The last lesbians sex scene of Park Chan-wook’s new erotic thriller The Handmaiden prominently features a sparkly pair of silver Ben Wa balls. Earlier in the film, they’d been used as a weapon; now they’re serving a very different purpose. Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) and Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee) are fully naked, facing each other while precariously balanced on their knees. They’re in what looks like a ship’s first-class cabin, resplendent with plush, colorful furniture and ornate frames on the walls.
As they fit their bodies together and insert the lesbian’s sex toys (Ben Wa balls) inside their respective vaginas, a merry tinkling noise accompanies the women’s giggles — Sook-hee and Hideko are, for the first time, fully and completely at ease with each other. Their beautiful, lithe bodies are arranged in perfect symmetry, just like the room around them. The scene is an immaculately arranged tableau.
The film share a visual sumptuousness.They are veritable marvels for the senses. Each one delights, and indulges, in the gorgeousness of the women they feature, especially when those women get undressed and used lesbians sex toys. The resulting depictions of lesbian sex as choreographed by these male directors are, at best, well-intentioned attempts to honor the beauty of queer female sexuality — but at worst, they’re formalist experiments in symmetry and duality that can easily become flat-out fetishistic.