Memory and time are two things that are often associated with one another as running on parallel lines but often find themselves at crossroads when perception gets blurred by the passage of time. Hill of Freedom is a short and sweet feature from the talented Hong Sang-soo that structures itself in a non-linear chronology despite having a very low-key slice of life narrative. Despite such…
Browsing: Sang soo Hong
Upon seeing Hong Sang-soo’s films, Marin Karmitz has recounted that he knew right away he wanted to work with Hong for his future projects. With MK2, Karmitz did just that, producing Hong’s fifth and sixth films, Woman is the Future of Man and Tale of Cinema (2005). In retrospect, for enthusiasts of Hong’s cinema these two films mark a …
“I guess people see things the same,” shrugs a character in the final scene of Our Sunhi. It would be hard for this to be less true of the latest film from the South Korean writer/director Hong Sang-soo, whose uncanny ability to incite giddy laughter and blank stares in equal measure attests the particularity of his comedy. His is a wit so dry it could parch an ocean, his fondness for deadpan delivery and takes that wind on for minutes uncut a recipe for his own peculiar brand of success. And what success it’s been, allowing him to replicate his style—even down to his narratives and characters, which rarely change much—from movie to movie.
As much as it hurts to say it, Hong Sang-soo’s latest film finds his stories of cloying relationships and sadomasochistic men-women foibles wearing thin. After the initial glow of re-encountering Hong’s formal language of two-person medium shots, zooms, and left-right pans, and getting acquainted with faces new and familiar in the cast during the first thirty to forty minutes of the film, things get tiresome and, dare one say it, even insufferable, as the circle of meetings, pleadings, awkwardness, embarrassment, and sufferings between men and women becomes the bulk of the film. A startling and unfortunate development following the satirical delight of Hong’s previous film, In Another Country (2012).
In his 2008 film Night and Day, a film commissioned by the Musée d’Orsay, for the first time Hong Sang-soo took his proverbial cast of artists, intellectuals, and/or students outside of Korea, transplanted them to Paris, and let them loose in their pursuit of (or at times, flight from) romantic entanglements and soju. For a filmmaker like Hong, who often begins the construction of his film with the physicality and tone of place, this transplantation was significant. At the same time, Hong’s encounter with France was perhaps only a matter of time. By the time he began to make Night and Day, his cinema of love triangles, infidelities and jealousies, and conversations lined with desire as well as deception (and often with soju), among a group of people linked through friendship or work, often set in a seaside town, had prompted critics to find in Hong a kindred spirit of the late French filmmaker Eric Rohmer.
Tale of Cinema is Hong Sang-soo’s own take on the coming together of sex and death, as well as film. One encounters here Hong’s usual formal and narrative preoccupations with repetitions and parallel situations between three characters. But Tale of Cinema not only presents what could possibly be the most unfulfilling, discomfited sex scene in all of Hong’s films, complemented by a death wish that also ends up being unconsummated, but also introduces two new aspects of Hong’s film grammar. Voiceovers and zoom-ins/outs make their first appearance in Hong’s cinema here, appropriately enough, given the film title and narrative of the mirroring of life and cinema. How this mirroring wreaks a kind of quiet, tortured havoc in those who happen to fall into it constitutes the film’s perverse charm. Lead actors Uhm Ji-won, Lee Ki-woo, and Hong regular Kim Sang-kyung bring to life the distressed characters in a marvelous, blasé way.