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(aka 'The Maid')

Directed by Sebastián Silva
Chile / Mexico 200
9

 

A beautifully observed and darkly comic satire of domestic politics and class tensions in Chile, The Maid marks director Sebastian Silva as a major new talent of world cinema. Raquel (brilliantly played by Catalina Saavedra) has served the Valdes family for 23 years and harbours the illusion that she is a member of the family. But she can barely conceal her bitterness towards her employer's prickly eldest daughter and they frequently clash, leading the family to worry about Raquel s workload. When they hire additional help, Raquel becomes frantic that her ambiguous place in the family under threat and she employs evermore childish antics to sabotage each new employee...

***

With a few brushstrokes, Sebastian Silva communicates the complicated social and moral dynamic involved in having a live-in maid. His talent for incisive detail is apparent from the opening minutes of his new film, in which we see an upper-middle-class Chilean family celebrating the birthday of Raquel (Catalina Saavedra), who has lived with them for 21 years.

In "The Maid," Raquel is family, but she's not family. The family appreciates her, but they feel sorry for her. They want to be nice to her, but her conversation is limited, and she's definitely the least intelligent person in the house. Everyone else has a life, an identity and a future that goes way beyond those rooms, but Raquel's work life, her quasi-family life and her future are confined and defined by that house. Everyone knows this, and it infects the celebration. The kids can barely sit still, and the father excuses himself within minutes.

At first one expects "The Maid" will be the usual socialist screed, about the casual cruelty of the comfortable classes. But no. After the party, Mom (Claudia Celedon) does the dishes. This family is not an assortment of clueless people. Silva suggests a more interesting and less programmatic perspective, that there is just something inherent in the mere setup of having a live-in domestic that's uncomfortable and that can become - not always, but sometimes and perhaps often - damaging to the spirit.

The details are fascinating, surprisingly so. The maid gets up before anyone else, gets ready and makes her own bed, arranging her stuffed animals. Then she wakes the kids, makes breakfast and wakes the lady of the house. On the surface, all is as normal. But Raquel is having severe headaches, and she's beginning to have fainting spells. Something is going wrong.

Excerpt from Mick LaSalle at the San Francisco Chronicle located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: January 17th, 2009 - Sundance Film Festival

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DVD Comparison:

Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC vs. Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL

Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC LEFT vs. Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL RIGHT

DVD Box Cover

Distribution Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL
Runtime 1:36:39  1:32: 12 (4% PAL speedup) 
Video 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.95 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s   
1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 7.45 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:  Oscilliscope

Bitrate:  AE (UK)

Audio Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0)  Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Oscilloscope

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1

Edition Details:

• Behind the Scenes Clips (Director, 4 cast and 'last lunch') - 18:29
• From Sketch to Screen: Storyboarding The Maid (3:03)
• Photos from Sebastián Silva

DVD Release Date: June 22nd, 2010

4-teired fold-out case inside cardboard box
Chapters: 16

Release Information:
Studio: Artificial Eye

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1

Edition Details:

• 6-trailers
• B-Roll footage (25:11)

DVD Release Date: November 8th, 2010

Transparent Keep case
Chapters: 12

 

Comments:

ADDITION: Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL - November 2010: The short take on this is that the image quality doesn't exhibit enough differences - both are dual-layered, anamorphic and progressive. If forced to choose I might give a small edge to the UK release - for skin tones and detail - but these are still both negligible.

Both have the same audio options - and both offer English subtitles (slightly different font and rendering). Oscilloscope offer more 'organized' extras with the Behind the Scenes etc. where Artificial Eye have 6 trailers and 25-minutes of B-Roll footage. This is kind of a wash too although technically AE gives you more (time-wise).

So the issues, for some, will be the PAL speedup - and the price - at current conversion the AE is over $10 less (the AE is £9.99 GBP = $16.01 USD - the NTSC is $26.99 USD) - independent of location shipping. I still really like this film - it has grown on me well since my first viewing about 6-months ago. I suggest giving this a spin - the edition is your choice. 

***

ON THE OSCILLOSCOPE DVD: This is a pretty interesting movie and lead performance. It approaches being fascinating at times although I don't know if it fully achieves it. The filmmaking itself, especially pacing, are brilliant. There is a lot here, beyond the black-comedy aspects, to remind one of Buñuel. That alone would be worth the indulgence for some. It's uniqueness is yet another. 

The progressive and anamorphic, dual-layered transfer seems to replicate the original source as well as one might anticipate. The bitrate is very high. The film, itself, has extensive jittery, hand-held, camera techniques that lend The Maid to a more vérité expression. Haziness is, therefore, part of the presentation. There is expectant noise from the SD medium rendering (colors seem likewise flatter) but detail shows some impressiveness in the infrequent close-ups. It is very clean and looks... as it looks. The Maid is probably less about image quality and more about the narrative. It does the job visually in my opinion.

 

Audio gives two, original, Spanish options - a 2.0 channel stereo and unchallenged 5.1. With an Indie feel there is some scattering of dialogue but everything is audible with minor separations and effects in the Surround option.  There are optional English subtitles (example below) and the disc is region free in the NTSC standard.

Extras consist of six shortish Behind the Scenes Clips from time with director Silva, Catalina Saavedra (Raquel), Claudia Celedón (Pilar), Anita Reeves (Sonia) and Mariana Loyola (Lucy) and it wraps with a 'last lunch'. This run a total of around 20-minutes. Following that is a brief production piece on storyboarding (3-minutes) and a photo gallery. The package is a beautiful 4-tiered slip case with fabulous cover art on the box housing it. Oscilloscope have done another excellent job at their end.

I watched this as soon as it arrived and would like to 'live' with my viewing for a while before making any definitive judgments. It is definitely worthy of mulling over. I can state that I enjoyed watching The Maid for more than the simple aspect of it being 'different'. It has quite a bit to offer and I suggest seeing it for yourself. I wish all the DVDs that arrive were this 'interesting'.  

Gary W. Tooze

 



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Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL BOTTOM

 


 

Screen Captures

 

Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL BOTTOM

 

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Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL BOTTOM

 


Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL BOTTOM

 


Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL BOTTOM

 


Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL BOTTOM
 

Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL BOTTOM
 


Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL BOTTOM
 

Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL BOTTOM
 

Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC TOP vs. Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL BOTTOM
 

DVD Box Cover

Distribution Oscilloscope - Region 0 - NTSC Artificial Eye - Region 0 - PAL



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