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(Korean with English subtitles) Blending politics with romance, noted director of "The Housewife" weaves a story of two activists in hiding in a remote shack. The intimate setting proves to be fertile ground for hidden desires.
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Eun-yi is a playful young woman, a good match for a job as nanny to a precocious child, Nami, the daughter of a wealthy couple, Hae-ra and Hoon. Hae-ra will soon have twins as well. The majordomo, Mrs. Cho, is the household's cold stone center. Before long, Hoon seduces Eun-yi, and when Mrs. Cho tells Hae-ra's mother about the affair, Eun-yi is up against women with wealth, power, and no conscience. Can Eun-yi maintain her dignity and perhaps even put the family in their place? Written by
A simple, melo-drama drained slightly by highly slick production values...
The Housemaid (2010)
In all, this is an enchanting, disturbing, slightly above-the-fray look at a highly elite family and the interactions of mother, father, young daughter, and slightly sinister servant. And the new, young, naturally beautiful "housemaid" which is what makes this movie what it is.
It has become so customary to film--shoot cinematographically--at the highest technical and aesthetic level, you sometimes wonder about how a story would subsist without all the visual excess. This is a dramatic, personal story about rich people abusing a good-hearted young woman who becomes their maid. But it is dressed in such elegant, beautiful, truly beautiful visuals, the story takes on an elevation that makes it what it is, something beyond.
You have to decide whether that's a good thing or not.
By the truly astonishing and almost preposterous end you'll be giddy with the slow, careful, deliberate prettiness of it all. I know this second-to-last scene is not meant to be preposterous, but like the key turning point on the ladder halfway through, there is a detachment from the family members that defies and upsets the apparent human intensity implied elsewhere. I suppose the very last scene, which (in its ultra-wide angle shooting) is unlike anything else in the movie, takes us to intentional absurdity, making what we've seen surreal, and in that sense we might revisit the movie and its intentions differently.
It doesn't help to analyze the plot in particular. It's an old story--and better developed, narratively, in several other movies. The beautiful young maid is disruptive, even without trying, eventually drawing the father into the inevitable, and the mother, too, in her own way. A mother-in-law takes on an evil role, but with such cool and prettified distance it's hard to quite feel. And this movie really has at its core the problem of being understood rather than felt.
The leading character--the housemaid--is absolutely sympathetic and well done. (This is Do-Yeon Jeon, a Korean actress with little exposure in Western cinema.) You do get the sense that this is a "knowing" film throughout--it has the intentions of being a serious new Korean film. And it is based, loosely, on one of the truly great Korean classic movies, a 1960 movie with the same name. Here, though, you'll definitely find a coolness and a lack of true emotional involvement that runs counter to the high production values. It's a film that could have been something much more than it ended up being, in terms of content at least. But it's totally engaging in its steady slowness, so if you like films partly for being well shot, give this a try.
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