Tag Archives: Sarah Waters

‘The Handmaiden’ – A Tale Of Complex Desire And Female Sexuality

The director of Oldboy, Park Chan-wook latest provocation is The Handmaiden, started the summer as the hottest commodity in South Korea (topping the Korean box office before becoming the most widely distributed film in the country’s history). Now it is set for release in the around the world.

Working from the Sarah Waters novel Fingersmith, Chan-wook kept most of the essentials –  including its central lesbian romance – but updated the story to be set in the same period as Japan’s imperial reign over Korea. If you haven’t had the chance to see it, you can check out the trailer below.

The movie is filled with plot twists, torture, sadism, and all the sex you could possibly imagine; even though the story mainly follows a young Korean pickpocket who tries to get a hold of a Japanese heiress’s fortune.

The lead character is portrayed by Sook-hee, who ends up developing feelings for Lady Hideko, the heiress, played by Kim Min-hee, and both end up developing a steamy yet loving relationship.


Perhaps the reason the movie is causing such a stir is due to the explicit sex scenes between the two women, who some have praised while others have criticized.


In the light of all this controversy, Vice interviewed Chan-wook, to try to know more about not only the director himself, but also about his choices when it comes to directing and portraying explicit gay sex (you can read the full interview here).

When asked about which themes Chan-wook chooses for his movies, he made quite the distinction between Handmaiden and his earlier work:

This film is a bit different—quite distinctive—because this film, rather than dealing with an ethical dilemma, is about love and greed.”

Although the movie can be seen as one of his most “pro-love and pro-sex” works, Chan-wook noticed how the truly “pro-love and pro-sex” vibe of the movie stemmed only from the female relationship, which is crudely contrasted by the depicted greedy and violent male perspective, which he describes as it as a ‘kind of rape in my mind – gang rape.’

With a repertoire of not only female-centred movies, but also well-written and complex female characters, Chan-wook claims his passion and drive to tell women’s stories, didn’t happen on purpose, but rather a result of his own growth,

I suppose getting old, becoming mature as a human being, also means you become more of a feminist.”

Have you watched The Handmaiden? What did you think about the movie? Let us know in the comments!

Park Chan-wook’s ‘The Handmaiden’ Gets An Official Release Date, And A New Sexy But Twisted Trailer

Following a brief foray into English-language filmmaking with Stoker, South Korean director Park Chan-wook returns with The Handmaiden.

His new thriller is actually an adaptation of the Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, with the action moved from Victorian-era Britain to Japanese-occupied Korea.


The story focuses on an orphan girl (Kim Tae-ri), who is hired by a con man (Assassination‘s Ha Jung-woon) to win the trust of a wealthy heiress (Right Now, Wrong Then‘s Kim Min-hee), only to end up falling for her.

The new promo is light on plot and completely devoid of dialogue (perhaps to avoid scaring off American audiences), but it’s full of sensual imagery and high-stakes intrigue.

Above all, The Handmaiden looks sexy in a kinky way, like the movie Fifty Shades of Grey wishes it could be.

If you adored the sumptuous style and twisted vibe — The Handmaiden should be worth a peek.

First Teaser Trailer For Park Chan-Wook‘s ‘The Handmaiden’ Has Been Released

The first trailer for Park Chan-wook‘s The Handmaiden has been released.


Inspired by the British novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, The Handmaiden takes place during the Japanese colonial period (1910-45).


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The story focuses on an orphan girl (Kim Tae-ri), who is hired by a con man (Assassination‘s Ha Jung-woon) to win the trust of a wealthy heiress (Right Now, Wrong Then‘s Kim Min-hee), only to end up falling for her.



Amazon To Distribute New South Korean Lesbian Thriller Based On Sarah Waters ‘Fingersmith’ 

Inspired by the British novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, The Handmaiden takes place during the Japanese colonial period (1910-45).

The story focuses on an orphan girl (Kim Tae-ri), who is hired by a con man (Assassination‘s Ha Jung-woon) to win the trust of a wealthy heiress (Right Now, Wrong Then‘s Kim Min-hee), only to end up falling for her.


The film is slated to be released in June in Korea, but this week it has been reported that the films director Park Chan-wook was pre-sold to 116 territories during the European Film Market (EFM). Amazon Studios will handle U.S. rights for the lesbian thriller.

The film will also be distributed in Japan (Phantom), Taiwan (Catchplay), Hong Kong/Macau (Edko), Australia/New Zealand (Dreamwest), Mongolia (Bloomsbury), Turkey (Kurmaca), Poland (Gutek Film), Czech Republic/Slovakia (Aero Films), Hungary (Mozinet), Greece/Cyprus (AMA), German-speaking territories (Koch Media), French speaking territories (The Jokers) and Latin America (Swen).


The Stage Adaptation Of Sarah Waters’ Lesbian Classic ‘Tipping the Velvet’ Earns Positive Reviews

The stage adaptation of Sarah Waters’ Tipping the Velvet is earning many positive reviews from critics.

The new play has been adapted by playwright Laura Wade, who has teamed up again with director Lyndsey Turner, who she worked with on her play Posh.

The Guardian gave the show a three-star review, saying

Wade ingeniously frames the story by presenting it through the eyes of a gavel-wielding Victorian music-hall chairman of the kind made familiar by TV’s The Good Old Days. This pays off beautifully in the first half, which is a hymn to theatre,” At the opening night on Monday, Wade told the BBC: “There’s so much theatre already in the book, it was about finding that and drawing it out and because of the Victorian age of this theatre, it just seemed like a perfect match.”


The Stage said

It takes the history and traditions of music hall and mashes them together with something altogether more modern. Music, comedy, circus and illusion are all thrown into the mix,” the review read.

Master of Ceremonies David Cardy narrates the story of Nancy, an oyster girl from Whitstable who falls hard and deep for Kitty, a male impersonator and music hall star, before taking to the boards and becoming a star herself. The songs they perform are not music hall numbers, but rather more recent: Prince and the Pet Shop Boys, a little bit of Miley Cyrus, a dash of Bonnie Tyler.”


The TV version – which starred Rachael Stirling as Nan and Keeley Hawes as cross-dressing stage star Kitty – was famed for its steamy sex scenes.

The stage adaptation instead represents the passionate sexual acts with astonishing aerial stunt work reminiscent of Cirque Du Soleil.

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Playwright Laura Wade explained

We wanted to create something on stage that showed how those sexual encounters really felt and the different emotional character of them, to convey that emotional pull to the audience. Sex is always rather difficult to do on stage because you can’t have close ups in the same way that you can on film so you have to find a different way of telling that story.”

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The cast was led by newcomer Sally Messham, who plays Nan, added

This is my first professional theatre job, straight in at the deep end. I picked up the book as soon as I got the role and I loved it, it’s like a Dickensian novel, you get a lot of Victorian novels about gay men and very few about lesbians and what Laura and Sarah have done is to give them a rich history.”

It is still rare to see women’s sexuality portrayed with such frankness on stage, something Waters herself has noted.

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Talking to the BBC on opening night, Water’s said

I do go to the theatre a lot but it’s only when you see a stage with a lot of women on it, telling a young woman’s story that you realise how rarely you do see that. So it has been really refreshing for me to see Laura’s fantastic script. It’s also lovely to know the book still has a currency, still appeals to people. Since I wrote it 20 years ago, a lot has changed since then.”

 Tipping the Velvet will run at the Lyric Hammersmith until 24 October, before moving to the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, from 28 October – 14 November.

Tipping The Velvet Stage Show Headed to London Next Month

Tipping The Velvet is one of the most iconic and most well-known pieces of queer media out there.

Set in 1887 in Victorian England, the debut novel by Sarah Waters shows the life of a young woman named Nancy “Nan” Astley as she falls in love with a ‘male impersonator’ named Kitty Butler. Nan follows Kitty to London for hijinks and adventures as the two women get by.

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Compared to the works of Charles Dickens, Tipping The Velvet was praised for the way that it explored what it would have been like to be a same-sex couple in Victorian England (Waters was writing her PhD dissertation on gay and lesbian historical fiction at the time) and for the way it looked at themes of gender, sexism and classism, issues which would have been prevalent during their era.

The novel also broke ground when it was adapted into a BBC series in 2002, with Waters having been surprised that the BBC chose to adapt the book due to sexual content within it.

Following that three-part series (which was also praised, despite initial outrage from some) and a stage adaptation in 2009, Tipping The Velvet will once again be presented to audiences, this time at the Lyric Hammersmith (London) starting in September.

This particular stage adaptation has been written Laura Wade and directed by Lyndsey Turner. Having been in the works for four years, it reportedly stays true to the book, with Sarah Waters having worked closely with Wade on the script.

Previous fans of the book (or the TV show) should feel that Sally Messham (as Nancy) and Laura Rogers (as Kitty) stick closely to the original, then, and audiences shouldn’t expect any Twilight ‘spider monkey’ type of diversions from the original work.

Also good news is that Tipping The Velvet‘s artistic director Sean Holmes also realises the significance of the show, telling The Guardian that “what’s so brilliant about the novel is it is such an upfront, unapologetic celebration of sexuality that just happens to be between two women.

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Obviously it’s set at a time when that’s frowned upon but it’s also just really about the journey to love and sexual discovery and the massive, formative journey that applies to everyone, whatever your sexuality is, and yet you never see portrayed between gay women.”

Tipping The Velvet will run from September 18 to October 24 at the Lyric Hammersmith. After the Lyric Hammersmith, Tipping The Velvet will be on at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh.


Director Park Chan-Wook Starts Filming New Adaptation of Lesbian Classic ‘Fingersmith’

Oldboy filmmaker Park Chan-wook has started making a new adaptation Fingersmith in Nagoya, Japan, last week.

Established actress Kim Min-hee (No Tears for the Dead) and newcomer Kim Tae-ri will play lovers Sue and Maud from the Sarah Waters’ Victorian-era crime novel, but director Park Chan-wook’s film will take place in “Korea and Japan in the 1930s, when Korea was under Japanese occupation.”

Fingersmith was made into a two-part BBC mini-series in 2005, starring Elaine Cassidy and Sally Hawkins.

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Park’s long-term screenwriter Chung Seo-kyung (Sympathy for Lady VengeanceThirst), has written new screenplay.

Fingersmith is Park’s first Korean-language directorial piece in six years, since the Cannes-winning vampire film Thirst in 2009. In between he made his English-language debut, the ill-fated Stoker, in 2013.

The completed film is set for a 2016 release.

Book Review | The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Absorbing and intelligent historical thriller which draws you into the characters’ world through high drama and delicate detail. A compelling and unsettling read.

Book Review: Genteel Frances Wray and her mother have fallen on hard times, so they let out their unused rooms to  paying guests: a brash, working class couple called Lil and Len. Although humiliating, this arrangement should be the answer to their financial worries. Instead they become entangled in a web of passion, violence, deceit and fear, which threatens to destroy them all.

The shadow of the first world war hangs heavily over their lives. Not just the terrible human cost, but the way in which it irreversibly changed the relationship between classes, generations and genders.

Frances scorns marriage and longs for the freedom that she glimpses in this new post-war world. And yet her loyalty to her mother, who has lost two sons in the war, prevents her from leaving to fulfill her own dreams. By her mid twenties, Frances is resigned to a lonely future of struggling to make ends meet, household drudgery and nightly card games with her mother. Then she meets Lil.

The question of whom or what can be trusted becomes central to this novel as Frances and Lil’s secret romance blossoms and even more so once they become unwilling partners in crime. The book is so compelling because, as a reader, you cannot relax or let down your guard: the risk of betrayal and discovery is always there, just as it is for Frances herself, to the point where she struggles even to trust herself.

The novel is strongest when it uses small details to reveal character or evoke an atmosphere. The looks, accidental touches and half-spoken words between Frances and Lil are far more erotic than the eventual sex scenes. A brief description of Frances hands swollen and ruined by scrubbing floors, speaks more clearly about how she is trapped in middle class poverty than any amount of social comment.

The big set pieces – in particular the courtroom scenes – are also beautifully crafted, unbearably ramping up the tension so that you are desperate to skip to the end of the chapter. But it was the small details that haunted me once I’d finished the book.

Sarah Waters is known for her Gothic imagination, twisting tales and lesbian protagonists. Although ‘The Paying Guests’ may not be as dark or as shocking as some of her earlier work, it’s an absorbing and nerve-wracking read. And those on the look out for lesbians in these pages won’t be disappointed either.

Buy this book now

Writers Creating Awareness – Sarah Waters New Book Coming Out Soon

Sarah Waters is our ‘Writers Creating Awareness’ favourite for the month, and that is with good reason. The novelist, best known for her novels set in Victorian society and featuring lesbian protagonists, such as Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, is back with a new book ‘The Paying Guests’. This week The Bookseller previewer Alice O’Keeffe dubbed the new novel “gripping tale of class, sex and the consequences of a passionate affair” and “indisputably at the top of her game”.

About the book – Well, it is set in 1922, and the backdrop of London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers. When Len and Lillian move in, Frances begins a tentative friendship with the latter, which soon grows into a full-blown affair.

The Paying Guest has taken Waters four years to write. The author told The Bookseller:

“I slowed down a bit because I had to get to know the period and [it] always takes time to feel at home in a period. There was more research than I’d had to do for the last book (The Little Stranger, 2009); I already knew the 1940s quite well. It was a much more challenging book to write than the last one, which was a very straightforward haunted house story. Even though there’s a strong plot to it, it’s quite character-driven.”

Waters also said:

“I always use lesbian desire to sort of upset something that we are familiar with. So with the other novels it would be taking a Victorian scenario that has been done to death a million times and putting lesbians into it and seeing what that does to it. With this novel it was a similar adventure.”