This film is doing a lot. Every one of the one hundred and forty two minutes (that’s nearly two and a half hours) is highly charged ー with drama, with plot, with sweeping vistas, and quite often with all three. It is an assault on your emotional sensibility from the very first scene, which culminates in a graphically violent and sexual murder. To take a step back and to look at what exactly this art is doing (if anything) is to be left with a myriad of questions. Crucially, I found myself wondering: is any of this really worth it? […]
“The daughter of a legendary thief, who sewed winter coats out of stolen purses. Herself a thief, pickpocket, swindler. The saviour who came to tear my life apart. My Tamako, my Sook-Hee.” So narrates Lady Hideko over perhaps the most celebrated scene of Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden (2016). In the emotional and symbolic climax of this two-and-a-half hour Korean epic, Sook-Hee and Hideko, class enemies turned lovers, destroy a library together, shouting a symbolic fuck you to the patriarchy in the process. In order to understand the full impact of this action for characters and spectators alike, we must first briefly circle back and work out how we got here. […]
Crossing, double-crossing, triple-crossing. Failed heists, successful heists, twists. Lesbian sex scenes that reclaim symbols of patriarchy; lead characters defying expectations of womanhood and class in the repressive Japanese-occupied Korea; ripples and reprecussions of political and cultural history. This film has it all. And so much more. Then, just when you think you know what’s going on, your whole reality is turned on its head. Twice. […]
Home videos, car journeys and small town Americana vibes quickly move aside to reveal the harsh security and even harsher rules of one gay conversion therapy programme. Participants read out increasingly strict rules in an arresting first 10 minutes: “members must be supervised by staff in all restrooms visits”; “no physical contact with any member at any time apart from the briefest of handshakes.” I think this film might be a little more intense than But I’m A Cheerleader […]
Two minutes in and it’s already an assault on the senses: from scribbled scrapbookish title sequences, to waivering cameras, via both voiceovers and on-screen dialogue. Sis, it’s a lot. We get the film’s eponymous best friends: gay boy Ely and straight girl Naomi (a classic combo, let’s be real). A supposed central plot point is introduced: their ‘no kiss list’: a collection of boys they both fancy and are thus off limits’ And there begins a visual introduction to the world we’ll be living in for the next hour and a half: two perfectly quirky (and conveniently adjacent) young adult bedrooms in the heart of an idealised and colourful New York City. Okay, yes, it’s a lot for eyes and ears to deal with, but at least we can say for certain that the scene is set. […]
“I want to see you” You know what Therese Belivet, I also want to see Cate Blanchett, at any and all times possible, so thank you.
As suggested by my opening quote, Carol (as film and character) is extremely visually rich. It is sensual, evocative, and elegant. The theme of vision — observation, seeing and being seen — comes around time and time again. […]