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Woman of Fire
(Hwanyeo)

Directed by Kim Ki-Young.
With Nam Goong-Won, Jeon Gye-Hyeon, Yoon Yeo-Jeong.
South Korea, 1971, DCP, color, 98 min.
Korean with English subtitles.
DCP source: Korean Film Archive

The second part of Kim Ki-Young’s so-called “Housemaid Trilogy,” Woman of Fire is a lurid, frightening and audaciously stylized reimagining of his 1960 cult classic, a reconfiguration and sharpening of the razor edges of The Housemaid’s vicious love triangle, now relocated to an industrialized chicken farm run by a controlling wife who hires a young country girl as maid and chaperone for her composer husband, who she suspects of infidelity. When the girl falls victim to the urbanite composer’s advances, the dark forces smoldering beneath the flimsy façade of bourgeois domesticity are unleashed to devastating effect. Woman of Fire perversely embodies the politicized mode of “grotesque melodrama” invented by Kim Ki-Young, who carefully intensifies and transforms his twisted tale of murder and raw desire into a fable of seething class inequity. A Godardian rhythm of vivid reds and blues punctuates the film together with aggressive Pop-style photomontages that creatively evoke brutal violence while nimbly avoiding censorship.

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