A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Housemaid (Kim Ki-young, 1960)

Kim Jin Kyu and Lee Eun-shim in The Housemaid
Kim Dong-sik: Kim Jin Kyu
Mrs. Kim: Ju Jeung-nyeo
Myung-sook: Lee Eun-shim
Cho Kyung-hee: Eom Aeng-ran
Kwak Seon-young: Ko Seon-ae
Kim Chang-soon: Ahn Sung-ki
Kim Ae-soon: Lee Yoo-ri

Director: Kim Ki-young
Screenplay: Kim Ki-young
Cinematography: Kim Deok-jin
Art direction: Park Seok-in
Film editing: Oh Young-Keun
Music: Han Sang-gi

Extraordinarily creepy. This landmark Korean film about sexual obsession and social class, made during the dark days of military dictatorship, pulls out all the stops: moody expressionistic lighting, oddly grotesque sets, performances sometimes on the edge of hysteria, and a nerve-jangling modern score. And then, at the end, it backs off and distances itself from the story with a moralizing segment addressed to the camera. The Housemaid teeters from naïveté to sophistication, but this makes it all the more fascinating to watch, even though sometimes the action seems to be taking place underwater: Two reels of the film negative were missing and in the restoration they were supplemented by prints that had hand-drawn English subtitles. Removing these overlarge subtitles was a laborious process and it left a kind of rippling effect on the images. Still, it's a remarkable foreshadowing of what Korean cinema would become in the age of directors like Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho, who have skewed visions of the world that feel a lot like they were influenced by Kim Ki-young.

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