[Following its successful Cannes debut, Im Sangsoo remake of The Housemaid is screening at Fantasia today, and here is Todd's take on the film from Cannes and our archives.
Slick, polished and sexy, Im Sangsoo's The Housemaid
is the sort
of film simply not made in Hollywood any more. Directed with the same
icy precision displayed by the coldly amoral family at its center, The
is an entirely grown-up thriller - one driven by lust,
boredom, and not particularly subtle manipulation. And the general
feeling on the street is that it's also the best film to screen in
Cannes so far.
A remake of a 1960 classic, The Housemaid
revolves around Lee Euny. A lower class, sweetly naive divorcee, Lee
begins the film working in the kitchen of a cheap restaurant and sharing
a tiny apartment with her only friend. Is it any wonder that she jumps
at the opportunity to become the new nanny for the enormously wealthy
Hoon family? If nothing else, she'll no longer have to share a bed with
The Hoon's are outwardly perfect. He is handsome and
successful, a true power broker despite his youth. She is young and
beautiful and heavily pregnant with twins, new siblings for the couple's
young daughter. The daughter? Obviously very intelligent and mature
beyond her years in truly adorable fashion. But you know what they say
about perfection ... give it a scratch and who knows what may lie
In short, what lies beneath here is Mr Hoon's penis.
Despite his smooth manners, the man has the sense of entitlement that
comes from having been raised in extreme wealth, with everything he has
ever wanted handed to him on a platter by a servant. Literally. Add to
that an absolute lack of morals and is it any surprise that when his
pregnant wife is unable to finish sex the way he likes Hoon soon finds
his way into Lee's bed? And whether through naivite, loneliness or an
equivalent lack of scruples, Lee welcomes him there. This, of course,
does not end well and the women of the family prove to be far more
vicious and uncaring than even Hoon himself.
and beautifully photographed, Im has created her a true piece of cinema,
a work of art buffed and polished in all the right ways while still
retaining a very true sense of character and balancing all of that out
with just the appropriate dash of entertainer's showmanship. The script
is very good, indeed, and the entire cast virtually flawless, though
Park Ji-Young deserves special mention for the coldly brutal grace with
which she imbues her performance as Hoon's vengeful mother in law.
when called for, savage once you dip beneath the surface, The
is a triumph for Im and one of the strongest thrillers to
emerge from Korea in the past several years.
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