Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lee Eun-shim, Ju Jeung-nyeo, Kim Jin Kyu, Ahn Sung-kee, Eom Aeng-ran, Kang Seok-je, Ko Seon-ae, Na Jeong-ok
Written by: Kim Ki-Young
Directed by: Kim Ki-Young
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Korean, with English subtitles
Running Time: 111
Date: 11/03/1960

The Housemaid (1960)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Lurid House

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

One of the unsung geniuses of the B-movie, Kim Ki-Young was a Korean filmmaker who hit it big with lurid melodramas about loose women and weak men. Until now, few of his films have ever played in this country. Sadly, just last February, Kim died in a house fire at the age of 78. He was in the planning stages for a new film.

The earliest and most successful of Kim's films, The Housemaid (1960) uses a formula that was repeated again and again over the course of his career. In the movie, a music teacher and his pregnant wife hire a maid who seduces the teacher and becomes pregnant. Afterwards, the entire family becomes locked in a hellish daily struggle of power, murder, and deceit; everything spirals into a pit of darkness, rage, and desperation. Photographed in black-and-white in one small house and a few other sets, Kim makes astonishing use of the space. You get a clear idea of the house, its rooms, and its doors; the is space not only with maximum clarity, but for maximum emotional response as well. Kim also uses sound effects to wonderful dramatic effect. As a result, his story is perfectly captured in a poetic, demonic way by the camera.

Call them trash, exploitation, or B-movies, Kim's films been compared to the work of Douglas Sirk (Written on the Wind) and Nicholas Ray (Rebel without a Cause), both filmmakers who tried to introduce dark elements into standard soap opera plots. But Kim takes these conventions even further. His films are like nothing you�ve seen before.

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