Thursday, 27 April 2017

Sexy Film Reviews: The Housemaid


***SPOILERS – SPOILERS – SPOILERS –*** 
Please do not read this review if you do not wish to know plot developments

Not to be confused with the more recently released The Handmaiden, this film, The Housemaid, also hailing from South Korea, and released in 2010, is apparently a re-make of a much lauded 1960 release of the same name, and while I haven’t see the original, the quality of the story-telling in this version leaves me in no doubt this film stands firmly on its own merits.

Beautifully directed by Im Sang-soo, the deliberate and unrushed pacing, the tale’s beguiling unfolding, the quietly and intermittently observed details of manner and gaze, the strong composition, the wonderfully crisp cinematography of Hyung-deok Lee, the bold palette of dark and light with supporting muted tones, all these elements lend their seductive weight to the pervading sense of sombre gravity and effortless sensuality.

Elegantly erotic, The Housemaid is essentially a very powerful drama, a tragedy in fact. And a dark and twisted tale it is, with a truly shocking ending.

And this is where I encountered a slight problem with the film. Not the shocking ending in itself, nor the fact it is a tragedy per se, but the fact that to a degree it felt like a film of two halves. The alluring eroticism permeating the first half of the film evaporated half way through. Not that the quality of the film was affected in any way at all. But after the plot developed through some deftly executed and very sinister twists, the second half of the film virtually dispensed with the sensuality and eroticism and it became simply a morality tale and a tragedy. Very accomplished, but a story that turned its back on the eroticism. As if that had simply been the hook, and now there is the consequence. A progression I can understand, and which is satisfactorily logical, but which left me wondering if the film as a whole was not somewhat diminished by not maintaining the erotic timbre even as the tragedy unfolded.

Nevertheless, this is a fantastically enjoyable and thought-provoking film, and one which I certainly recommend watching. I’m sure I shall watch it again sometime soon. Of its very many pleasures, one of the highlights for me was Yeo-jeong Yoon’s superbly nuanced and meticulously restrained but emotionally powerful portrayal of the elder housekeeper. An acting masterclass if ever there was one.

So, a wonderfully made film, and very entertaining. Perhaps just shy of all it could have been?

Reuben’s Rating: 8/10

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