“These women obviously love each other, but they are hiding it from each other also,” reveals director Park Chan-wook during our recent video chat (watch above) about the characters in his new film “The Handmaiden.” He adds, “there’s something sad about it.” Based on the novel by Sarah Waters, this Amazon Studios/Magnolia Pictures release stars Kim Tae-ri as a handmaiden whose secret plans to defraud a Japanese heiress (Kim Min-hee) unravel when a romance blossoms.
Tae-ri, who made her feature film debut as the title character, admits to drawing upon her personal history for the performance. “She experiences this opulent world for the first time,” she says of her character, who agrees to help deceive the esteemed lady in order to escape poverty. “This was the first time that I was working as part of a film with a big budget, so in a way, there were those parallels, and I think it was really reflected into my performance.”
While “The Handmaiden” isn’t South Korea’s submission for the Foreign Language Film Oscar (Kim Jee-woon’s “The Age of Shadows” was selected), it can still contend in several other categories. Chan-wook, whose “Oldboy” (2003) and “Thirst” (2009) won Jury prizes at Cannes, is the kind of internationally renowned auteur the directors branch often nominates. The most recent example was Michael Haneke, who competed for both writing and directing “Amour” (2012), ultimately snagging the Foreign Film prize.
Tae-ri could also factor into a crowded Best Actress race a la Emmanuelle Riva in “Amour” and Marion Cotillard, who won for “La Vie en Rose” (2007) and last competed for “Two Days, One Night” (2014), to name a few. The only other foreign film victor in this category was Sophia Loren for “Two Women” (1961).
“The Handmaiden” had its premiere at this years Cannes Film Festival, where it contended for the Palme d’Or. It opens in Los Angeles on Oct. 21 and will expand thereafter.
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