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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Korean Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • Korean PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 3 Discs
FEATURES
  • Introduction by Martin Scorsese
  • Interview with filmmaker Bong Joon-ho

The Housemaid

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Kim Ki-young
1960 | 108 Minutes | Licensor: World Cinema Project

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $124.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #690
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: December 10, 2013
Review Date: December 23, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

A torrent of sexual obsession, revenge, and betrayal is unleashed under one roof in this venomous melodrama from South Korean master Kim Ki-young. Immensely popular in its home country when it was released, The Housemaid is the thrilling, at times jaw-dropping story of the devastating effect an unstable housemaid has on the domestic cocoon of a bourgeois, morally dubious music teacher, his devoted wife, and their precocious young children. Grim and taut yet perched on the border of the absurd, Kim's film is an engrossing tale of class warfare and familial disintegration that has been hugely influential on the new generation of South Korean filmmakers.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

The last film in Criterion’s first World Cinema Project box set, Kim Ki-young’s The Housemaid is presented in the aspect ratio of about 1.60:1. The high-definition version, delivered in 1080p/24hz, shares the same dual-layer Blu-ray disc with Trances. The standard-definition version receives its own dual-layer DVD. The standard-definition version has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

An impressive presentation overall it suffers from a few setbacks. The big one is that despite most of the film coming from the original negative, the fifth and eighth reels were missing and the best surviving elements left were heavily damaged release prints with burned-in, hand-written English subtitles that were removed digitally (a brief sample in the Scorsese interview shows that they actually took up half the screen.) The segments that come from these reels are rough, heavily damaged with scratches and tram lines, faded, blurry, and a bit jittery. It looks like there are some artifacts as well, with pixilation apparent, and it was hard to tell if this was remnants of the process to remove the burned in subtitles, or really just an issue with the source itself.

The remainder of the film fairs much better. The source is shockingly clean, with only a few noticeable bits of damage, limited primarily to specs of debris, and the image is sharp with an incredible level of detail. The black and white photography delivers excellent tonal shifts though I couldn’t help but feel contrast was boosted.

The DVD shows some heavier compression in places but it comes from the same master of the Blu-ray and still looks impressive upscaled.

Despite issues with the source that couldn’t be helped (and they’ve done an impressive job fixing things considering the condition of some of the reels used in the source) it’s a great looking presentation.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The Korean mono soundtrack is delivered in lossless linear 1.0 PCM on the Blu-ray and 1.0 Dolby Digital on the DVD. Neither is particularly striking, coming off flat and hollow, and distorted during the rougher moments of the film (the fifth and eighth reels.) Still, the track has been cleaned up as well as can be expected and at least doesn’t present any damage or background hiss.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Each film in the set receives its own set of supplements. Martin Scorsese offers an introduction to the film (and all of the films in the set) running about 2-minutes. Like with the others he just briefly talks about the film and comments at the extensive restoration, giving a brief example of the burned-in subtitles that plagued a couple of the reels they had to use to replace the two missing ones from the original negative. Director Bong Joon-ho then briefly talks for 15-minutes about The Housemaid and its director, talking about the elements he loves about the film and Kim Ki-young’s other work, as well as offering a political background for South Korea during the 60’s.

The interviews are both decent but it’s disappointing that yet again we don’t get more information on the restoration, especially with this one which seems to have had the most fascinating one out of all of the film’s in the set.

4/10

CLOSING

There are a few issues because of the condition of the source, but as a whole the transfer and presentation are stunning overall.


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