Retrospective

by Lawrence Garcia Retrospective

Hotel by the River | Hong Sang-soo

October 26, 2018
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Even for a career with no discernable lack of winter pictures (cf. The Day He Arrives, The Day After), Hotel by the River stands out as Hong Sang-soo’s coldest film to date. Set in a curiously unfrequented hotel by the Han River, in the dead of winter, the film follows two guests: Younghwan (Ki Joobong), an aging poet who is visited by his two estranged sons (Kwon Haehyo and Yoo Joonsang); and a young woman (Kim Minhee), who’s recovering from…

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by Christopher Bourne Retrospective

Grass | Hong Sang-soo

October 26, 2018
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Hong Sang-soo packs a surprising amount of variety, complexity, and beguiling mystery into the 66-minute runtime of Grass. The film provides a brief but dense window of observation — and “observation” is the operative word here, since the central character, Areum (played by Hong’s now-frequent leading woman Kim Min-hee), eavesdrops on conversations while typing on her laptop, and comments on the action in the film’s voiceover. Areum claims to be “not a writer, just writing,” …

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by Zach Lewis Retrospective

The Day After | Hong Sang-soo

October 26, 2018
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Hong Sang-soo‘s first black-and-white film since 2011’s The Day He Arrives (which is indeed quite a while, considering the rate at which he works), The Day After comes at a time when Hong’s films have garnered unprecedented levels of attention. Veteran festivalgoers are by now plenty familiar with Hong’s set-ups and punchlines, and neophytes have at least heard of what to expect. Hong can’t even prevent his private life — specifically, his affair with actress Kim Min-hee…

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by Sean Gilman Retrospective

Claire’s Camera | Hong Sang-soo

October 26, 2018
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Of the three films Hong Sang-soo made in 2017, with actress and romantic partner Kim Min-hee, two were released in the U.S. in the spring of 2018 — shortly after his latest film, Grass (which also stars Kim), premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. As always, the hyper-productive Hong outpaces the capabilities of the international arthouse distribution system. But Claire’s Camera was made in a rush, even by Hong’s standards: Shot over a few days at the 2016 Cannes Film…

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by Alex Engquist Retrospective

On the Beach at Night Alone | Hong Sang-soo

October 26, 2018
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On the Beach at Night Alone is Hong Sang-soo’s most sensitive character study since Nobody’s Daughter Haewon, and in the context of his relationship with lead actress Kim Min-hee — and the ensuing tabloid-fueled scandal their affair caused — it’s also Hong’s most self-questioning and self-critical film, interrogating formal techniques that have become trademarks of his recent work while complicating his career-long preoccupation with the fickle, foolish, yet somehow persistent nature of love.…

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by Tony G. Huang Retrospective

Yourself and Yours | Hong Sang-soo

October 26, 2018

In Yourself and Yours, we find Hong Sang-soo amusing himself by writing scenes that are completely ambivalent in nature, mainly due to having lead actress Lee Yoo-Young play a woman, Min-jeong, who refuses to be identified — either to other characters, to the audience, even to herself. She takes up this gambit after a fight with her long-term boyfriend, Yeong-soo (Kim Joo-hyuk), over issues related to her conduct — she drinks too much, had agreed to limit herself, was seen…

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by Greg Cwik Retrospective

Right Now, Wrong Then | Hong Sang-soo

October 26, 2018
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Distilled down to a one-sentence summary, the calmly melancholic Right Now, Wrong Then is the very essence of a Hong Sang-soo film: A bibulous director pursues an alluring young woman, and things go awry. With its sad, voluble characters drowning their problems in soju; its laconic narrative; those exacting zooms; the conversations between despondent men and women over coffee; the swells of ironically triumphant music; and the proleptic chit-chat — this film showcases all of Hong’s thematic and aesthetic affinities. And…

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by Paul Attard Retrospective

Hill of Freedom | Hong Sang-soo

October 25, 2018
Hill of Freedom

For Hong Sang-soo, a filmmaker who usually favors fairly taut narrative structures, Hill of Freedom is something of a departure. The film operates in a mode of consistent fluctuation, with changing languages, temporal discontinuity, and an overall uncertainty as to the relationships’ trajectories. This is, in large part, due to a deceptively clever framing device: South Korean Kwon (Seo Young-hwa) is first seen reading letters left by her Japanese lover, Mori…

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by Sean Gilman Retrospective

Our Sunhi | Hong Sang-soo

October 25, 2018
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Our Sunhi is the culmination of a cycle of Hong Sang-soo films, each starring actress Jung Yoomi, about aspiring women filmmaker with a weakness for strong drinks and a tendency to find themselves in the middle of love triangles between older and younger men. All the men enamored with the characters Jung Yoomi plays all seem unable to see her characters as people, blinded as they are by their own perceptions of her beauty, her innocence, her artistic taste, etc.…

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by Tony G. Huang Retrospective

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon | Hong Sang-soo

October 25, 2018
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Nobody’s Daughter Haewon is an exemplary minor film, shaped more by its incidental pleasures than any grand design. It owes much of its charm to actress Jung Eun-chae, as Haewon; Jung’s natural exuberance is used to energize Hong’s characterization of Haewon, who appears to us as a dreamy, childlike romanticist hiding her passion and sincerity…

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by Paul Attard Retrospective

In Another Country | Hong Sang-soo

October 25, 2018
In Another Country

In Another Country signals something of a shift in the approach of Hong Sang-soo’s films, one in which the director’s generally economically modest production methods begin to become more consistently transnational. The film centers on a woman played by French actress Isabelle Huppert, who speaks English throughout. Its narrative is less knotty than some of Hong’s others, briefly setting-up a frame story — there are three different screenplays, all written by Won-joo (Jung Yu-mi)…

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by Johnny Han Retrospective

The Day He Arrives | Hong Sang-soo

October 25, 2018
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Hong Sang-soo’s monochromatic, soju-soaked, metaphysical odyssey, The Day He Arrives, explores the question of whether or not one can ever really escape the past, but as considered through the filter of Hong’s signature narrative tropes. Over the course of a three-day visit to Seoul, Seong-jun (Hong regular Yoo Jun-sang), a retired filmmaker who now teaches at a provincial university, goes to the same bars with the same group of acquaintances and friends…

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