Controversial Korean director Park Chan-wook (Old Boy, Thirst)’s new extravaganza, The Handmaiden (Ah-ga-ssi), is a tale set during Korea’s occupation by Japan.

As part of a giant scam, a girl posing as a maid is introduced into a wealthy house in order to cheat a secluded heiress. But the plan brings unexpected and dangerous alliances…

The Handmaiden is a beautiful piece with an odd feel. But to patiently set the tone of the various evolving phases of the story, Chan Wook settles on a curious pace that is overly intricate by taking shape through numerous flashbacks and mood change from the characters. The viewer is in for a run that is way overlong, for the content it provides, going into unnecessary details and overlong voiceover opening the different chapters.

Still, The Handmaiden bares Chan Wook’s signature in bringing to life a succession of carefully framed images, within elaborate long sequences.  It leads to various changes in tone: suspense, comedy and costume drama with the director’s own peculiar mix of violence and torrid sex.

  • Starts Friday in Montreal