The Woman of Fire '82 | Chicago Reader

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In 1982 Korean director Kim Ki-young released a second remake of his pioneering 1960 film The Housemaid, in which a married couple bring a country girl into their household as a maid—a move that leads to havoc and ends in tragedy. In this version Kim has streamlined the narrative, added more visual metaphors, heated up the sexual encounters, and toned down the social critique; the result is a marked improvement over the original, an engrossing study of the power dynamics between husband and wife, master and servant, and have and have-not that recalls the emotional cat and mouse of Joseph Losey?s The Servant. Kim updates the story to a more prosperous and neurotic Korea, turning the couple?s two-story mansion—a middle-class trophy—into a psychological battleground where fantasies and paranoia reign. His delirious visual style, characterized by a complex, garish color scheme and distorted, off-center images viewed through stained glass, is meant to disturb as well as titillate. It?s a testament to his audacity that Kim, the most original of Korea?s B-movie directors, can turn the clucking of chickens into a menacing alarm and a wall of ticking clocks into a grim reminder of sexual trysts. With Chon Moo-soon, Nah Young-hee, and Kim Ji-mi.

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