Viewed – 06 August 2017 Blu-ray
Let me say straight away that I regard Korean director Park Chan-wook as one of the best around and his much acclaimed vengeance trilogy (which includes the famed ‘Oldboy’) speaks for itself. Add to this his previous American debut ‘Stoker’ being an underrated gem and well to say I was looking forward to what came next, was an understatement. Once I discovered it would be a period piece though, for a director more known for contemporary (and bloody) revenge thrillers … I did feel a little trepidation.
A seasoned crook (Ha Jung-woo) with his eye on a wealthy heiress (Kim Min-hee), sends a trusted young pick pocket (Kim Tae-ri) to pose as her handmaiden. Once gaining the Heiress’s trust the crook himself poses as an eligible count in hope of marrying the heiress and gaining access to her fortune. Once plan is set in motion however the pick-pocket/handmaiden finds herself drawn to the lonely heiress who has lived all her life in a secluded mansion, overseen by a controlling and perverted uncle.
This beautifully shot film is full of character and period atmosphere, complete with stunning costumes and spot-on performances. It’s an intriguing premise that twists and turns, spread over three distinct parts, where we get to see the differing points of view of the various characters and gradually learn about each of their underlying plans and cunning manipulations. Who will come out on top? Think to some extent Dangerous Liaisons and you’ll have a good idea what this about. It’s got a quirky sense of humour (especially during some explicit but not particularly erotic sex-scenes) and some of the Korean / Japanese traditions are fascinating. For a film by Park Chan-wook however it lacks the showmanship he’s displayed in the past, going for a more sedate, realistic vibe that’s still eye-catching thanks to gorgeous cinematography and lavish locations / set design. At over 2 and half hours, it’s a bit drawn out, but packs in a lot of personality. Not as immediately essential as his best work … but still one to check out if your a fan or enjoy quality Korean cinema.
Verdict: 3.5 /5