|THE HOUSEMAID (HANYO) (director/writer: Ki-young Kim; cinematographer: Deok-jin Kim; editor: Young-Keun Oh; music: Sang-gi Han; cast: Jin Kyu Kim (Dong-sik Kim), Lee Un-shim (Myung-sook, housemaid), Ju Jeung Ryu (Mrs. Kim), Aeng-ran Eom (Miss Kyung Hee Cho), Seon-ae Ko (Seon-young Kwak), Sung-kee Ahn (Chang-soon Kim), Yoo-ri Lee (Ae-soon Kim); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ki-young Kim; The Criterion Collection; 1960-South Korea-in Korean with English subtitles)|
strange film has reached cult classic status, as
it lays out a nightmarish scenario over its soap
by Dennis Schwartz
Korean filmmaker Ki-young Kim ("Burying Old Alive"/"Free Woman"/"Hunting of Fools") has a field day using the sexual obsession theme in this tense bizarre psychological drama about a housemaid ruining the happy marriage of a middle-age couple. It was a major commercial hit upon its release in South Korea, but not abroad. Hanyo dropped out of sight until it was digitally restored and re-mastered by the Korean Film Archive and the Martin Scorsese connected World Cinema Foundation, after shown at film festivals in 1997. The restored digital film premiered at the 2008 Cannes film festival and an English-subtitled Korean DVD followed soon after. But an American release wasn't released until Criterion's in 2013. In 2010, a stylish and more lurid remake of the original, directed by Sang-soo Im, was released in South Korea. Unfortunately Ki-young Kim would perish in a house fire one year later, just as his reputation was finally gaining some long overdue international recognition.
Jin Kyu (Dong Sik) is a hunky pianist,
who earns extra money as a music teacher in an
all-girls factory. The extra money is needed for the
following reasons: a bigger new house is under
construction, his seamstress wife Mrs. Kim (Ju
Jeung Ryu) is pregnant and to give his two
young children, the crippled Ae-soon (Yoo-ri Lee)
and the younger spoiled brother Chang-soon (Sung-kee Ahn),
the material comforts they need for growing up
without any worries. Factory worker Miss Kwak (Seon-ae Ko)
has a crush on the piano teacher and writes a love
letter to him when egged on by work colleague Miss
Kyung Hee Cho (Aeng-ran Eom).
The humorless teacher reports her to the dorm
supervisor, and the factory worker is so ashamed she
commits suicide a few days later. Meanwhile Miss
Cho, who also is smitten by the teacher, begins to
take private piano lessons in Kim's house as Kim
doesn't realize that she was the dead girl's best
friend. Kim even asks Cho to recommend a maid, and
the one chosen is a calculating factory worker named
Myung-sook (Lee Un-shim), the titular
heavy, who tries to seduce her boss and worm her way
into the family as the maid from hell.
has to suspend belief to follow how the demon maid
acts to break-up the weak-kneed family. When Kim has
an affair with the maid and can't get her off his
back, the suspense builds as
the piano teacher's carefully planned orderly
life begins coming apart. The family is
faced with a serious domestic problem, as the maid
wants the harried hubby for herself and the neurotic
wife thinks more about the financial consequences of
the incident than doing the right thing of reporting
the maid to the police as a criminal.
The strange film has reached cult classic status, as it lays out a nightmarish scenario over its soap opera story.
REVIEWED ON 7/15/2014 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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