Hong Sangsoo

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barbarella satyricon
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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#451 Post by barbarella satyricon » Tue May 25, 2021 9:38 am

dadaistnun wrote:
Tue May 25, 2021 8:19 am
Here's the 2-minute video he sent accepting the award. Begins with his acceptance speech (in English) and then, well, you'll see.
Michael Kerpan wrote:
Tue May 25, 2021 9:05 am
dadaistnun -- that video is utterly adorable. Thanks for the link.
Loved it as well – thanks, dadaistnun!

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#452 Post by swo17 » Tue May 25, 2021 9:51 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Tue May 25, 2021 9:05 am
Richard Brody has a very nice review of one of my favorite HSS films A Tale of Cinema in the New Yorker:

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-f ... s-theatres (might be pay-walled)

Apparently this is being theatrically released in the USA for the first time -- I hope this presages a bluray release.
Tale of Cinema is already out on Blu-ray from Arrow Academy

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#453 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue May 25, 2021 10:12 am

swo17 wrote:
Tue May 25, 2021 9:51 am
Tale of Cinema is already out on Blu-ray from Arrow Academy
For region A? (Arrows page says Region B -- I've never tested this release in my region A bluray player...)

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#454 Post by swo17 » Tue May 25, 2021 10:22 am

Yes, it was a joint US/UK release. You can buy the US release at Amazon, DeepDiscount, B&N.com, etc. I might think that the UK release would also be Region A compatible but I couldn't say for sure

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#455 Post by barbarella satyricon » Tue May 25, 2021 10:54 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Tue May 25, 2021 10:12 am
For region A? (Arrows page says Region B -- I've never tested this release in my region A bluray player...)
I have the region A version of that Arrow release, Tale of Cinema paired with Woman Is the Future of Man.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#456 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue May 25, 2021 10:56 am

I wonder if these really are different -- or is it just the labeling on the package? I may have to experiment....

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#457 Post by barbarella satyricon » Tue May 25, 2021 11:20 am

From the synopses on the sleeve, the “u” is retained for “favourably”, but then dropped for “behavior”, so maybe the disc plays two ways as well? Only half joking.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#458 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Tue May 25, 2021 12:06 pm

I set my multi-region player to Region B and the U.S. release worked fine, even though the packaging only indicates Region A. So it's a pretty safe bet the UK release would work in a Region A player as well. I think dual-region titles from Arrow are exactly the same on disc for the U.S. and UK editions, to the extent that their release of Suzuki's Born Under Crossed Stars uses seamless branching for a cockfighting scene cut in the UK (the scene is there on a Region A player but replaced by a black screen on a Region B player).

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#459 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue May 25, 2021 1:18 pm

Thanks, Fanciful Norwegian!

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barbarella satyricon
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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#460 Post by barbarella satyricon » Thu Jun 03, 2021 12:00 pm

Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors (Korean title of which appears to be a more compact exclamation of the main character’s name: Oh! Soojung), after a first viewing a few weeks ago, is one of the Hongs I remain ambivalent about. I watched the whole thing with interest and a certain degree of investment in the characters, but, in sum, Hong’s project here seems more an exercise in narrative form rather than content. I do enjoy that kind of movie homework, as much as the next person on these boards, but this one left me with a feeling of diminishing returns, of a narrative theorem bound up in the threads of its own hypotheses.

Thinking about it over the past weeks, I think the movie had specifically two Hong-ian traits or tropes that kept me at arm’s length. The first might be its retold/revised Rashomon-narrative construct. A later film, Right Now, Wrong Then, watched a few seasons ago and having a similar structure (if I’m remembering correctly), was also one I remained cool on, and the return to a drinking location at around the midway point of Soojung, signaling a narrative looping back, found me with a distinct feeling of story-fatigue. The movie remained just interesting to me after that point, contemplating the plot from a remove.

The second thing is perhaps more a personal quirk of spectatorship, discovered while watching, some seasons ago, On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate.

Turning Gate is, to my mind, the quintessential Hong film. Piecing together the trajectory of Hong’s career, by way of this extended dive into his filmography in recent seasons, it was this film that felt to me, for whatever reason, like the moment when Hong became Hong, or, at least, the point where his particular craft and vision come together in a distinct and undeniable way. It is, to my eyes, in recalling certain scenes and sequences, within the bounds of its subtle, unshowy visual strategies, a cinematographically immaculate work. Seemingly incidental elements such as the color of certain garments – a bright orange-red t-shirt, a green turtleneck sweater – and how they form concentrated masses of tonal vibration against the neutral earth-tone backdrops of rural landscapes and architecture – the whole film is a structurally and tonally perfect one in my mind.

And I still ended up selling off the nice-looking Korean blu ray of the thing, because the film contained, as I found it to be, an almost intolerably intimate sex scene, the one occurring in a hotel room in the film’s second half. Normally not a prude in such matters, having more recently just kind of blinked through a decades-late first viewing of Eyes Wide Shut (perhaps the distanciating effect of all those masks), I wondered what it was that made me kind of curl in on myself during this particular one-take medium-shot humping scene. The softcore-level explicitness cut with recognizably mundane detailing? The awareness of the performers’ efforts in realizing the degree of realism, and the attendant consideration of what kinds of, uh, accoutrements were the essential “costuming” in the scene, the sheathing barrier between all that bared skin?

The only other movie scene that set me off in a comparable way might be Halle Berry and Billy Bob T. fixing to break that couch in Monster’s Ball. End of oversharing, here.

Which is all a long way of saying that I found that this movie, Virgin, or Soojung, also skirted that line of uncomfortable intimacy for me, if not to the same degree (the camera is placed a ways away from the bed in the hotel room scene here), then to similar feelings of voyeuristic intrusion (even from several feet away, it is apparent that the performers are engaging in unsimulated acts of, what is the term, heavy petting). Between the
SpoilerShow
sexual assault/attempted rape in the cramped guest house room and the unexplained but plainly presented scene of incestuous goings-on in Soojung’s bedroom,
the film has such a creepingly oppressive atmosphere of sexual danger and debasement (perhaps a thematic extension of Soojung’s internalized ambivalence and fear in regards to sex), that I find I can’t read the final
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deflowering scene as simply the prelude to an unambiguously happily-ever-after ending (even as the title of that final section of the film is apparently a Korean saying which translates as something like “All goes well once you find your perfect match”).

To be heavy-handed about it, the final stripping bare is an event that leaves, both literally and figuratively, a mark, and I can’t be sure that Soojung’s smile and gaze in the last shot – a weirdly and slightly off-kilter framing in that shot too, in my recollection – are indicative only of clear resolution, or perhaps also of some more deeply ingrained detachment and resignation.

Those two qualities seem to me to be the character’s most pervasive ones throughout the film, and the ambiguous nature of the twice-told narrative makes me wonder (albeit without any great feeling of investment) if the whole thing isn’t just a series of hypothetical takes, narrative and performative exercises on the themes of sex and social mores, centered around a young woman whose passively unexplored depths of unhappiness are pinned, narrowly, rather coarsely, on her sexual status.

And although it’s neither here nor there, the death of Lee Eun-Ju in 2005, by suicide, may be coloring (casting a pall on) some of what I’m saying here, what I felt to be an unshakable undercurrent of dread and defeat in the film.
And having written all that, I can still see how the ending is also perfectly readable as a happy and hopeful one for the couple. That’s the reading I’d like to hang the movie on, to shelve it as more or less a resolved narrative in my mind. But the film, with its narrative tricks and turns, doesn’t seem to allow for that in any watertight way.

I haven’t read through all the preceding pages of this thread, but I do recall reading a post by therewillbeblus likening the narrative puzzle here to the one in Mulholland Drive. Without citing explicit parallels, that’s a comparison that just feels right to me, especially with that passing but weirdly unnerving detail of both male characters luring Soojung into the isolated side street, to show her (I’m recalling from memory) “a strange man with a girl”, which may or may not be describing the aforementioned
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scene of assault in the rented room.
That I’ve written this much shows that there is something to the film, of course, and to wrap, I’ll say that I found some of the high-contrast b&w cinematography here, in its low-key way, just the most moodily atmospheric this side of Müller or Lubtchansky. Still, the movie was a tricky one for me, though surely worthy of a revisit because of that.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#461 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Jun 03, 2021 1:32 pm

I read the bifurcation in both Virgin and Right Now, Wrong Then to be less of a Rashomon-aping narrative that meditates on how perspective is fallible, or objectively addressing hypothetical takes, and more of an inverted and deeper use of that gimmick to expose our inner subjective natures, wish-fulfillments, negative core beliefs, and semi-conscious sources of shame. One half is the 'reality' of a character's defective traits or impotences in action, and the other is the 'fantasy' of the validation they seek. I don't recall specifics in the film, but I find Hong to be one of the most courageous filmmakers working today because he renders himself naked before us in his work, exhibiting that his mind and/or behavior may wander towards manipulation, abuse, impulsive fury, selfishness, pathetic withdrawal, and other socially and personally-damnable qualities. Through form he also generates validation for why one would uncomfortably suppress these thoughts and feelings, by doing so himself in and with the film. He also validates the subjective truths of his experience like Yvonne Rainer's attitude towards the relationship between personal perceptions and objectivity- in the ending of Virgin and, more confidently, in choosing his solipsistic experience as the only one that matters when in love, and shared with his new love, in Right Now, Wrong Then, which tows the line in grounding himself to his internal logic without issuing nervous apologies to the public who simply cannot- nor should expect to- access this truth.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#462 Post by barbarella satyricon » Wed Jun 09, 2021 7:03 am

Had a chance to watch two of the most recent Hongs, one being the fairly polished and crisp-looking The Woman Who Ran, in color, and the monochrome Introduction, which is by far the roughest-looking film from Hong I’ve seen, looking almost like it was shot on a phone camera? I saw the latter first and wondered if there was something wrong in the projection booth or with the digital file the theater had received, but when I was at a screening of Woman a few days later, at a different venue, the projectionist there started up Introduction by mistake, and it looked as soft and out-of-focus as it had at the other cinema.

At just under 70 minutes, Introduction feels a bit like just that — a short work that sketches out a network of relationships, personality types, and dramatic conflicts and then concludes on that extended introduction. I happened to watch it around the time I was writing myself in circles with my previous post on Virgin Stripped Bare, and like that film, this one’s also divided into numbered chapters or sections (with the second and the third of three focused more demonstrably on the motif of introductions, of meetings). And I thought it a funny bit of consonance with what I was saying about sex scenes in Hong films when the young actor character, in his meeting with a potential mentor and benefactor, played by Ki Joo-Bong, explains that he had walked away from a career in acting because
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of his objection to performing in intimate scenes with, in a paraphrase of his words, women whom he has to hold as though he really loves them.

The older actor’s response to this – a soju-fueled tirade that takes on the tone of a cri de coeur – really gives a good shaking-up to the overall tonal placidity of the movie, I thought. A jolting bit of (drunk?) acting from Ki, and heavy in thematic import as well, speaking, perhaps, to broader authorial and philosophical proclivities across Hong’s ouevre.
It’s surely a minor work, but I found that small instances of structural loveliness and grace in the screenplay lingered in the memory. It was good to see Ye Ji-Won in a Hong movie again, a familiar face from way back as Turning Gate and then Hahaha. She’s an actress who seems to be embodying herself and playing no one else when she is on the screen. She has a real calming, familiar presence here, and the way that the movie’s disjointed timeframe eventually clarifies for the viewer that her character is (most likely, though not completely spelled out as such)
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the main character’s stepmother, his father’s partner and assistant at the clinic, makes the earlier scene in the movie’s first section – the conversation during the snowfall – more lovely and poignant in hindsight. The father will apparently just keep the son waiting and waiting. The mother is shown to be more involved, but also fault-finding and distant. It’s the stepmother who asks if he remembers what he once told her, that he loved her, and he says yes, he does. They have a good laugh and a hug, and reaffirm those remembered ties.
It’s a movie of mostly light touches like this, and I thought that I may have been reading too much into a
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possible gay subtext in the relationship between the main character and his friend, as it seemed to be a hitherto novel element in Hong’s filmography, but then the same-sex couple in the first part of The Woman Who Ran, the earlier film, showed that the theme had already been introduced, and perhaps other more subtle, passing details in Introduction might support such a reading.
It’s a movie that was decidedly underwhelming while I was watching it (probably owing in part to the inconsistencies in the visuals), but it’s grown considerably, if not dramatically, in thematic subtlety and richness in my mind since.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#463 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jun 09, 2021 10:18 am

I am very envious of you. barbarella satyricon. How/where did you manage to see these?

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#464 Post by barbarella satyricon » Wed Jun 09, 2021 11:08 am

I’m currently in Seoul, and the local cinematheque has been screening a three-film program of Hong, with Hotel by the River being the third feature along with the other two. I saw Woman there, and Introduction at another theater, as that one’s still in its first run over here. Neither screenings were subtitled, of course, but I’ve picked up enough Korean in the past few years to manage to follow along. These, incidentally, were the first Hong films I saw in a theater.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#465 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jun 09, 2021 12:16 pm

For a while, at least, it was possible to see some current Hong films screened theatrically (and not just at either the MFA or Harvard Film Archive) here in Boston. I wonder if those days are a thing of the past (even after the pandemic is finally over).

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#466 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jun 09, 2021 12:53 pm

Michael, I'm almost certain that The Woman Who Ran played virtual screenings through either the Brattle, Coolidge Corner, or Kendal Sq this year.. though I can't find confirmation anywhere online

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#467 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Wed Jun 09, 2021 1:55 pm

barbarella satyricon wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 11:08 am
I’m currently in Seoul, and the local cinematheque has been screening a three-film program of Hong, with Hotel by the River being the third feature along with the other two. I saw Woman there, and Introduction at another theater, as that one’s still in its first run over here. Neither screenings were subtitled, of course, but I’ve picked up enough Korean in the past few years to manage to follow along. These, incidentally, were the first Hong films I saw in a theater.
You might already know this, but the Korean Film Council maintains a list of domestic films screening in Seoul with English subtitles, which is rare but does occasionally happen with things on either end of the "commercial"/"indie" scale (i.e. the very biggest blockbusters and the smaller festival/arthouse films). Introduction is currently among them: http://www.koreanfilm.or.kr/eng/schedul ... hedule.jsp
therewillbeblus wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 12:53 pm
Michael, I'm almost certain that The Woman Who Ran played virtual screenings through either the Brattle, Coolidge Corner, or Kendal Sq this year.. though I can't find confirmation anywhere online
It's had a fair number of virtual festival screenings but not a standard run (virtual or otherwise) yet. The Gene Siskel Film Center is selling tickets for virtual screenings next month, so I'm guessing other venues will be showing it around the same time.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#468 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jun 09, 2021 2:18 pm

There is very little advertising of what might actually be available in Boston anymore. One pretty much needs to check theater websites directly. I look forward to seeing Woman Who Ran eventually -- one way or another.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#469 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jun 09, 2021 3:28 pm

Michael, you can subscribe to the core theatres that do tend to screen these limited releases and they send you regular email updates. I'm not a member at any of those theatres (anymore) but still get emails regularly.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#470 Post by barbarella satyricon » Thu Jun 10, 2021 7:33 am

The Fanciful Norwegian wrote:
Wed Jun 09, 2021 1:55 pm
You might already know this, but the Korean Film Council maintains a list of domestic films screening in Seoul with English subtitles, which is rare but does occasionally happen with things on either end of the "commercial"/"indie" scale (i.e. the very biggest blockbusters and the smaller festival/arthouse films). Introduction is currently among them
I didn’t know about those listings - thanks for the tip, Fanciful Norwegian. I see that one of the venues listed for Introduction, emu cinema, is the setting / shooting location for the final part of The Woman Who Ran.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#471 Post by barbarella satyricon » Wed Jun 16, 2021 12:33 am

Lincoln Center has also announced The Woman Who Ran as part of their summer lineup.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#472 Post by barbarella satyricon » Tue Jun 22, 2021 8:33 am

I view The Woman Who Ran as a fairly straight-ahead character study or portrait of a woman whose life and central relationship (her marriage) are in flux. (As commented on by another character early in the film, her hairstyle seems to be in a state of transition as well.) The character study is achieved via a roundabout way of conversations with other characters whose lives and current situations serve as gauges and references for the main character’s understanding of her own life and situation. Kim Min-Hee’s character repeats three times to three different conversation partners the same idiosyncratic thing about her relationship with her husband. These friends (including one who is decidedly a former friend or associate) are the sounding boards by which she might make sense of her current state, which by all appearances is not unhappy, but also seemingly punctuated with nagging uncertainties.

I think the crisp, clean-looking visuals of the film also relate to the themes of settledness and restlessness. The movie is an uncluttered and often beguilingly lovely thing to look at, with its stripped-down and anonymous but tasteful modern home interiors and the arthouse-cinema-cafe setting of the closing part. It is all visually pleasing and maybe a little undistinguished because of it (like the most basic (boring) conception of what discerning youngsters these days mean when they say something is “aesthetic”). In contrast to this surface visual composedness, then, there are hints of both attraction to and repellence from the wild and more untamed elements of life, such as
SpoilerShow
the stray cat, for a more humorous example, and the talk about aggressive roosters, for a more discomfiting one. In the film’s second part, the analogous stray who is also a menace might be the lovesick poet who has become vexingly attached after an ill-advised one-night-stand.
Kim Min-Hee here plays another character who is now recognizable as a definite Kim Min-Hee character: intelligent and self-possessed, if also quizzically distant, as if always searching and recalling. Her character surveys the different living arrangements and the incidental dramas she is made privy to, and it’s apparent that she is working out some answers and understandings for herself in the process.
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In the window of time she has to be on her own (a situation growing out of her particular marital habituation with her husband), the final stopover we see her in is in a small movie theater where she has returned to rewatch a film she has seen just a little earlier. Right before this, Kwon Hae-Hyo, playing her former (probably unfaithful) lover, whom she has neatly cut down to size with some nicely decimating comments on his literary celebrity persona, has distractedly shot back with something like, “And what are you doing in a place like this?”

She seems momentarily caught off-guard by the hostile questioning, but then recomposes and takes leave of him, returning to the screening room. She’s there to revisit what seems to have been a moment of unexplained resolution or realization found in the film, and in a neat trick, the final shot of The Woman Who Ran frames itself to also become the tides-and-sand image of the beach scene that Kim Min-Hee is watching. Watching this one in a theater, the question seemed to be turned, in a reflexive way, back at the audience: And what are you doing here? What have you come to find in this place?

That’s a more personal reading of the film and its ending, but I think it’s in keeping with the film’s motifs of visitation and conversation, of the private rumination that occurs when a person turns inward to consider herself in isolation, even (or especially) in the presence of another. And in the end, it might be that, as perhaps a culmination of all that conversation and rumination, a moment in a cinema is the thing that delivers on that sought-after renewal of perspective.
I read the film as a hopeful one in its view of the main character, and even while I thought, while watching it, that the dialogue and content seemed overly tied to the mundane, less likely to be rewarding upon revisits, I’ve also found that the whole gains in subtle shades of meaning when recollected, like a conversation or interaction that grows in meaning and significance after the fact. I also sense it’s a film that could be really edifying, even quietly galvanizing, to an unsuspecting viewer, caught at the right moment, maybe suddenly seeing themself a little more clearly, reflected in the story of another.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#473 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jun 22, 2021 9:23 am

Alas, this film is not currently scheduled to screen any place near Boston (unless you count NYC as near).

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#474 Post by barbarella satyricon » Tue Jun 22, 2021 10:08 am

I guess none of those theatrical releases are available “virtually” as online rentals? I wonder if a Korean blu ray is just about due for announcement. The Korean Hong discs have been dependably English-subbed, as far as I know..

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#475 Post by barbarella satyricon » Sun Jun 27, 2021 9:56 am

Night and Day was the first of the handful of Hongs I’ve seen so far this year, this one being the one screened at home for a locked-down, social-distanced New Year’s Eve all-nighter. It had been on my radar for some time, but remained low-priority for one reason or another. That I wasn’t familiar with any of the lead actors was maybe one thing, and also that Hong films set in Europe (France in this case, with an excursion to Germany, if I’m recalling correctly) or starring actors from Europe had been misses for me. A little more than a year after seeing the Hamburg-set On the Beach at Night Alone, I can hardly recall a plot detail. The Isabelle Huppert-starring In Another Country also seemed a very slight work, a too loosely structured and broadly conceived fish-out-of-water / French-woman-with-soju comedy. (I haven’t yet seen Claire’s Camera.)

So going in with little to no expectations, I found myself becoming thoroughly absorbed in Night and Day, wondering why I ever thought that a Hong film set in Paris wouldn’t be right up my alley. It had all the elements of my other Hong favorites: a leisurely holiday atmosphere (this one’s largely a summer film, like Hahaha and Hill of Freedom) and a screenplay that peels back of layers of personalities and psychologies – in this film, most particularly, the methodical character sketch that comes together (though ultimately ambiguous) of the young female art student, the male lead’s primary love interest while in France.

Then, near the end, the film took a sharp turn that abruptly took me out of that invested enjoyment (in hindsight, a feature of the tightly structured screenplay, with intended dramatic effect), left me ambivalent upon conclusion, and then in a way that’s been rare in my years of film-watching, became the key by which the preceding narrative took on weightier, more complex meaning. It’s a film that’s stuck with me these past months, as ultimately a troubling and mysterious work, and my growing estimation of it has been based mainly on a specific thematic reading.
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The unspoken but dramatically and thematically reiterated anxiety experienced by the protagonist (among the other conflicts and worries more explicitly stated) is the one of having a child, of producing progeny.

The theme is hinted at in a sidewalk café conversation he has with a former girlfriend whom he has run into, in an extremely unlikely (cosmically appointed?) coincidence, on the streets of Paris. In reminiscing on their past, she tells him that she had terminated several pregnancies while they were together. He seems a little taken aback by the disclosure, if also not greatly affected in any apparent way. We later learn that this woman, whose hotel-room advances he has resisted in a fit of biblically inspired uprightness, has ended her life. Learning of her death through a newspaper story, he grieves unabashedly.

The delayed sex act between the protagonist and the art student on whom he has become fixated finally comes down to the lack of a prophylactic. They end up doing it anyways, and the final “card” that she plays when he is set to leave for Korea is to tell him that she is pregnant. I put quotation marks around “card” as the word would seem an offensive, misogynistic way of describing a woman’s leveraging use of pregnancy in a relationship. But from all that we, along with the protagonist, have come to surmise and largely verify about this character’s narcissistic selfishness and mendacity, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that she would resort to any ruse, even a fibbed pregnancy, to get what she sees as her way. He ends up leaving France, and her, anyway, probably thinking that she is lying, or that she would take steps to deal with the situation once he is out of the picture.

He has not even told her that the actual reason he is returning to Korea in a rush (risking whatever trouble with the law might be awaiting him there because of a marijuana situation he had become embroiled in) is that his wife called saying that she was pregnant, a turn of events matching up to the last time they had made love. The lifting off of the plane in France, then, makes for a quick transition to a living room scene in Korea, where we learn that it’s the wife herself who has fibbed, having told the lie in order to spur her husband to a quick return from his holed-up exile’s existence. He seems wryly (bitterly?) amused by her successful strategizing, if also a little deflated (crestfallen?) by the realization of the false hope with which he has flown back home in haste.

The film then ends with an extended dream sequence which I first took for a flash-forward of the protagonist’s future reality, in which he is cohabiting, in a much more humble, rather run-down flat, with a younger woman not seen before in the film. The tonal strangeness of this sequence, I thought, was somewhat in keeping with the frustrated artist’s own precariousness, the unsettled and dynamically affected parts of his personality (e.g. his sudden and rather ungainly cleaving to religious morality after reading the Bible at the hostel; his seeming forgetfulness of that short-lived zeal a little while later). It was here I began suspecting that the movie would end on a kind of “future coda”, what I was leery might be a flash-forward as art-movie narrative copout.

The sequence is shot in an objectively realistic way, with just enough of a strangely “off” tone that I didn’t guess that the whole thing was a dream until our hero woke up again in bed, with his wife, probably getting to sleeping off some of the jet lag. The wife gets on his case for calling out some woman’s name in his sleep; he cajoles and placates her, and the movie comes to an end.

But it’s the disturbing details of the dream sequence that stick in the mind long after the pan up and fade out to blue skies and white clouds (the painter’s vision of elevation, of equilibrium; artistic concessions made to cover the walls of more enclosing realities): the feral pig bumping its snout on a window at the public baths while the young woman weeps in the communal tub; the dropping and the breaking of the pottery while the couple walk up an incline street, on their way to visiting family; the terrible way he upbraids her, just brutally berates her for the accidental dropping of the package.

Some time after watching the movie, the particular, disturbing effectiveness of the dream sequence clicked for me when I related it to the dream-logic and tone of mid-to-late period Buñuel. So I was raring to get on the forum boards to log those cinema-reference points, but found that the connection had already been made in at least these two essays. (Thanks to The Fanciful Norwegian for all the resources posted at page one – wouldn’t have gone to track all those down on my own.) And I’d be moved to say that the series of narrative sleight-of-hand by which Hong ends this film is just about at that level of tonal mastery and cryptically personal artistic singularity.

And the following might sound like so much literary psychoanalytical throwback, but the broken pottery as broken hopes as a child broken in the womb has a kind of Jamesian rightness in the intuitive sense of repressed elements manifesting themselves in disturbance and damage. Earlier in the film, in one of the Paris day-trip scenes, the protagonist visits the studio of an expat Korean artist, and he balances a baby on his knees while the hosts and guests converse. The scene ends with a zoom-in on the kid as his temporary sitter says something like, “That’s right, you’re really what it’s all about...”
This one’s now firmly in my Hong Sang-Soo top five, nudging out The Day He Arrives, which was always more of a sentimental favorite. Since my first (and only) viewing of it, this film has gradually expanded in its meanings to be, most basically, the story of a man who comes to find himself in the airtight conundrum of having made all the wrong decisions for all the right reasons (if I’ve understood that correctly), and in its most expanded thematic readings, a comment and meditation on the holidays we embark on, the dreams we become characters in, the films and stories we watch and follow – and the thing called real life that finds us and still eludes us in all the spaces in between.

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