Immaculate Liberation (The Handmaiden review)

There isn’t much glory in going after the familiar – it is only in taking risks that we are capable of experiencing the true rewards of life. When we become liberated from our expectations, that is a very unique way to become capable and fearless.

When we experience love, we can see easily how hate can exist, but the true enemy of life is not death as Elie Wiesel says, it’s indifference.




The Handmaiden (2016)

Cast: Min-hee Kim, Tae-ri Kim, Jung-woo Ha,  Jin-woong Jo
Director: Chan-wook Park
released on blu-ray January 24, 2017
***** 10/10


IMDB: 8.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Audience Score 92%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Park Chan-wook (or Chan-wook Park) is a South Korean film director, screenwriter, producer, and former film critic. Considered to be one of the most acclaimed film makers of South Korea, Park is known for the Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance), Joint Security Area, Thirst, and now The Handmaiden.

Park is particularly skilled at employing dark humour, capturing detailed scenes, and the intensity of his storytelling – The Handmaiden is a perfect case study for these traits and one of my favourite foreign language films from 2016. But let’s go over the plot to get a better sense of why I personally enjoyed it… Because this movie is really interesting, though a bit disarming to my particular palette.

Separated into three parts and set in 1930s Korea, The Handmaiden tells the story of con artist Sookee (Tae-ri Kim). Korea is under Japanese occupation, and Sookee is hired as a handmaiden to Japanese heiress Hideko (Min-hee Kim). Hideko lives with her Uncle Kouzuki (Jin-woong Jo) in a large estate and is being courted by the Count Fujiwara (Jung-woo Ha).

Part 1 – Fujiwara is a conman who has hired Sookee from a group of con artists to help him seduce Hideko. He will then marry Hideko, commit her to an insane asylum and take her inheritance. Sookee poses as Tamako and slowly gains Hidekos trust. Hideko is haunted by her aunts suicide, hesitant to marry Fujiwara, and is willing to share her jewellery, clothes and shoes with Tamako. At one point Tamako makes love to Hideko, intending to convince Hideko that her new husband will do the same, but love is unfolding between them. Fujiwara and Hideko marry, consummate their marriage, and then travel to the asylum with Tamako in hand. But Sookee is taken by the staff and told she is in fact Hideko – she has been swindled.

Part 2 – We learn of Hideko’s backstory. Her aunt is her teacher but very stern and physical discipline is common. Kouzuki has a large library of erotica in his basement, and puts on readings for aristocrats which are read by his wife: Eventually Hideko’s aunt hangs herself from this abuse. Kouzuki implies to Hideko that he had murdered his wife, and as Hideko grows up she takes her aunts place. Under different terms, Kouzuki hires Fujiwara as an art forger to replace art in his erotica collection – Fujiwara is smitten with Hideko and offers to remove her from her lifestyle by conning a handmaiden into helping them marry, and once they’ve claimed the inheritence, to have the handmaiden take Hideko’s identity and be committed to an asylum.

Hideko goes along with this at first, but builds real feelings for Sookee. On the night they make love, Hideko breaks down and exclaims she cannot marry Fujiwara. Sookee protests, and Hideko decides to hang herself from the same tree that her aunt did, but is saved at the last second by Sookee. Sookee confesses to the plan she made with Fujiwara, and Hideko shares the double-cross. The two women decides to get revenge on Kouzuki and Fujiwara, destroying Kouzuki’s library before the marriage night.

Part 3 – Thinking he has won Fujiwara talks about his plans with new wife Hideko. Sookee escapes the asylum with help from her family, and Fujiwara forces himself on Hideko but she knocks him out with an opiate she had on hand for suicide in case their intial scheme failed. Hideko and Sookee reunite and flee the country, while Kouzuki tracks down Fujiwara, brings him back to his estate and begins to torture him. Fujiwara tricks Kouzuki into letting him smoke his blue cigarettes, which are laced with mercury, and both men are killed from the gas.

Pros: A tale as old as time, both love story and revenge flick, the details and delivery are what separate this from the more common offerings we are used to. The perversion is disruptive at first, but as you sit with the story and work through it, it’s clear it couldn’t have been done any other way.

Cons: It does drag a bit in the middle, and I’ll admit that I lost focus at the moment it is revealed why Kouzuki’s wife committed suicide and how Hideko came to hate him. There is also a scene that is played and replayed over from different angles unnecessarily.

Runtime: 2 hours 24 minutes

Points of Interest: Both Japanese and Korean were spoken by the (mostly) Korean cast. For the lesbian lovemaking scenes between the two female leads, crew members were asked to leave set and only a female staff holding the boom microphone was present. The scenes were filmed with a remote controlled camera.

Without having a ton of experience with “foreign language films”, I’ve slowly been immersing myself more and more into these uncharted waters. To clarify what I mean by this statement is that it is crucial to watch films more directly, without the filter of your native tongue. If you need somewhere to start, choose The Handmaiden. I would echo the words of director Leos Carax

Foreign-language films are made
all over the world, of course, except in America. In America, they only make
non-foreign-language films.

Foreign-language films are very hard to make,
obviously, because you have to invent a foreign language instead of using the
usual language. But the truth is, cinema is a foreign language, a language
created for those who need to travel to the other side of life. Good

In short, this movie blows Fifty Shades of Grey out of the water. It has intense sexual attraction, themes of love and eroticism, female sexuality viewed without the lens of male expectation. It is surprising, violent, passionate and all at once present. Liberation is important, but it takes exposure to the unfamiliar. That’s my theory anyway.


They’re Barking In The Wrong Key (AFI, AFI (The Blood Album) review)

When a band has been around for over 25 years, you probably should stand up when they enter the room and definitely stop talking out of respect when they say something, unless you’re a dick. If you’re a dick, you can just close your ears and pretend it never happened. Probably to your detriment.

This week we explore an album which I personally think deserves your attention. An early entry that might make my top 10 for 2017, but we’ll just have to dig in for now.




AFI – Self-titled (The Blood Album)
released January 20, 2017
********** 10/10


A Fire Inside, better known as AFI, are an American rock group that focuses on punk, alternative and emo music. The lineup hasn’t changed in almost twenty years, but only features two of the original four members – Davey Havok on vocals and drummer Adam Carson. Hunter Burgan provides bass support and Jade Puget is the guitarist, but all three instrumentalists share backup vocals. Having released tend studio-length albums now, AFI is the first self-titled album that AFI has completed.

Affectionately called “the blood album,” this record has been released on vinyl in four limited edition color variants matching the four blood types (A | O | B | AB). But is it any good, you ask?

Well, yeah.

I’ve been a fan of AFI since Sing The Sorrow hit the ground running, earning the band mainstream attention and Billboard attention for almost a year, just shy of a week. Then Decemberunderground came out and I was hooked, I picked up their back catalogue and haven’t looked back since. Granted, I don’t think Crash Love or Burials had quite the same visceral impact as AFI’s sixth and seventh efforts, but dammit if this self-titled album doesn’t remind me of Sing The Sorrow. And well, everything else they’ve ever done.

You see dear readers, at this point in their career AFI don’t have to take any real risks, but they are more than capable of revisiting genres they’ve already explored and giving a tempered reflection of what preceded, this even application of sonics is what reminds me of Sing The Sorrow – it’s intentional subdued but infinitely more thoughtful and considered.

Some of my favourite tracks include Aurelia, Hidden Knives, So Beneath You, Dumb Kids, Pink Eyes, and The Wind That Carries Me Away. None of these tracks are much like the other one, but each are familiar because AFI has been down these roads before.

Now before you accuse me of accepting this as a middle-of-the-road AFI and not A Fire Inside, you should know that Havok and Puget wrote over 60 songs before they got to this 14 track offering. And you need to listen to the whole album more than once, it gets better on subsequent viewings, like any good piece of art.

This is AFI committed to their art, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness.





As I sit with the realization that one of the last mega-stores of music and film is dying off and that I’ll have to change my own tactics going forward (read: goodbye HMV), it’s satisfying to know that music will still find a way. AFI are still relevant and that means more to me than cheap prices and the convenience of online shopping. But maybe I’ll learn to embrace that too. No harm in checking out a new theory.


When I Left You, I Was But The Learner, Now I Am The Master (Cross Talk Ep. 16)


The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner, now I am the master.

– Darth Vader

Of all the choices I could make to start this post off right, this is easily one of my favourite quotes from Star Wars because it demonstrates rather visibly resolution, the progression towards an end. Plus, it helps tie in A New Hope directly with my third favourite Star Wars film, Episode III Revenge of the Sith. Each of us moves through life encountering teachers, those who already have key abilities of intelligence, judgment and experience, realized as wisdom.

Darth Vader roughly translates to Dark Father. At least that’s the popular statement. An excellent coincidence that George Lucas used to his advantage when building the lore of Star Wars for us young fans.

But that’s what great storytellers do, they build into the mythos they’ve created and simultaneously strengthen the chronology with each addition to the franchise. Thus making those initial choices seem intentional and enmeshed with later stories. The value of of prequels and sequels is that they enrich an already great story. When the content lines up, exploration of themes is worthwhile.

So while Darth Vader is correct to say that he is now a master of the force, Obi-Wan is also correct in saying that he has only mastered the dark side of the force as a Sith. And when you watch Revenge of the Sith, you can see how handily Obi-Wan beat Anakin, how he admonished him for taking a risk and getting cut down, but only because Obi-Wan had wisdom which Anakin did not.

Because Obi-Wan knew better.


When you begin the process of watching films, one of the biggest lessons you can learn is that there are levels of emotion which you can experience. Through repeated viewings, with different genres, and by having shared experiences. A popular one that is a perfect example of this is a parent watching one of their favourite movies with their child. You witness their emotions as they experience similar feelings that you had the first time you enjoyed that art, and then you gain the enjoyment of sharing that art with them, plus another bond you now have available in relating to your child.

That now shared, Chris and I have spent a lot of time discussing the inherent value of film before, but today we run through some real-world examples of the merits of this medium and why the more time you spend with it, the more likely you are to build social relationships, enhance your passion, step outside of your comfort zone, and learn about humanity. The highs and lows of the hobby, and the maturation the love is real my friends – wisdom to be gleaned from watching film.

This is episode sixteen of Cross Talk, produced by my friend and yours, Andre Lindo. I hope that you enjoy this episode as much as we enjoyed creating it. Cross Talk is a passion project, and this exemplifies that passion very well!

Yet another theory knocked right out of the park, and I’m spent. This is atypical of our normal Cross Talk videos, but I really do  hope you enjoyed this episode creative cuties, and that you have a wonderful week. Check back-in for a review of the new AFI album.

Otherwise, please comment, subscribe, and share this video with friends. We want to hear your feedback!


Sweetheart Swing (Sugar Swing Ballroom)

Did you know that one of my very first posts (read: the fourth one) was about dancing, dear readers?

Just over two years ago, and hot off the heels of New Years Eve, I wrote a cute little post about a social night. A night at what was then called Sugar Swing Dance Club.

Dancing With Myself

Some of my learnings from that night were clear to me and still ring very true – I wanted to be healthier, have more social intelligence, and feel inspired to make visual art by whatever creative experience I exposed myself to. Well, those of you that have been there from the start of timotheories definitely would remember that post. I mean, it’s only been about 330 posts ago, so of course you’d remember, right?

It’s back when we were young and beautiful.


Other things I learned that night quickly disappeared from my memory – the names of my fellow dance lesson participants, what songs played, what I wore, and most importantly, the dance moves I learned.

Definitely the dance moves were forgotten.

Hey Ya!

But you see, a lot has happened since then, I went on some dates, changed jobs no less then three times, moved, bought a lot of movies and albums, and made a ton of new friends while I learned how to edit videos. I even reconciled a broken bridge with one of my oldest friends. And now I’m in a newish relationship, one that is going rather swimmingly and which makes my heart pitter patter.


But to pause the love thoughts, the reason why I forgot the dance moves is because I did it ONE TIME, of course I forgot the moves. And so I decided to get my girlfriend a Sweetheart Swing couples dance package for Christmas, so that I could learn some more moves, she could ease herself back into dancing, and we could do something arts related together.

We had our first lesson at the new Sugar Swing studio last week.

Our instructors are neat, the new building is nice (but still in construction), and the location is ideal. It’s been a good idea so far, and I hope to share my learnings when it’s all said and done (hint: February post).

But now you’re probably wondering the details. This is a timely post after all.

The Sugar Foot Ballroom is now located at 10019 – 80 Ave, Edmonton Alberta, and is open
both Friday and Saturday nights for drop-in lessons and social dances. If you are interested in taking a program of any sort, like the package Mysticque and I are taking, then you should definitely check out the lessons page of the Sugar Swing site! Other than that, I don’t any theories to share. At least until Sunday!


Better Than Your Parents Had It (Education)

Another post on the OECD index and inspired by timotheories? Wow, haven’t you farmed this land enough yet?

Well… No, dear readers. Technically I still have to cover off the following – education, environment, governance, health, life satisfaction, safety and work-life balance. So we’re only a third of the way in! Plus, I could write at length about all of these topics and how they relate to being a good global citizen as well as a participant in your local community (and how it relates to the arts). This is a good thing, the website is called timotheories after all, it’s all about the curating the arts and connecting seemingly disparate theories together while having fun.

And this one is sure to be a good post. Education is one of MY FAVOURITE TOPICS. Ever. Period.

The Parents Broken Dream

One of the things I’ve learned as I transitioned from being a child into an adult, and as I recount experiences I’ve had with parents, my own and others, is that every parent wants to provide their children with a life better than they had growing up.

I’m not sure if this is one of those impulses ingrained in our brains OR if it’s a social conditioning similar to the idea that we need to have a good education and a stable job in order to have a good life, but it’s out there in the ether as a theory for success. I mean, life is hard, one minute you are living the dream and the next you are blindsided at 4pm on some idle Tuesday but an event that never crossed your troubled mind.

You can thank Baz Luhrmann for that tidbit. Back to my point.


The economic privilege of the baby boomer generation is well behind us, dear readers. Baby boomers grew up with all kinds of benefits (free educations, established unions, more vacation time, company cars and trips) that generation x, millenials, and whatever comes next can only dream about. This is a major consequence of rising house prices. House prices in the 1970s and 1980s were incredibly low and the earnings on selling those houses has been significantly more lucrative for those families than what singles and young families could hope for today. On top of that, many retiring boomers are leaving behind debts and living on reduced pensions without any savings to back their lifestyles up.

If addressing gender and ethnic privilege are key tenements of politics today, we need to add in generational privilege as well. Skiing (spending the kids inheritance) is a thing of the past.

Investing In The Future

I hope you can see where this post is headed, and if you’re a futurist, like me, than you’ll appreciate the witticism, of that heading. For those of you without the blessing and/or curse of a dry sense of humour, investing in the future is never done. It’s an act of commitment to a process, not an effort towards a goal.


This is incredibly important in the face of a changing world creative cuties. When you make art you are expected to focus on the details, to see the bigger picture, or to pull from both camps. Effectively learning when to use your macro and micro lenses takes time, and an investment in the process, but as you gain skills you will gain confidence and see how your contributions to society are relevant.

This article from Forbes goes over it quite well, but I’m going to summarize it quick for you –

  1.  You need an authentic and personalized network of contacts. Yes social media connections factor into this bucket, but I’m referring to mentors and professionals you rely on for key advice. Who is your career expert? Who do you go to for construction and mechanical advice? And who is your health guru? Do you have someone you can go to for general advice? Spending time each day reaching out to these people is important – it gives you a support system. Plus it feels good to help others and will teach you invaluable things about people.
  2. Live outside your comfort zone, always. Whether it’s learning to wake up early, going out to a social event once a week, or finally starting that book of songs you’ve been dreaming about for years, tapping into your vast potential yields some fantastic dividends.
  3. Get your secondary business going. Maybe you weren’t expecting to have two jobs, maybe you hate the idea of doing more than your 40+ hour work week. But let’s be honest, you are more than your job and you definitely have skills that are being underutilized. You need to make practical use of your cooking skills, your computer programming skills, your animal husbandry (awesome word choice timotheories!), I could go on. You’re not out to get rich and famous, its to continue to develop your skills and to challenge yourself.
  4. Active and critical thinking. This one comes naturally to me, I can’t help it. I think a lot about a lot of different things. If we could visually showcasing what thinking, reading, and using our minds does for our mental capacity, I’d get compliments on my brain all the time. This is not arrogance, because we all think. But we need to think actively about the future, goals, how to improve relationships and solve problems. Don’t settle for your situation, think about how to change it – then go for it.

theories Summarized

In brief, education is important. And while I suspect your instinct was that I was headed towards a post about academic learning and certification, I should be clear and state that that kind of education has absolute value, but it’s not the only way to invest in the future and given how economic dynamics are changing, we need a new game plan. That’s my theory anyway.