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The Housemaid
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112 of 120 people found the following review helpful
The notorious 1960 Korean film "The Housemaid" by Kim Ki-young shocked contemporary audiences with its suspenseful descent into depravity and madness. Taking on a classic (even a cult classic) can be a daunting task. 2010's remake of the same name by Im Sang-soo maintains the same principle characters and much of the plotting, and is able to be much more graphic in nature. But despite the added nudity and sexuality--the film somehow seems much more subdued. In fact, I'll issue a cautionary warning. Billed as a thriller, "The Housemaid" really plays as a slow-burn domestic drama. Still and quiet, anyone expecting edge-of-your-seat excitement will likely be mystified by the thriller descriptive. That's not to say that there isn't much to recommend this version--I just missed some of the wildness of its predecessor. More inspired by than an actual remake, this is a glossy and dignified soap opera that maintains a surprising calm amidst increasingly melodramatic plot points.

Jeon Do-yeon (a captivating perfromer who won Cannes' Best Actress prize for 2007's Secret Sunshine) plays the titular lead. Enlisted as a maid and nanny for a wealthy family, she is soon exchanging flirtations with the family patriarch. Although irresistibly sweet and alluring (probably too much so), she makes some consciously controversial choices. As a character, she is a bit of a cipher as her excursions into impropriety don't seem to affect her in the slightest. After a series of bad actions, things start to unravel in the household as an undercurrent of domestic strife affects just about everyone. With the unfaithful husband, a pregnant wife, a little girl torn, a vengeful mother-in-law, and a put-upon house manager--it is unlikely that anyone will remain unscathed. Plots and schemes begin to surface, but through all the escalating tension--the film manages to remain inexplicably detached. The film finishes with an unexpected flourish that is likely to further divide audiences.

Visually, the film is very beautiful (man, that's a great house!). And the primary actors are all especially good. I have to shout out to the invaluable Yun Yeo-Jung. As the woman behind the scenes that really runs the household, she steals every scene that she's in. While the film is ostensibly about the new housemaid, I found this stalwart servant to be the real heart of the movie. Initially, rigid and imposing--she becomes the moral compass navigating the treacherous waters between the two opposing factions. A study of class differences and gender roles, this upscale soap opera might not appeal to everyone. I, personally, thought it lacked a bit of punch and left me more emotionally disengaged than I would have liked. But it's still a noteworthy film with many great attributes. Recommended for patient viewers who aren't expecting a thriller! KGHarris, 6/11.
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61 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2011
A beautiful young woman comes to work as a housemaid/nanny for an extremely wealthy Korean businessman and his heavily pregnant young wife who live in a world where nothing is denied. It doesn't take long for his eye to wander to his servant. Extreme viciousness ensues as the various members of the household unite to take action to protect and preserve the family at whatever cost. exceptional performances from one and all in the cast down to the two young children of the couple. But the older house servant is riveting to watch with a beautifully layered performance reflecting all her desires, interests, anger, pain and rebellion, often simultaneously. Her performance alone would make the film worth watching and buying. More a class study than a thriller, but there's more than enough action to satisfy most viewers.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on January 12, 2011
I heard the announcement this movie would be remade with skepticism. When this DVD came out, I made sure I watched the original 1960 movie FIRST. Then the next day I watched this DVD from Amazon. Wow. For once, a remake that is not made from a blueprint of the original with the intent to cash in from the original's acclaim. This adaption is inspired and original in its own way. The direction and cinematography is amazing, the actors fit their role perfectly, and the plot is clever with a climax that is breathtaking. Definitely not for children with all the sultry sex scenes. This DVD was awesome. Rest assured, it will play in the USA (thank god).
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 8, 2011
This movie is a remake of a 1960 Korean production. I have not seen this earlier film, but not to worry, the general themes covered in the recent version (English subtitles) have often been explored in cinema land.

It's about a young woman, Eun-yi (Do-yeon Jeon), who, due to economic necessity, becomes a housemaid for a super-wealthy Korean family. The maid is a pleasant, compassionate woman. Jung-Jae Lee plays the young patriarch of the family. He is used to having his way, or so says his heartless mother-in-law. So, he has his way with Eun-yi, even though he has a young daughter, and his wife is pregnant with twins. Most would say he did not rape the maid, but it's clear that she would lose her job if she did not submit. Complicating the image of the rich guy using the poor woman is the fact that Eun-yi is attracted to him.

I do not want to reveal any more of the story. All of the actors were very sharp. We get a convincing image of the evil deeds of evil people who are rich enough to try to cover their tracks with cash. Those who equate great wealth with moral bankruptcy will not be disappointed here.

One fascinating aspect of the film for me was how the opening sequence strongly suggested the story's conclusion. Throughout, I was thinking that I knew where it was headed. I will not tell you if I was right, but I will tell you that the conclusion was very powerful.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2011
I think this might fit into the melodrama category of film and it's really intense. It gives you insight into a culture that is deeply rooted in beliefs and a class difference that is horribly divided. By the end of the movie you almost won't be sure who to feel sorry for. The protagonist and antagonist are so blurred at times you kind of wonder where the movie started and it's all so seamless. The end is awesome and ties everything together. You really see how emotion and cavalier actions can bring out the worst in people when it's not checked or controlled. Give it a shot, you might just get taken on a roller coaster ride.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2012
Let's admit...for a few years film festival movies were pretty bad and in this current movie market, both festival and main stream movies left you craving braincells....This is a movie that takes the cake and gives me hope for the crud pumped out of the film industry...Of course, in grand fashion, an amazing movie like this did not go to cinemas everywhere and thus we are left with a great movie with little PA. Instead we are fed with a spoonful of action and bang, with no brain stimulus....makes the movie Idiocracy eerily close to reality in my book....I intend to look for more work from this artist/producer.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
First things first: thank you IFC Films for picking up this movie for a US release! This movie is a remake of the 1960 Korean movie of the same name (but nicely updated), and what a delight it is from start to finish.

"The Housemaid" (2010 release from Korea; 107 min.) brings the story of a girl who becomes the housemaid to a wiledly rich Korean family, where the wife is late-term pregnant with twins, and the husband eventually seduces the housemaid, who herself then becomes pregnant. I won't gon into any further story details as that would simply ruin the movie experience. But I just want to say that you will be very surprised, if not shocked, how it all turns out.

The acting is superb throughout, none more so than Jeon Do-yeon as the housemaid, but there are plenty of other great performances. Beware, this film moves at a glacially slow pace, no this isn't Iran Man 2, and I mean this as a complement. If you are in the mood for a great foreign movie, by all means, check this out! Miles better than most of the mainstream Hollywood movies these days. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 2014
When the first scene started, I already had an idea of how the movie would conclude. Although, I admit that it was much more dramatic than I anticipated, it was still a great movie. A new, young housemaid in the house of a powerful businessman, combine that with a conniving and controlling mother-in-law, a jealous housewife, a torn daughter, and a silent but powerful head maid who was the one running things behind closed doors and that makes for an interesting movie!

From what I understand, this was a remake of a 1960 film with the same title. This modernized version did have more sexuality than its predecessor, but it didn't take away from the story as much as I thought it would. While watching the movie, you can begin to feel the tension rise in the house, so much so that when the climax arrives you think it would blow the cap off the rest of the story. In the end, I felt like the movie had a very dark ending, a very surprising dark ending.

All in all, it was still a good movie to watch. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. Although, I did wonder what would have happened if she didn't decide to keep the child initially. Would she still have been alive? Would she still work for the family, or return to her old life?

That's a series of questions that I would like to have answered one day or another...
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2011
South Korean film maker Im Sang-soo has a history of embedding controversy in his films, most recently with his story of former South Korean President Park Chung-hee's assassination in The President's Last Bang. He is back with this remake of a 1960 film by Kim Ki-young and it opens sharply, when a maid in a wealthy household leaps to her death in the city's business district. The search for a replacement begins and Jeon Do-yeon, South Korea's best known actress, gets the role of Lee Eun-yi.

When the master of the house (Lee Jung-jae) and the new maid succumb to primal passion, (and I note here that the language of their promiscuity is more explicit than its visual depiction) Sang-soo devotes the rest of the film trying to determine the consequences. Lee's roommate tries to bring the maid to her senses, but the large paychecks corrupt the moral vision of both women. The senior servant in the household, Mrs. Cho, (Youn Yuh jung) gives an impressive performance with her worldliness, as well as her signature comment, repeated several times in the film, namely that we live in a world with the R.U.N.S. Revolting, Ugly, Nauseating and Shameless. Sometimes it's a funny comment, by the end of the film, it's also accurate.

Lee Hyung Deok's camera work throughout the film is stellar and in Jeon Do-yeon, Director Sang-soo has an actress who moves from searing inquiry to calm acceptance in two or three frames. And he's come up with one of the most spectacular endings you'll see in cinema. It will be up to the viewer to decide whether it's warranted.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2011
Far from being an intellectual reflection on infidelity, this asian melodrama takes a simple subject and handles it similarly. There's nothing complicated in it, it's easy to follow and half way you realize that what you're watching is simply an old-fashioned soap opera, similar to the mexican and venezuelan TV soap-operas shown after lunch for a housewife audience. Don't misunderstand this judgement, since the movie works wonderfully. It's beautifully done (the photography is excellent) and the acting is priceless. Most of all, it is great, great fun. Give it some time, you'll really enjoy it.
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