Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

"The Housemaid": An unsatisfying update to the sexy postwar original 

Wednesday, Feb 2 2011

Fifty years after Kim Ki-young's postwar hothouse original, Im Sang-soo attempts a sleek, breathless update to the tale of a household riven by a sexy domestic. This time around, instead of a family-man music teacher getting ensnared, a bored, feckless maid (Jeon Do-yeon) is seduced by a rich scion and chewed up by the conniving women in his orbit. Im pushes the heat and danger of the affair, especially in one pulse-quickening encounter that fills the screen with the pair's flushed skin. But despite eccentric touches, like a handheld street-shot overture and Grand Guignol Omen references, there's little difference between this story and soap-opera intrigue. Im at first seems set to skate on the edge of camp — displaying the pulpy zeal that made his true-life assassination story, The President's Last Bang, a shocking black comedy — but then lets the tension evaporate. Within these limitations, Jeon (a Cannes winner in 2007 for Secret Sunshine) portrays a bad-life-decision-maker sympathetically (opposite Kim veteran Yun Yeo-jong as the flintily skeptical, older head servant), and the inevitable comparisons between Im and Kim, and Korea then and now, are of historical and stylistic interest. But Im falls short of achieving the éclat of his predecessor's oddity — and the hectically surreal finale feels like the work of a director who wanted to end with another bang, but wasn't sure how.

About The Author

Nicolas Rapold


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"