Fantastic Fest 2010: Housemaid (2010) review

Contributor; Reykjavik, Iceland
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Fantastic Fest 2010: Housemaid (2010) review

(Got a few more reviews from FF to finish up so these will pop up here in the coming days)

The remake for Housemaid, originally created in 1960 and directed by Ki-young Kim, is a strange beast. I haven't seen the original but from what I've heard the new version is quite different. President's Last Bang Im Sang-soo Im creates a sordid tale of forbidden love, sociopathic behavior, decadence and hot and sweaty sex.

Eun-yi has been hired as a housemaid at a ridiculously lush household by the insanely wealthy and handsome Hoon and his stupefyingly beautiful and very pregnant wife Haera. Eun-yi is a free spirit but her new job requires her to act proper and is constantly reminded of that by the old housemaid Byung-sik who has worked for the family for decades.

I guess owning a shit ton of money makes your life boring and lose interest in your insanely hot wife because not long after Eun-yi moves in with the family the father starts to show her interest and soon acts on it. Surprisingly Eun-yi welcomes the attention and soon their hot and heavy affair captures the attention of Byung-sik who fears that the outcome of that will be dire. 

And dire they become as the Byung-sik reports to Haera's mother who's none to happy that a commoner like Eun-yi is getting down and dirty with her son in law. Fearing that Eun-yi might get pregnant the mother in law hatches a pre-emptive plan to prevent that from happening. Things go down hill from there.

I really enjoyed this film, even though it's highly stylized and surreal at moments, I'm not sure what the opening scene meant or how it relates to the main story, if at all. The seemingly tacked on ending scene makes no sense what so ever and is so out of left field but for some reason it didn't bother me at all and in a weird way fit right in there. While the story itself is pretty straight forward neo noir the surreal moments elevate it above the rest.

The performances are really strong in this film, especially Yeo-jong Yun as the aging housemaid and the cute as a button but way smarter for her age Seo-hyeon Ahn as the daughter of the couple who befriends Eun-yi.

The film also looks amazingly slick and what I loved about Tales of Two Sister, more so than the film itself was the fantastic art direction and set design, here Im Sang-soo continues that winning streak.

The thing that surprised me about the film is how explicit it is terms of its depiction of sex which you don't always see that much of in Asian films, outside of KAT III films from HK. But that's not saying that it is any dirtier than what us westerners are used to. 

Housemaid is a terrific film that sticks with you. Strong imagery, a stellar cast and great atmosphere makes this stick out of the crowd.

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More about The Housemaid

AlexOctober 5, 2010 2:18 PM

In an interview posted here, the director said that the beggining of the film is related to what happened in that house.
As for the ending, to me it was an accentuated form of their moral decadence as family, as if nothing changed as if nothing did happened, as if everything was forgiven, but as you can see, the little girl wasnt into it as we all expected.

davidcwmatsonOctober 6, 2010 5:45 PM

This is at the top of my list of movies to watch. I love both the director and the original Housemaid. TO THE FUTURE!

sean.d.kellyOctober 8, 2010 1:17 PM

I'm pretty sure I watched the original Housemaid on MUBI for free...ace film.