Hong Sangsoo

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#426 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Dec 10, 2020 8:46 pm

FWIW -- My top Rohmer films are the summer ones (Green Ray and Tale of Summer) and a winter one (Tale of Winter). ;-)

I like Hill of Freedom -- but Woman on the Beach shares my top spot (with Virgin Stripped Bare). Can't wait for this release (already pre-ordered).

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barbarella satyricon
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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#427 Post by barbarella satyricon » Fri Dec 11, 2020 11:00 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Thu Dec 10, 2020 8:46 pm
FWIW -- My top Rohmer films are the summer ones (Green Ray and Tale of Summer) and a winter one (Tale of Winter). ;-)
Haven’t actually seen enough Rohmer to make any kind of meaningful list of favorites, but I did get sucked into a viewing of A Tale of Winter just a few Decembers ago. I had started it up one evening, just to see how good or bad the dvd transfer was, and ended up watching it all the way through to the happy holiday ending.

The days and the dates inserted as titles in the movie were matching up to the year I was watching it, and that also felt like a small but meaningful cineaste/film-nerd Christmas gift of sorts. It’s my favorite from the Rohmers I’ve seen - just a favorite movie overall.

And just so I know what thread I’m posting in (neither Rohmer nor Holiday Favorites): If Hong Sangsoo continues at his usual rate of output for at least a few more years, we might get some kind of Christmas movie out of him yet. :wink:

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#428 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Dec 11, 2020 11:22 am

I've never really seen Christmas dealt with in a Korean movie or TV series -- as opposed to Japan where it has no religious significance but seems to be treated as rather like our valentine's day by young people (but with western Christmas decorations). So, who knows what HSS might eventually do.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#429 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Dec 13, 2020 10:20 am

Hong’s latest, The Woman Who Ran, just popped up on backchannels with English subs

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#430 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Dec 13, 2020 2:43 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Sun Dec 13, 2020 10:20 am
Hong’s latest, The Woman Who Ran, just popped up on backchannels with English subs
I wonder when it will appear in a legitimate venue?

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#431 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Sun Dec 13, 2020 3:44 pm

Probably not that long, Cinema Guild picked it up in May and it had its U.S. premiere at NYFF a couple of months back.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#432 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Dec 14, 2020 12:03 am

I haven't liked the last batch of Hong films too much, and The Woman Who Ran unfortunately doesn't change that streak. It's a return to lighter fare, but more in line with his less attractive mumblecore sensibilities. This also may be the Hong film with the least visible male presence, though toxic masculinity is certainly addressed and skewered in side characters, and in a roundabout way empowers the female experience without Hong needing to insert himself in for self-flagellation- or at least that's how it appears. This could be seen as a sign of humility- though I think he does that plenty when featuring raw confrontations of his characteristics (and arguably did this best with a surrogate female character in Nobody's Daughter Haewon)- and the choices can easily be taken as avoidance or an attempt to get completely outside of himself and what he knows, which comes across as a bit empty.

The best reading I can muster is that Hong's trademarked self-admitted 'need for control' part's self-insertion is presented here in a new position of 'voyeur/fantasizer', dreaming up what his wife would get up to when away from him, and getting to share in that experience where his real-life self has no mastery. I like that interpretation as fitting within his thematic wheelhouse- more than I like the film, and it leaves room for the typical Hong duality of inner conflict for the artist. Is that analysis more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than a modest or confessional examination of gender, because it gratifies his desire to be the best man of all we see; or is this likely another self-conscious jab at his ego, knowing full-well that he's unable to part from his own neurotic fantasies; and even shamefully omitting himself from the film because he knows that if he did show up, he'd be just as bad? I did like the self-referential gags on Kim Min-hee's part, stating that her husband should just "write what he knows" and that he's "published too many books" (going a bit on-the-nose for the addictively prolific artist, making a movie about something he has no idea about here!) which helps beg the question: Why make this movie? as well as reinforce the answer: Because it's a new avenue to explore his ego/humility bifurcation, getting(running?) away from himself in another direction, but finding himself along for the ride regardless, always inescapably bound in some shape or form
SpoilerShow
though the final interaction with a man from her past is also be a bit of a self-negating move on his worth. Even if the existential impact is clearly there in nostalgia, he's not really given any opportunity to be anything other than an awkward guy engaging in small-talk and self-delusional about smoking. Kim Min-hee's ability to move on and sit independently is a nice dose of self-effacement in keeping himself right-sized and granting his wife (or rather, her granting herself) the power to choose what's important to her without his omniscient knowledge.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#433 Post by kubelkind » Wed Dec 16, 2020 10:20 am

barbarella satyricon wrote:
Fri Dec 11, 2020 11:00 am
And just so I know what thread I’m posting in (neither Rohmer nor Holiday Favorites): If Hong Sangsoo continues at his usual rate of output for at least a few more years, we might get some kind of Christmas movie out of him yet. :wink:
The first section of "Tale Of Cinema" takes place at Christmas. Nobody mentions it, but there are christmas trees and a santa in the streets. I guess a story about a suicide pact hardly makes for a holiday favourite. Or maybe it does...

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#434 Post by barbarella satyricon » Wed Dec 16, 2020 10:32 am

kubelkind wrote:
Wed Dec 16, 2020 10:20 am
The first section of "Tale Of Cinema" takes place at Christmas. Nobody mentions it, but there are christmas trees and a santa in the streets. I guess a story about a suicide pact hardly makes for a holiday favourite. Or maybe it does...
That was one I watched and then found had almost completely evaporated from memory. Might rewatch, as I do generally like the work of the actors who are in it. Will see if the Christmas tassels might hold.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#435 Post by kubelkind » Wed Dec 16, 2020 10:51 am

Me too, I rewatched it last night as a facebook friend mentioned it jokingly as a "christmas film" which I didn't remember at all either. There isn't a whole lot of christmas in it at all! It was one of the first Hongs I saw and a revisit, as always with Hong, was very worthwhile.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#436 Post by kubelkind » Wed Dec 16, 2020 11:06 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Dec 14, 2020 12:03 am

The best reading I can muster is that Hong's trademarked self-admitted 'need for control' part's self-insertion is presented here in a new position of 'voyeur/fantasizer', dreaming up what his wife would get up to when away from him, and getting to share in that experience where his real-life self has no mastery.
I like the new one very much indeed but I had a much less autobiographically aligned reading of it. For me, it was a return to the episodic puzzle films that are my favourite area of the Hong ouvre. And there are plentiful puzzles to ponder here, the title being the most obvious one (which woman ran exactly, and from whom, of course). But what are we to make of small but probably significant details such as
SpoilerShow
the film that Gam-hee watches in the cinema at the end is in monochrome one time she sees it and colour the next. Is it two films? Two experiences of the same film? Does the form of the film change depending upon the viewer's mood? If we can accept that theory, can we apply it to the three similar but different stories in the film? Similarly, each of three stories feature a mountain. The same mountain from three different views or three mountains? Maybe the three stories are like this too. Each have recognisable similarities (all are recognisable as "mountains") but have different shapes and different features.
This is top tier Hong for me, and I've showed it to a couple of Hong newbies as an introduction to his work (with positive results). Its also got a great review in today's Guardian (a typical superficial Peter Bradshaw affair, but at least he likes it) which says Mubi are running it on Dec 20.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#437 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Dec 16, 2020 11:58 am

I will be excited to see this, as I have been for everything he has made since I first discovered his work 17 years ago. So far, whatever paths he wants to take, have been fine for me to follow behind.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#438 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Dec 16, 2020 2:02 pm

kubelkind wrote:
Wed Dec 16, 2020 11:06 am
therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Dec 14, 2020 12:03 am

The best reading I can muster is that Hong's trademarked self-admitted 'need for control' part's self-insertion is presented here in a new position of 'voyeur/fantasizer', dreaming up what his wife would get up to when away from him, and getting to share in that experience where his real-life self has no mastery.
I like the new one very much indeed but I had a much less autobiographically aligned reading of it. For me, it was a return to the episodic puzzle films that are my favourite area of the Hong ouvre. And there are plentiful puzzles to ponder here, the title being the most obvious one (which woman ran exactly, and from whom, of course). But what are we to make of small but probably significant details such as
SpoilerShow
the film that Gam-hee watches in the cinema at the end is in monochrome one time she sees it and colour the next. Is it two films? Two experiences of the same film? Does the form of the film change depending upon the viewer's mood? If we can accept that theory, can we apply it to the three similar but different stories in the film? Similarly, each of three stories feature a mountain. The same mountain from three different views or three mountains? Maybe the three stories are like this too. Each have recognisable similarities (all are recognisable as "mountains") but have different shapes and different features.
This is top tier Hong for me, and I've showed it to a couple of Hong newbies as an introduction to his work (with positive results). Its also got a great review in today's Guardian (a typical superficial Peter Bradshaw affair, but at least he likes it) which says Mubi are running it on Dec 20.
Interesting thoughts, and I should clarify that my interpretations of Hong's "autobiographical" elements are usually less concrete than they are a bifurcation- where he feels magnetically pulled to insert himself (or, rather, relevant information to his own existential egocentric schema) into his films- while also pulling away from this process. Your reading of the scene described possibly being "two films" or "two experiences of the same film" or the "form of the film chang(ing) depending upon the viewer's mood" is the key to Hong's work for me. It's all about perspective and that splitting between one's own tunnel vision of solipsism and the greater peripheries of the outside world. Thus, I would argue, both of our readings are true: it's both an externalized puzzle film and a recycled exercise in Hong's own relationship to the material, which he's powerless over and finds some wavering acceptance in, often cycling itself within each film. Part of the reason I find Right Now, Wrong Then to be perhaps the most quintessential Hong film is in his heavily-introspective development of self-chastisement/delusion and self-acceptance while also desperately trying to give his new love space away from him, to be dignified independently from his own obsessive rationalizing. This feels like an extension from that more passionate acute love affair five years prior, into plateaued domesticity of their current stage of relationship that gives more room for autonomy, yet Hong still cannot completely divorce himself from that drive for self-importance and mastery.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#439 Post by kubelkind » Wed Dec 16, 2020 3:54 pm

Interesting, thanks. I need to see Right Now... again. I watched a lot of Hong very quickly and that wasn't one that "stuck" as much as the others, but a lot of his admirers seem to single it out as a favourite. I suspect that readings of Hong's work as being films "a clef" involve another bifurcation, that he'll suggest an autobiographical basis only to pull it away, just as if you've seen a few Hong films you will expect certain paths to be taken, only to find the rug pulled from under you. In Woman Who Ran
SpoilerShow
I expected the usual Hong fireworks when the characters started boozing in the first story, only this time the drinking is moderate and doesn't result in the usual arguments and recrimination. Maybe people managing to hold their drink for the first time in one of his films is a new development?
But there can also be surprises for Hong newbies
SpoilerShow
A friend who saw The Woman Who Ran as his first Hong film, who is also something of an animal lover, said that he was worried that the neighbour in the first story would come back and kill the "robber cats", but was surprised and amused when that particular narrative thread ends with the hilarious zoom in on the yawning cat (and the fact that the cat in question is clearly a well-fed house moggy rather than some feral beast just adds to the humour of that particular anticlimax for me).

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#440 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Dec 16, 2020 4:06 pm

kubelkind wrote:
Wed Dec 16, 2020 3:54 pm
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I expected the usual Hong fireworks when the characters started boozing in the first story, only this time the drinking is moderate and doesn't result in the usual arguments and recrimination. Maybe people managing to hold their drink for the first time in one of his films is a new development?
SpoilerShow
That's a good point. The very first scene involves an admission of drinking too much and the rest of the film is about social sobriety, so I just assumed they were connected in the thematic way that her life of comfort and complacency in marriage and expected domesticity is a form of inebriation (as many of ours are, on autopilot or drunk on routine so to speak) and then by going outside of that comfort zone and reconnecting with others, she's becoming sober to what's beyond and hypervigilant around her past that keeps coming up for her anxiously. It's both uncomfortable and rewarding, but alcohol (or those signifiers of security that reinforce unconsciousness) have no place in this journey.
I definitely think it's worth looking at as a sign of development for Hong, but as I've argued in this thread, I think he's constantly developing between films, so nothing new- just in a new way!

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#441 Post by barbarella satyricon » Thu Dec 31, 2020 9:22 am

I realize I’ve talked up Hotel by the River quite a bit in previous posts, but only in passing mentions, and as I’ll probably try to squeeze in a second viewing before the holidays are over, I’ll first post the thoughts that have been percolating since earlier this year, at the tail end of winter previous, when I first watched this one.

And in keeping with the spirit of the holidays, I’ll highlight the theme that came to the fore for me while thinking back on that viewing, specifically the motif of gift-giving, with the father/poet character (Ki Joo-bong) as the primary (more correctly, the sole) giver of gifts in the film. Not really spoilers per se, but I’ll use the box anyway.

(The very last part is indeed a spoiler.)
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The most tangible of the gifts given is the father’s rather comic offering of stuffed animals to his adult sons. Whether the plush toys really do resemble or have some meaningful connection to the sons, or whether it’s just a down-and-out father’s improvised token of kindness and courtesy, a wan attempt at closeness and familiarity (an icebreaker), the gift does seem to go over well.

A little later, during the father and sons’ meeting in the hotel coffee shop, the conversation turns to the meanings of the sons’ names, the father’s hopes and intentions in naming them the way he has. If it seems a stretch to call this a “gift”, the sons’ response to their father sharing these thoughts is like they are receiving something of considerable personal value. When he finishes telling one son what the individual characters of his Korean name mean in the aggregate, the other jumps in and asks, almost demands, to be told the meaning of his own name.

Having given these gifts - gifts given as a father - Ki Joo-bong’s character then has an encounter with two women who are walking on the snow-blanketed hotel grounds, and in a moment of inspiration and enchantment, speaks words to them that repeat and affirm some things that they had been saying to one another, privately, just a few moments earlier. Throughout the rest of the movie, then, it is his role as poet - as an interpreter of moments - that not merely ingratiates him to the women, but also seems to center and give word to the better part of their own natures, the finer of their own perceptions.

In contrast to that potential for a better nature, a finer perception, one of the women, while walking in the parking lot with her friend, recognizes a car which was involved in some scrape or run-in in which she was also involved. Certain that she is correct, she impulsively opens the door of the parked vehicle and snatches a pair of gloves - a form of reprisal, she explains to her friend.

If I’m remembering the details correctly, the car belongs to one of the sons, and though I can’t recall if the woman knows that the car is his, her stance has already shifted into a combative, standoffish one, even as the two never do interact. In the restaurant scene where the male and female characters dine at separate tables, the women overhear the father-and-son trio’s increasingly drunken conversation, something about men and women, and the glove-snatching one derides them, basically, with the words of another Hong movie title: Like you know it all.

It is also in this scene that the cracks in the veneer of a jovial filial reunion, hinted at in previous scenes, become an outright rift when the father tells the younger son, in an ostensibly understanding but subtly fault-finding way, that he is “his mother’s son”. The son reacts badly to this, and I think it is in this moment that the father’s character falls from an even provisionally elevated position of grace or distinction, a position he had been occupying by virtue of his particular generosity and sense of unassuming largesse, as eccentric and randomized as that could be from moment to moment. Inebriated now, and returning to the locus of old family conflicts, he too becomes exacting, withholding, insecure in the sense of his own emotional poverty. That the conflict is expressed, again, across gender lines (husband as apart from wife, father versus mother, the estrangement that begets estrangement) might also be worth noting.

In the movie’s finest moments of the “meeting of minds“, of some experience of edifying exchange and discreet communion, it seems that a higher potential for human relations is hinted at, and it’s Hong’s mastery of tone by this point that makes these ephemeral, sometimes awkward exchanges readable as both mundane (workaday verse-making for the underemployed poet) and vital.

In the penultimate sequence of the film, in Ki Joo-bong’s nighttime trek back to the hotel, alone and separated from the men who are his sons, from the women who had become his receptive, appreciative, temporary muses, the poet speaks his gift to what might be a drunken figment of his imaginings, a young boy living and growing up in a far-flung recreation area gas station.

That’s the last gift he offers, to an unknowing, maybe even nonexistent recipient, and returning to the room that he has now been asked to vacate (the unseen hotel owner’s hospitality having soured because he felt shortchanged by the poet’s propensity to just hang out in his room and, you know, be a poet, instead of playing the part of famous (freeloading) guest who makes time to appear at his benefactor’s social gatherings), he dies.
It’s possible that I may be misremembering (or misreading) some details, and surely forgetting some others, but writing out the above has really caused the movie to deepen even more in thematic richness in my mind. I’m repeating myself, but I’m confident in saying that this one, along with The Day After, will be counted among Hong’s key works, if not already, then in any future assessment of his output.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#442 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Dec 31, 2020 9:41 am

Hotel By the River is indeed a marvelous film. Structurally I like the way the father is at the center of 2 simultaneous but virtually unconnected stories (which threaten to intersect, but then never do). I love the characters, for all their flaws. But I still find it hard to pick top favorites except for my two that are anointed more on sentimental grounds than artistic ones.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#443 Post by barbarella satyricon » Thu Dec 31, 2020 12:07 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Thu Dec 31, 2020 9:41 am
But I still find it hard to pick top favorites except for my two that are anointed more on sentimental grounds than artistic ones.
I suspect that Sentimental Favorite is a category of designation common to many who’ve sought out and seen any number of Hong films. My own is The Day He Arrives, which is the first Hong I saw, spurred on to seek it out by this low-key ingenious trailer. It’s surely minor Hong by any measure (though that’s hard to say with an oeuvre like his), but I’ve returned to it with pleasure several times since.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#444 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Dec 31, 2020 12:57 pm

I think List is both his most sentimental and artistically superior film. Nobody's Daughter Haewon would be next for sentimentality, and Right Now, Wrong Then and Woman on the Beach may be his next most artistically complex works.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#445 Post by barbarella satyricon » Tue May 04, 2021 3:28 pm

Checking in to update my Hong viewing list, with three that I’ve caught up with since the beginning of the year. I’ll start with the one most recently watched and work back from there, with the first two happening to be Michael K’s top picks, from what he’s posted previously.

Woman on the Beach arrived for viewing in the form of the Grasshopper one-disc double-feature release with Hill of Freedom. In some ways, it felt to me like the most straight-ahead romantic-comedyish of the Hongs I’ve seen. (That’s relatively speaking, of course, within the low-budget arthouse designation of Hong’s work in general.) The central male character is an established but struggling director-screenwriter, a not uncommon type, let’s say, in Hong’s filmography, but the action seems less stuck in the insular film-school / film-industry milieu of many of later Hong films, and more steadily propelled by the romantic conflicts and follies which are the heart of the story.

Much like the other two Hongs I’ve seen this year, the enjoyment of watching layers of personality and psychology being peeled back – onion-like, so to speak – made up a large part of the not-inconsiderable appeal and fascination of this film. At first, early on in the first hour, I thought I’d be in for an endless lost weekend with three of the most unattractively characterized individuals in a Hong film: prickly, capricious, duplicitous, mean-drunk – just a miserable trio, a dopey, (often) drunken “love triangle” tipping over into passive-aggressive hate triangle at any given moment. For me, just some really cringe-inducing, vicarious-mortification stuff – which may just speak to the high-level comedy/satire being cooked up in the screenplay, dished out, expertly, by the actors.

Then, when one of the guys drops out of round two in the second hour and doesn’t show up again, I felt the likability factor (that is, more identification, less mortification) went up and up by degrees, even with some double-dealing asshattery from the, uh, male romantic lead. For me, the uncharacteristic Hong moment, surprisingly joyous and hilarious in its unexpectedness, was
SpoilerShow
the fleetingly happy couple’s near-euphoric jaunt on the beach with the abandoned doggo, a happy run brought to an abrupt end by a pulled calf muscle.
Vaguely spoilerish paragraph this one, but after the scene described above, the romantically painful stuff feels just pointed and painful enough, with a quick recovering action in a wry cigarette moment (some brilliantly sustained acting from Go Hyun-Jung in that scene, I thought), and the final ending is as happy a one as can be expected without, you know, a real happy ending. Or maybe that actually was the “happiness” – some form of momentary emotional equilibrium, or resignation – that each half had been grasping for all along. Wry shrug.

Tapped out more about this one than I had thought to, so I’ll save a post about Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors for another time, and end with an appreciation of Kim Seung-Woo as the good-for-nothing but still-got-something director character. I’d never seen Kim in anything before, but he was fully convincing to me here, throughout several peeling back of layers: scuzzy, vulnerable, raffish, unhinged, etc. In his most goggle-eyed crazy moments, I was trying to place where I’d seen that particular energy before, and it turns out it was John Barrymore I was flashing back on, going stir-crazy and wigging out in Twentieth Century.

Too long, didn’t read: Grasshopper Film has packaged one of Hong Sangsoo’s most incident-packed and, to my mind, compulsively watchable and involving films (the one discussed above) with one of his most leisurely, open-ended, and relaxed (Hill of Freedom). Recommended!

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#446 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue May 04, 2021 5:52 pm

One thing I love about Woman on the Beach is the fact that is the way its shifts focus from the male protagonist to a female mid-way through (without having a formal switch point). I also love the episode of wary female-female bonding (at least temporarily) late in the film. But mainly I love it all. Glad my recommendation did not disappoint!

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#447 Post by barbarella satyricon » Wed May 05, 2021 1:50 am

Yes, I had gone in thinking that the love triangle of the first hour would be carried through to the end of the film, and the casual, seemingly accidental appearance of the Song Sun-Mi character, then seamlessly segueing into another triangle, kept me even more on my toes in the second hour. When the movie was still only half over, I glanced at the clock and was genuinely surprised how much narrative incident and character development had been (believably) packed into the first hour. And the same holds true for the second half of the film too, I think.

This one might be the Hong Sangsoo movie that would most appeal to people who don’t particularly take to his usual themes and tropes, or who say that he makes the same movie over and over again, a charge which, looking at isolated batches of his 2010s films (in my opinion), isn’t completely unwarranted. The variations and repetitions aren’t wearying here, as I’ve sometimes found them to be in other Hong, and the screenplay seems to have been constructed to just click-click-click ahead from one incident to the next without too many drunken collapses.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#448 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed May 05, 2021 8:53 am

Well, the pacing in WotB always seems relaxed and unhurried. I link Virgin and this film (I suppose) because they are Hong's first real forays into trying to capture a female-centered viewpoint for a sustained period of time (albeit not a whole film) -- thus anticipating many of his later almost-fully female-centric works.

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