tarantino is not his best, but it might be his most political. The Hateful Eight was born from the TV Westerns of the 1960s where a group of outlaws would kidnap the main character in a sort of bottle episode. Well, Tarantino pondered, what if the audience didn’t know who was the “good guy” once we got to the bottle? As the back stories unfolds, various clues indicate that perhaps we shouldn’t be so trusting of what we are being told – by anyone. From there, Tarantino’s brand of pithy dialogue and penchant for violence takes over as percolating racial tensions begin to boil over.
Denis Villeneuve week nears its end with his only true American film, and the largest budget he’s had to work with to date: the kidnapping mystery/thriller Prisoners. Of all of Villeneuve’s films, this may be the most uneasy, the most challenging to watch, and the one film that is truly unafraid of exploring the depths that humanity can reach at the intersection of desperation and good intention. Its subject matter is particularly challenging for parents, as it primarily deals with the disappearance of a pair of young girls.
Denis Villeneuve Week – Day 4: “Enemy” (Canada / Spain 2013)
Another day, another crazy Denis Villeneuve film to review. This time it is his first true English-language film, Enemy (as previously mentioned, Polytechnique was filmed in both French and English). Enemy feels most similar to Villeneuve’s early feature Maelström in that it has some amazing peculiarities but overall deals with a very human problem. In this case, it is the duality of man and his struggle to choose between two very different alternatives – both in his life, and his mind.
Denis Villeneuve Week continues here on Plot and Theme with Incendies, the final foreign language film from the director, and his only film to receive an Oscar nod (Best Foreign Language film in 2010). The film tells the story of twins who receive a cryptic message in their mother’s will: their father and brother are still alive, and the twins must seek them out and deliver letters to them. A circuitous journey through an unnamed Middle Eastern country commences, and as the twins untangle myth from fact amid civil and religious war, the truth of their mother’s life is beyond their wildest dreams – and nightmares.