After setting Sundance on fire with non-stop distribution deals, including ones for “Manchester by the Sea” and “Wiener-Dog,” Amazon Studios has done the same at the European Film Market in Berlin by securing U. distribution rights to Park Chan-wook’s highly anticipated “The Handmaiden.” The film marks the first Korean-language drama the director has made since 2009’s “The Thirst.” The director had his international breakout with “Oldboy.” READ MORE: First Look: Park Chan-wook’s New Film ‘The Handmaid’ Adapted from the British novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters, “The Handmaiden” centers around a scam devised by a scrappy female thief and a charming con man.The woman infiltrates the home of a Japanese heiress as her personal servant and seduces her, but her intensions are more sinister than anyone expects.
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The film is now the company’s second biggest advance seller, after Bong Joon-ho’s “Snowpiercer,” which Chan-wook previously produced.
No release date has been set for “The Handmaiden” yet.
The last time Park Chan-wook came to Cannes, he won the Grand Prize — essentially, runner-up to the Palme d’Or — for “Oldboy,” a brutal and disturbing revenge thriller that still stands as one of the prime examples of the Korean director’s usual menu of stylish violence. (It’s called “Agassi” in Korean, though that’s just the Korean word for lady and has nothing to do with drop shots or forehand smashes.) The original novel comes from Welsh writer Sarah Waters, though Park transplanted it to 1930s Korea and Japan.
On Saturday, though, his new film had its first screening in Cannes — and instead of another action flick like “Oldboy,” “Joint Security Area” and “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance,” it’s … And yet the film is based on the kind of material that brings out the strengths of Park’s filmmaking — or, at least, those strengths that aren’t related to fighting and physical (as opposed to emotional) violence.
Still, the director is nothing if not a world-class auteur with a distinctive vision, and the Cannes audience reacted with prolonged applause.
And while his new film might not establish Park as a maestro of erotica quite the way his earlier films made made him a master of violence, it’s hard to fault the guy for going a little overboard with something new.Think of the best smartphone movies and, at best, you'll be imagining that video you once took of your drunken friends trying to push over a cow before falling into a ditch. But you should realise that your smartphone is silently weeping, hating you for not realising the untapped potential in its high power video camera, as quality and affordability have now aligned in such a way that almost anyone can become a filmmaker. Just look at the number of smartphone film festivals that have popped up, from Festival Pocket Films in France, to the i Phone Film Festival and Mobil Film Festival in America and the Olleh International Smartphone Film Festival in South Korea.All of these and more are dedicated to films shot largely or entirely on smartphones and the number of smartphone film festivals and film makers is growing all the time.As usual, Park has taken the material to extremes — not when it comes to bloodshed or brutality, though there’s a cringe-inducing sequence of that near the end, but in sex and kinkiness.What begins as a seemingly genteel story of intrigue veers into clear NC-17 territory with some explicit sexuality, mostly of the lesbian variety that’s always been so scary to the MPAA’s ratings board.“The Handmaiden” is gorgeous, of course, every inch of its sumptuous settings designed for maximum drama and, often, maximum beauty.