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Ha Jung Woo (#110 of 2)

Cannes Film Review: The Handmaiden

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Cannes Film Review: The Handmaiden

Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Review: The Handmaiden

Director Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, an adaptation of Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith, couches a complex game of roleplay in the cultural context of 1930s Korea, during the time of the Japanese occupation. Sookee (Kim Tai-ri), a former pickpocket, is recruited by a Korean farmhand (Ha Jung-woo), who’s studied in Japan and taken on the false identity of a rich count, to help coerce Japanese heiress Lady Hideki (Kim Min-hee) into marrying him. Sookee’s tasked with taking a job at the heiress’s luxury mansion, earning her favor, and gently insinuating the count’s qualifications as a suitor.

Seattle International Film Festival 2011: The Yellow Sea

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Seattle International Film Festival 2011: <em>The Yellow Sea</em>
Seattle International Film Festival 2011: <em>The Yellow Sea</em>

[Editor’s Note: Our coverage of the Seattle International Film Festival is cross-posted at Parallax View.]

The crime-gone-bad thriller is a staple of the crime genre. Na Hong-jin’s The Yellow Sea, a South Korean box-office hit making its North American debut at SIFF 2011, runs with the concept in a jittery thriller of a desperate taxi driver in Yanji (an autonomous region in Northern China dominated by ethnic Koreans) hired to kill a man in South Korea. Gu-nam (Ha Jung-woo) is Joseonjok, a Chinese citizen of Korean ancestry living in the impoverished region across the border. His wife hasn’t contacted him since she left to work in Korea six months ago, he’s deep in debt to the gangsters who smuggled her across the channel (the Yellow Sea of the title), and he’s losing whatever he makes gambling at Mahjong. So a local crime boss, Myung (Kim Yun-seok), makes him an offer: wipe his debt clean in exchange for a simple murder.