Genre: Erotic/Thriller
Director: Park Chan-wook
Cast: Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woong
Runtime: 2 hrs 20 mins
Rating: R21 (Homosexual Content)
Released By: Shaw
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 7 July 2016

Synopsis: Con man Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) hires a pickpocket named Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) to become the maid of a mysterious and fragile heiress Lady Hideko (Kim Min Hee), in an attempt to seize her wealth. But the story takes a twist when the lady falls in love with her maid...

Movie Review:

It is most unfortunate that the version of Park Chan wook’s latest work we are getting in commercial theatres here has about five minutes of explicit sex scenes removed to meet our R21 guidelines. But hey, rules are rules, and we would have to play by them. According to the Media Development Authority (MDA) website, the film contains prolonged and explicit sexual scenes between the two women with details of them in various sexual positions, including oral sex, masturbation and penetration involving foreign objects.

Okay, that gives you an idea what you’d be missing out in the Singaporeversion of the film, which was selected to compete for the highly regarded Palme d Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival (the award eventually went to Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake starring Dave Johns and Hayley Squires).

With that out of the way, we can concentrate on talking about whether the 140 minute film is worth your time and money. Adapted from Welsh writer Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, the story takes place in 1930s South Koreaand Japan(the setting was changed from the Victorian era to Koreaunder the Japanese colonial rule). Without going into details, the story revolves around a noble lady who has inherited a hefty fortune, a swindler who is after this huge amount of riches, a young female pickpocket who is hired by the swindler to achieve his greedy objectives, and the noble lady’s uncle who has some sort of, ahem, fetish.

Park, who is known for the brutal topics explored in his films, is back on track. After the highly acclaimed trio of works known as The Vengeance Trilogy (2002’s Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, 2003’s Oldboy and 2005’s Lady Vengeance), Park made 2006’s I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK, (a romantic comedy starring Korean superstar Rain). Then there were his 2013 Hollywoodprojects Stoker and Snowpiercer (which he directed and produced respectively). While these productions were critically lauded, they somewhat lacked a poignancy which his fans fondly remember from his older works.

In this film, Park takes his time to tell a tale of seduction and betrayal. Never thrifty in the style department, the filmmaker holds nothing back as he indulgently frames his protagonists in one elegant shot after another. Scenes of the young maid (Kim Tae ri) deceiving the noble lady (Kim Min hee) into marrying the devious con man (Ha Jung woo) are sensuously captured, with details that will let your mind run wild with imagination (of the kinky kind). Scenes of the wealthy but creepy guardian (Cho Jin woong) involved in high society storytelling sessions (of the kinky kind) are sophisticatedly sinister.

It is convenient to focus on the film’s sexual and sadomasochistic themes, but this is the kind of shock value that viewers yearn for. Beneath the clean and steadfast appearance we uphold, there is an undercurrent of something sensationally grimy. The polite and proper front we put up is but a disguise for the vengeful spirit waiting to explode at the right moments. It’s a disturbing thought, but if you’re in the mood to be provoked (both visually and mentally), then this is the film you’ll want to catch.   

Movie Rating:

(Look past the kinkiness the film is offering, and you’ll find a provoking tale of moral upheaval – something which is poignantly prevalent in today’s society)

Review by John Li

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