Jeong Ga-young’s Hit the Night has drawn comparisons to the films of Hong Sang-soo, likely because it features a lot of drinking, even more talking, and a relationship between a man and woman that is awkward, ambiguous, and steeped in cinema. The major distinction is that director/screenwriter Jeong stars in her film, as Ga-young, a filmmaker on a night out with a male acquaintance, asking about his history with sex, intimacy, and relationships as a means of conducting research for a new project. The majority of Hit the Night consists of this interrogative conversation, which begins at a street cafe before moving to a more private lounge setting and finally a karaoke bar. As the two progress from soju to self-poured gin and tonics, Ga-young finds her true motivations behind the evening increasingly difficult to conceal — or does she? It’s not much of a spoiler to say that her reasons for wanting to spend time with Jin-hyeok are not purely professional, and much of the pleasure of Hit the Night is in the subtlety of Jeong’s sly performance.
Ga-young seems to relish subjecting Jin-hyeok to her inquiry just as Jeong’s camera never tires of watching the unsuspecting young man blush at the casual frankness of her questions regarding (among other things) his frequency of masturbation and favored sexual positions. At one point, he asks her why she still uses an outdated flip phone, which “doesn’t even have messengers.” Jeong may be suggesting that face-to-face conversation, however cloaked in pretense, is preferable to the impersonal communication fostered by smartphones, especially when searching for a love connection. But Hit the Night is no Luddite screed; it’s concerned more with how Ga-young’s lowered inhibitions betray her true intentions over the course of the evening, and how Jin-hyeok’s willingness to play along seems to fluctuate of its own accord (itself a credit to Park Jong-hwan’s understatedly guileless performance). Near the end, Jeong employs a couple of disruptive formal devices that complicate her narrative in (it must be said) a rather Hongian fashion; even so, her clever coda emphasizes how much preparation goes into the appearance of effortlessness, and the way in which searching for fulfillment in love and art can become an ever-repeating cycle.
Published as part of New York Asian Film Festival 2018 | Dispatch 2.