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Showing posts with label The Handmaiden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Handmaiden. Show all posts

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Some Tweets about London Korean Film Festival Teaser Bluebeard (2017)

Some Tweets about London Korean Film Festival Teaser Bluebeard (2017)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

Some Tweets about London Korean Film Festival Teaser Bluebeard (2017)

Photo credits : Dae-myung Kim (and Jin-woong Jo) (upper image) ;
Actor not credited (by IMDb), and Jin-woong Jo (lower image)

Photo credits : Jin-woong Jo (upper image) ;
Goo Shin and Dae-myung Kim (centre image)
Jin-woong Jo and Yoon Se-ah (lower image)

Film-references :

* A Girl at my Door (Dohee-ya) (2014)

* Delicatessen (1991)

* El virus de la por (The Virus of Fear) (2015)

* It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

* The Handmaiden (2016)

* The Trial (1962)

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Two types of female emotion in Eon-hie Lee's Missing (Sarajin Yeoja) (2016) (work in progress)

This is a review of Missing (2016) (London Korean Film Festival screening) (work in progress)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

24 April

This is a review of Missing (Sarajin Yeoja) (2016), as screened as the second ‘teaser’ for London Korean Film Festival, in conjunction with Cambridge Film Festival, at The Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge, at 6.30 on Monday 24 April 2017 (work in progress)

Note : The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi) (2016) is significantly mentioned in this review (as David Lynch's films will be), not because both are Korean films, but because, in Missing (2016), Eon-hie Lee has something to say to director Chan-wook Park (judged, as yet, by not having seen the director’s cut) : just as Prevenge (2016) and Free Fire (2016) were actually reviewed together, not just as having been seen within days of each other, but because their writer / directors Alice Lowe and Ben Wheatley, respectively, had made Sightseers (2012) together.

The distinct impression gained, when watching The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi) (2016) during Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (@camfilmfest), was that more than an influence of Wilkie Collins’ novel The Woman in White could be detected – not unreasonably, as it turns out, since director Chan-wook Park is credited, in having written the film (with co-author Seo-kyeong Jeong), as having been ‘inspired by’ Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, which is set in the latter half of the nineteenth century. (Collins published his novel in 1859, and The Moonstone in 1868.)

If we know nothing from The Moonstone itself, we will be aware that Collins is considered the father of detective fiction in the English language¹. However, whereas Missing knows that a crime-writer who challenges his or her reader, by saying Look, I led you up the garden path, and this is not the story that you thought, can only do so once, The Handmaiden fails to realize this fact – as if unaware that the viewer / reader is on notice not to be trusting of the film-maker / writer again – and so reveals flaws in the plotting², or makes evident what is meant to be a further surprise to us².

That said, when a film is called Missing³ (2016), one can hardly be creating a spoiler to say that it features a disappearance : whether a film is The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), or The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001), its essence is that, with the passing of time, it concerns what is [believed to be] known, and to whom, about what has disappeared – it will proceed by (some of) its characters considering what may have been concealed, and if so, why, and what that then suggests has also been done and / or concealed.

Hyo-jin Kong (as Han-mae)

When the morning came, your language and conduct showed that you were absolutely ignorant of what you had said and done overnight. At the same time, Miss Verinder’s language and conduct showed that she was resolved to say nothing (in mercy to you) on her side. If Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite chose to keep the Diamond, he might do so with perfect impunity. The Moonstone stood between him and ruin. He put the Moonstone into his pocket.

The Moonstone (Second Period, Sixth Narrative, Part IV, concluding paragraph)

Of course, in those films, the nature of the disappearance does not actually relate, per se, to someone's safety. With Blue Velvet (1986), where such concerns do come to be an issue, Lynch has it played so matter-of-factly that, although Jeffrey's father is seriously unwell, he naturally loses any sight - once he finds the severed ear - of his purpose for being back home (and we barely see him visit the hospital again). Instead, he does all that we see unfold – ruses, suspicions, and downright hunches – because he wants to know more (and not be put off by Sandy's policeman father)...

In this respect, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) a little resembles the Pevensie children, needing adventure when evacuated from The Blitz to stay in their uncle’s forbidding house... except that C. S. Lewis does not create them with sexual needs and urges. With Jeffrey, although he has the flesh-and-blood Sandy (Laura Dern) in front of him, it is as if he already somehow scents Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), in all her dangerous allure, and it is clear that he uses Sandy to get access to her. Those hunches, and Jeffrey's resourcefulness, are also there - and with more explicit reason - as we understand the character of Ji-sun (Ji-won Uhm) in Missing...

We see, from the start, the familial and professional pressure that Ji-sun receives, but we likewise gather much about how the boss and her in-laws disparage / discredit her and her abilities (irrespective of its likelihood to impact even more negatively on them – no doubt, she is considered dispensable) : maybe we even believe (and so she surprises us the more) that they are not wholly wrong, when we hear her grovel (having - in the circumstances - to grovel), and execute formal bows to show her humility and contrition ? (A societal motif played with in A Quiet Dream (2016), the previous London Korean Film Festival ‘teaser’ - a film that is perhaps reminiscent of the meandering and droll way in which Jim Jarmusch has us follow an off-beat trio of men in Down By Law (1986) [Roberto Benigni, John Lurie, Tom Waits] ?)

Those elements in the initial presentation of Ji-sun’s character may make her feel stylized, and even a little too much to the fore, but she starts to show that she is a true force of nature – with her sixth sense and intuition, she becomes not some superhero figure, but a human tour de force (and one did wonder whether even Doona Bae could have risen to this challenge). The pace and frenetic extent of twenty-first century existence is located in often incessant calls to her mobile phone, and we sometimes almost want her to have respite from them so that we can have peace.

Yet, tool or nuisance, the phone is what informs and assists her quest, whether in the dubious recesses of an establishment called Heavenly Woman, or navigating her way out of town to where someone had been - ignoring all good feeling - cruelly treated (please see below). In addition, Ji-sun's hidden energy and intellect, her investigative ability to see back in time and to understand what must have happened (shown to us either as flashbacks, or as pure flashes of insight – as against the relatively flat-footed enquiries that, Wilkie Collins shows us, too, in Sergeant Cuff in The Moonstone) make her one sort of embodiment of female emotion.

She is not always rational (e.g. some of the accusations that she makes, or how she conducts herself, at one point, at Heavenly Woman), because of the choice to have the divorce / custody proceedings portray her as unstable (and, as a vicious spiral, such attacks can get to anyone, probably not least in her country’s culture), but we sense her courage, and we feel for her at moments of anxiety, tension, or sheer fear, in and through Ja wan Koo’s excellent score, which, for the other female lead**** - and her own trauma, as Ji-sun comes to appreciate - makes prominent use of the cello.

Hyo-jin Kong (as Han-mae)

Other than the sleuthing that - in common with Blue Velvet - Mulholland Drive (2001) shows (with Betty trying to find out who Rita is, and where Diane Selwyn fits in), what is more of interest is that there is a strong sense, as in Missing, of being able to see into other worlds (not for nothing do we have the word 'seer') : Ji-sun feels her way into the past, weaving through appearances and towards sensing what, in fact, did happen (perhaps one also thinks of the Earthsea novels and stories of Ursula Le Guin ?).


End-notes :

¹ South of the border with Scotland, at least, whereas, via Robert Louis Stevenson, a different tradition is claimed north of it : at least, Val McDiarmid did (when asked by #UCFF whether she considered herself primarily a writer, or a Scottish writer).

² For those who have not seen the film, the clues to what is adrift are, respectively, trees and opiates, and smoking. (And, as both Jin-woong Jo and Jung-woo Ha are not averse to causing others harm, why might they not have poisoned the closing moments... ?)

³ Whereas, on IMDb (@IMDb), perhaps the web-page for the film more accurately reflects the film’s title in Korean (but it causes difficulty in finding the film at all) ?

**** Another point of contact with The Handmaiden, as well as that there are again two female leads, is that one woman is an emigrée (and so under economic constraints).

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)