|S E A R C H D V D B e a v e r|
The Handmaiden aka "Ah-ga-ssi" [Blu-ray]
(Chan-wook Park, 2016)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Moho Film
Video:Mongrel Media / Sony Pictures / Artificial Eye Curzons
Region: 'A'/ Region 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Runtime: 2:24:54.143 / 2:25:25.717 / Theatrical: 2:25:45.445 / Extended: 2:48:27.764
Disc Sizes: 39,364,110,447 bytes/ 33,454,882,747 bytes / 46,734,596,469 bytes / 44,364,535,554 bytes
Feature Size: 37,489,248,576 bytes / 32,555,735,040 bytes/ 38,861,316,096 bytes / 42,500,505,600 bytes
Video Bitrate: 29.96 Mbps / 24.91 Mbps/ 25.99 Mbps / 25.98 Mbps
Chapters: 20 / 16 // 12 / 12
Case: Standard Blu-ray cases
Release date: January 24th, 2017 / March 28th, 2017/ August 7th, 2017
Video (all three):
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio Korean and Japanese 2741 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2741 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio Korean 3316 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3316 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Audio Korean 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Audio Korean 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
English, French, none (yellow for Japanese)
English, English (SDH), Spanish, none
English, English (SDH), none
NOTE: on the Artificial Eye Blu-rays, Japanese is also used in a yellow font (as per the Canadian edition) with white for the Korean BUT not if English (SDH) is chosen - then it is all white font (see samples below)
• Interview with Director (59:51 - Korean with translator)
• Trailer (1:55)
• Making of (5:07)
• Cannes Premiere (1:32)
• Cast Introduction (0:26)
• Director Interview (1:44)
Description: Three years after his English-language debut
Stoker, award-winning filmmaker Park Chan Wook returns
to Korean cinemas with the highly acclaimed erotic thriller
The Handmaiden, which earned him his third Palme d'Or
nomination at the Cannes Film Festival following
Old Boy and
Thirst. Starring Kim Min Hee (Right Now, Wrong Then) as
a wealthy Japanese heiress, breakout newcomer Kim Tae Ri as
a maid, Ha Jung Woo (Assassination) as a fake count and Jo
Jin Woong (A Hard Day) as the heiress's uncle, the film is
an adaptation of Welsh author Sarah Waters's notable lesbian
crime novel Fingersmith about the love between a rich
heiress and her maid.
The art of the tease is rarely as refined as in “The Handmaiden.” Set in
Korea in the 1930s, this amusingly slippery entertainment is an erotic
fantasy about an heiress, her sadistic uncle, her devoted maid and the
rake who’s trying to pull off a devilishly elaborate con. The same could
be said of the director Park Chan-wook, whose attention to voluptuous
detail — to opulent brocades and silky robes, luscious peaches and
creamy shoulders — turns each scene into an invitation to ooh, aah and
mmm. This is a movie that tries to ravish your senses so thoroughly you
may not notice its sleights of hand.
A beautiful, disturbing Korean adaptation of Sarah Waters's bestseller'
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The Handmaiden comes to Blu-ray from Mongrel Media in Canada. the film was shot using the Arri Alexa XT Plus. The image quality is quite attractive - kudos to the film and art direction. Colors are often stunning - bright and rich. Detail is impressive and contrast exhibits healthy, black levels. This 1080P Blu-ray on a dual-layered disc with a very high bitrate does a solid job of exporting this film's extremely pleasing palette. It is in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. We may compare to another BD release one day but as it stands this Blu-ray transfer of The Handmaiden looked fabulous on my system.
NOTE: This is the theatrical cut - not the 22-minute longer extended version.
NOTE: The Sony is also the theatrical cut although I understand that the UK Blu-ray from Artificial Eye (we will post link and compare when available) will be the extended cut of the film.
Image quality is quite similar, technically less robust than the Canadian transfer, it is a shade brighter. I'd suspect that the Mongrel media is slightly more accurate to the theatrical appearance and may look a smidgeon superior, in-motion, depending on your system.
Firstly, the Artificial Eye includes both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film - each on a separate Blu-ray disc. What is in the Extended version? Well, in Korea and around the world there was such a strong reaction to the film that and extended cut was created with some of the footage left on the cutting room floor. In Korea it has been available as a IPTV, pay-per-view TV accessibility and was, also, shown theatrically as well worldwide in some locations. Park has stated that the finished film, shot over 67 days, was 3 hours and 3 minutes long. This extended version is 2 hours, 48-minutes - so, roughly, 23 minutes of extra footage from the theatrical cut and about 1/4 hour less than the complete assembled footage. The Handmaiden has plenty of subtle detail and it is probably best not to know the complete differences between the theatrical and extended before viewing the film although some have dubbed the extended as 'more romantic' and some may identify an alteration in the timing of the flashbacks. I, personally, think it may be superior in the longer cut but it may also be that I get more out of the film each time I see it and the longer cut adds detail and bonding with the characters to a greater extent than the theatrical cut.
Predictably, the image quality is very close on all four 1080P transfers. The AE is exactly the same as the Sony and I see no significant differences. Both AE's Theatrical and Extended cut transfers are also similar with, approximately, the same bitrate. No mistakes, no flaws, digitization, DNR nor blemishes. Perfect.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
NOTE: Japanese language is subtitled in yellow, Korean in white on the Canadian Mongrel Media Blu-ray
Mongrel Media use a DTS-HD Master in 5.1 surround, 2741 kbps (24-bit) in the original Korean and Japanese languages. Not much in the way of separation - it seems the transfer can easily handle everything the film requiresin The Handmaiden. There are optional subtitles in English or French - NOTE: Japanese language is subtitled in yellow, Korean in white. My Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.
In the audio, the Sony is more technically robust but my ears could notice no difference at all. A key point is that the Mongrel Media has the Japanese language subtitled in yellow with the Korean in white, but the Sony is all white (this may be a key point for the story an some purchasers) and offers optional Spanish along with English and English (SDH). It is also region 'A'-locked.
Like the video, the audio is of the same high quality. For both Blu-ray discs, AE give the option of a robust DTS-HD Master for the 5.1 surround and a linear PCM for a stereo option - both 24-bit. The score, and film's theme music, is credited to Yeong-wook Jo (J.S.A.: Joint Security Area, Public Enemy, I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK, Old Boy, Thirst) but there is more with Tae-ri Kim singing The Song at the End of the Century, Ladies are the Dolls of Maids, So This was the Scent etc. plus Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A major K 622, II movement. The latter sounding highly impressive. The AE Theatrical cut disc offers a 'Descriptive Audio' option. A key point is that the AE, like the Mongrel Media edition - in regards to the subtitles - use a yellow font for the, brief, Japanese language and a white font for the Korean. Except, on the theatrical UK disc, IF the SDH option is chosen - then it is all white (see sample above). There is no SDH option on the 'Extended' transfer (just standard English as an option) and it uses the yellow/white as a differentiation between the languages - which may be significant for some viewers in regards to the interpretation of the story. The AE Blu-rays are Region 'B'-locked.
Sadly, no extras - making this a true bare-bones package.
Unfortunately, no extras at all on the Sony as well.
Artificial Eye add extras on both discs. On their theatrical disc there is an hour-long interview with director Chan-wook Park. He speaks in Korean with translator describing what he says afterward. It makes the interview longer but some cogent details are articulated, making it worthwhile. There is also a trailer. On the 'Extended' Blu-ray disc, there is a short 'Making of', a Cannes Premiere snippet, a very brief cast introduction segment and a 2-minute director interview with English subtitles.
Mongrel Media - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Sony - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Artificial Eye (Theatrical) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
Artificial Eye (Extended) - Region 'B' - Blu-ray
I'd lean to the Mongrel Media release which seems a bit more polished but the differences will be marginal to most purchasers. I look forward to the extended version from AE. A powerful film that is hard to forget. Don't miss it.
Obviously the Artificial Eye has the most desirable package including both cuts, pleasing a/v transfers for this stunning film and some supplements. The more I watch The Handmaiden, the more I like it and will always choose the 'Extended' version experience when revisiting this brilliant film. It has pushed me, in recent weeks, to explore more South Korean cinema on disc. This has become one of the best packages of the year and we can strongly endorse. This is one of those releases that justifies the purchase of a Region FREE BD player. This UK Blu-ray package has our highest recommendation!
January 31st, 2017
March 17th, 2017
July 22nd, 2017
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
ALL OUR NEW FORMAT DVD REVIEWS