Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Housemaid (1960)

After the release of Oldboy and Memories of Murder in 2003, South Korean cinema was everywhere. Suddenly cinephiles all over the globe were talking about the genius of Kim Jee-Woon, Bong Joon-ho and Park Chan-wook. But this cinema didn't just spring up overnight. We in the West can be so egocentric some times. If we haven't seen it, it doesn't exist, right? Korea's domestic film industry dates back to the start of the last century. By the time Kim Ki-young's The Housemaid came along in 1960, the industry was more than half a century old.

It's interesting to compare and contrast this film with American films of the same time. Many of the concerns are the same (wealth, reputation, etc.) but this film addresses those issues in a way that Hollywood would have really soft-peddled. In fact, they probably would have considered this trashy, exploitative and low-class. Yet, thirty years later, facsimiles of this film (Fatal Attraction, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, etc.) were filling American multiplexes. I hope that fact prompted some Koreans to giggle. The Americans finally caught up.

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