The Housemaid | Chicago Reader

The Housemaid

Based on a true story, this wildly expressive 1960 film begins a welcome series of six rarely seen works by the extravagant and eccentric Korean director Kim Ki-young. The wife of a music teacher, coveting a larger home, begins to work long hours, and the couple hires a housemaid; the music teacher?s one-night stand with the maid disrupts his marriage and leads to ever-more-convoluted plot twists. A bottle of rat poison reappears like a horror-movie zombie that refuses to die—characters threaten to use it, pretend to use it, and finally actually use it. The film is pitched at a consistent level of hysteria: tight black-and-white images seem ready to explode while camera movements destabilize our sense of space, and the tension between the confined spaces and the stylized imagery and action provides a powerful metaphor for social disintegration. Critics have noted that Kim?s films reflect a rapidly urbanized and industrialized Korea whose traditional patriarchy is collapsing; the critique of materialism embedded in the film?s centrifugal delirium testifies to the richness of Kim?s cinema.

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