2 May 2017



'But do you think that there was any need for them to be so explicit, in all honesty, Bernie?'

'In all honesty, Mary, I don't think there was any need at all for that level of explicitness now, no.'

So went the conversation between the two middle-aged ladies who came and sat beside me for the viewing of Park Chan-Wook's THE HANDMAIDEN in my local cinema the other night. It was hilarious.

It was a bit like watching the two auld ones in FATHER TED comparing the sizes of their respective husbands' wangs and discussing the merits of THE CRYING GAME in the episode about 'the fillum.' You know, the dirty 'fillum,' THE PASSION OF ST. TIBULUS. Talk about 'Careful Now' and 'Down With That Kind Of Thing.'

Mind you, this was only after the screening of 'the fillum.' The two women were happy enough during the actual watching of 'the fillum,' the naughty old dears. I wonder if they said anything at all about it to their husbands when they got home that night. Of course, I hope they didn't leave their poor little hubbies on their own while they went to see 'the fillum.' Mine tried to make a cup of tea by himself once and he ended up breaking a leg...!

I didn't actually know myself that 'the fillum' was going to be so filthy, by the way, even though I've seen some of the director's other works, including the infamous 'OLDBOY.' That was the first Park Chan-Wook film I ever saw and it was a great place to start. Straight in at the deep end, so to speak...!

'THE HANDMAIDEN' is apparently based on the author Sarah Waters' Victorian England-set bestselling novel FINGERSMITH, which was turned into a BBC television serial about a decade or so ago. I watched it myself but I'd pretty much forgotten about it because it was so long ago. Forgotten about it till now, that is...

The director took Sarah Waters' story, anyway, and transposed it from Victorian England to Japanese-occupied Korea in the 'Thirties. Having recently watched the epic movie THE AGE OF SHADOWS, I wasn't at all unhappy to be returning to this extremely interesting era.

The scenery looked utterly magnificent on the big screen. There were so many shots of this beautiful green garden in the rain, a rain that washed clean the flowers and trees and little hidden paths where lovers could sneak a clandestine tryst or a kiss or even more.

Visually, it's one of the most stunningly beautiful films out there at the moment. Park Chan-Wook is no novice when it comes to creating a magical world of beauty, grace and elegance on-screen. He's a bit of a magician, in fact, when it comes to the visual aspects of a film.

Have I teased ye enough? Maybe I have. You guys have been very patient, waiting there like little angels for me to get to the dirty stuff, so here's the plot for starters. A handsome young Korean conman called Fujiwara poses as a Count in order to woo a super-rich Japanese heiress called Lady Hideko. Nothing strange about that. Gold-diggers abound in any era, right?

He stations one of his own agents, however, a pretty young thief called Sookee, in the heiress's magnificent countryside house as the titular 'handmaiden' to Hideko. Sookee is supposed to drop hints to Lady Hideko about how handsome and charming the Count is, all the better to help her to hurry up and fall in love with him, see?

The Count has some rather nasty plans for the heiress, however, if and when he gets to put a ring on her finger. He certainly doesn't bargain on the sensitive and rather remote heiress falling in love with his 'plant,' either, the handmaiden Sookee. But the attraction between the two women is undeniable and, before very long, they are indulging in a full-blown physical affair...

Yes, it's a film about lesbians, haha, and yes, the two women do have full-on lesbian sex, but
only in the way that lesbians can have sex, if you know what I mean. There's no penetration or thrusting or whatever like you get with guys. 

But rather, there is licking and sucking and kissing and fondling and caressing and arranging their bodies so that- ahem- the sex-lips of one lady graze the facial lips of the other lady at the same time and vice-versa, if you see what I mean. Ahem again, sure 'tis filthy altogether.

At one point- please excuse the vulgarity but it's all true- they're even rubbing the fannies off each other and getting, seemingly, the most tremendous amount of satisfaction from so doing. I used to write about this kind of thing (most notably, in my poem 'What Do Lesbians Do In Bed...?') when I used to perform my saucy poetry on the Dublin Open Mic scene.

I probably used to annoy a load of people (lesbians, mostly!) with the implication in this nonsense poem that lesbians can't have 'real' sex because there's no penile penetration involved in what they do but that's just plain silly, isn't it? There's- apparently- a positive wealth of things that they can put inside each other...! And it all looks amazingly erotic and sensual when you put it on the big screen.

I love the artistry involved of putting rose-petals in the Lady Hideko's bath-tub and photographing her small but perfect breasts and nipples with the rose-petals bobbing delicately around them. Park Chan-Wook is every bit as much an artiste as he is a movie director. I hope he reads this review, or one of his minions does, haha, because I'd love for him to know that I said that.

And you know that Christmas song about 'Silver Bells' that Moe the bartender is heard singing in THE SIMPSONS? I think it might be an American hymn because we don't really hear it over here in Ireland but let's just say that, if you're familiar with the song, you'll never think of those good old silver bells in the same way ever again.

You'll never guess what they do with their silver bells, these two naughty little lesbians. Of course you can guess, can't you? They're lesbians. There's really only one thing they can do with them...!

The sexiness in the film doesn't stop with the two lesbians. There's also the Lady Hideko's perverted old Uncle, with whom she lives and who intends eventually to make her his wife, even though she's his niece and it's all a wee bit incestuous. 

The Marquis de Sade-esque readings Hideko's forced to do for her pervy Uncle and his rich friends may turn on some viewers sexually, but just imagine if that was your life and you had to do this whether you liked it or not, for someone else's benefit and sexual gratification. You'd get pretty tired of it after a while. Even kinky sex can become boring if it's constantly being shoved down your throat, excuse the pun...

THE HANDMAIDEN is a gorgeously rich and opulent-looking film, with as many twists and turns as a rollercoaster in a madhouse. That makes no sense, but trust me, only believe some of what you see and none of what you hear when it comes to the plot of this film. It's all just a beautiful illusion, you see.

The director is out to mess with your mind. He succeeded admirably in flummoxing even my good self, and I'm notoriously hard to flummox. Well, no I'm not, I'm actually dead easy to flummox but still, he did it anyway. Be on your guard. There will be plot twists and double-bluffs. And lesbians. And silver bells...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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