For Hong Sang-soo, whose working method and steady output has been, and continues to be, (relatively) unburdened by production constraints, the notion of artistic freedom has never been much in question. And so it is with 2011’s List, a half-hour short film about a young woman (Jung Yu-mi) and her mother (Youn Yuh-jung) visiting a seaside town. After dodging her mother’s questions about potential marriage prospects, the woman composes a list of activities that she aims to complete by the end of the pair’s short vacation. It’s a straightforward narrative very much in keeping with the director’s contemporaneous output. And yet there’s a graceful fabulism in the way Hong transforms the protagonist’s explicit goals into curious narrative fillips, by either playing into or challenging expectation. The story here pairs especially well with 2012’s In Another Country, which is unsurprising when one considers that List was shot immediately after that film wrapped, with all the same crew and a few of the same actors. But List also offers some singular-seeming pleasures. A striking shot of dark clouds drifting across a full moon stands out in its isolation of natural, pictorial beauty; likewise, the background of the following composition has a haptic quality akin to that of rear-projection. More than just a handy container for the virtues of Hong’s sensibility, List again demonstrates the director’s seemingly endless capacity to surprise.
by Lawrence Garcia• Retrospective