Kim Min-hee visits with two friends, and each time an unreasonable man comes to the door, then meets a third friend by accident. First up is Seo Young-hwa (Glasses Woman from Grass). They’re hanging out, conversing and eating with a young neighbor, when a new neighbor rings the bell to ask them to stop feeding stray cats, which they politely refuse – this is my vote for favorite scene, which even ends with one of Hong’s trademark Random Zooms on a cat. We also get chickens and crows, more animals than usual.

Friend 1 and a collision of neighbors:

The next friend is Song Seon-mi (Kim’s assistant in On The Beach), who slept with a local poet and now he’s obsessed, knocking on her door every day. This is not as enjoyable a meal (Song burns the dinner) or confrontation as the first one. Friend 3 is Kim Sae-byuk, also of Grass, married to an author who Kim used to date. Kim runs into Kwon Hae-hyo, the guy with cool hair in Yourself and Yours, and it’s awkward – she closes with “You really should just stop talking.” Daniel Kasman in Mubi figured out what it all means.

Comfy with Friend 2:

Less Comfy with Friend 3:

He is Sangwon, she is Youngshil, meeting by chance after years. They are young and stupid, and bad at sex – even more pathetic than the characters in Woman is the Future of Man – get drunk and hook up and decide to die together. But she awakens and calls for help, and rescued Sangwon fights bitterly with his family.

Sangwon (right) with his brother:

Dongsoo is attending a retrospective of a sick/dying filmmaker, a former classmate. He stalks an actress, Youngshil – they get drunk and hook up and consider dying together. “I’m too fond of drinking. Life is too tough.” Aha, I’d been wondering why the first 45 minutes of Tale of Cinema contained no cinema, but it was meant to be the dying filmmaker’s short film – Dongsoo claims his own life story was stolen for the script (very believable – both guys are flaky and awkward and smitten with Youngsil). Good ending. Michael Sicinski:

When Dongsoo admits to Youngshil that he believes that their old director friend “stole” his life to make the movie they just saw, he is admitting that he lives in his own head, in his own internal tale of cinema. This is why, at the end of the film, Youngshil’s final line to him – “You didn’t really understand that movie” – is so withering. Dongsoo quite literally does not understand the ‘movie’ of which he is the star, that is, his own life.

Dongsoo & Youngshil:

Incredibly, I don’t know any of the three leads from the other twelve Hong movies I’ve seen. She’s from Like You Know It All, the first guy was in Woman on the Beach, and second male lead is from Memories of Murder.

Two old friends get together, the larger Munho (Yoo Ji-Tae of Oldboy the year before) is a married teacher, and the glasses-wearing Hyeongon (Kim Tae-Woo of Joint Security Area) a wannabe filmmaker. Seonhwa (Hyun-Ah Sung of a couple Kim Ki-duk films) is introduced being abducted by a former schoolmate.

drunken hanging-out:

Things begin repeating and skipping through time, both guys with Seonhwa at different points, then they’re reminiscing and visit her again… she is basically mistreated, and they’re both kinda pathetic. Multiple sex scenes, a fun soundtrack. I’m being short and inspecific since I watched this too long ago.

“How’ve you been?”
“I’ve been drinking.”

Opens with long-take conversation about a dead friend, the camera zooming in then panning back and forth. He (Ahn Jae-hong, his fourth Hong film) walks out to smoke while she (Gong Min-jeung, her third) is still yelling at him. Then we see Kim in a corner typing on her laptop, not looking up, commenting on the couple’s conversation in voiceover. Separate shot, so she’s possibly not there at same time – could be writing about this, or inventing it and we’re seeing the fiction she’s creating. Later it’s established that she hangs out at this restaurant and overhears conversations – in any event, it’s a heavy opening scene.

Conversation 2 is Ki Joo-bong and Seo Young-hwa, both Hong veterans, and there’s more death talk. He is depressed, attempted suicide over a love affair. She has a new place, and he is persistently asking if he can move in, but she refuses, the string music getting fuller and louder. I think both men have been actors so far.

Next couple is outdoors, oooh, and he’s another actor, though he wants to write screenplays. He is Jung Jin-young, the film director in Claire’s Camera, and she is Kim Sae-byuk of the Hong movie that premieres next week. Anyway, she says no, so the actor corners Kim instead and asks if she wants to cowrite screenplays – there are some persistent dudes in this movie.

The fourth couple is there to see Kim – it’s her brother (Shin Seok-ho of Hotel by the River) and his fiancee (Ahn Sun-yeong of On The Beach At Night Alone). Kim is dismissive of their relationship, and shitty to her brother: “They call themselves men, but in dealing with pain, or when ending things, they act like cowards.”

Another conversation in the same restaurant during dinner – and it’s more people blaming each other for a suicide. Each convo has been a single take, and this one is unusual for not showing the man’s face. She is Lee Yoo-young, the lead of Yourself and Yours with the slippery identity, and he is newcomer Kim Myeong-su, who makes her cry as “Oh Susanna” comes on the radio.

Four from earlier end up drinking together, Kim still listening in (“Do you know I hear everything you say? I have good hearing, you know?”), and they repeatedly invite her to join them, which she finally does. “By the end of the film, Areum is forced to reckon with the very people she so casually, even callously inserted into her writing” – AV Club made more sense out of it than I did, comparing the story to In The City Of Sylvia.

This movie also contains a possible thesis statement on Hong’s cinema:
“Why do you take pictures?”
“Because the only way to change things is to look at everything again very slowly.”

Unfortunately, it’s also the worst movie of his I’ve seen. Everything’s going fine until Kim Min-hee meets Isabelle Huppert for the first time, they converse in English, and the movie stops flowing and I start feeling embarrassed for everybody. Set in Cannes, Kim is fired from her film sales company in the middle of the festival for sleeping with Film Director So (Jung Jin-young of Ring Virus), who is in a relationship with Kim’s boss (Chang Mi-hee of 36th Chamber: The Final Encounter). That situation’s not gonna resolve itself in 70 short minutes, and Huppert as a naive tourist blundering into meals and hangouts with the other three characters doesn’t add anything but international star power.

Of course, Sicinski and Bahadur on letterboxd put in more thought than this, figured out the point of Huppert’s connections, and appreciated the movie more than I did, so if letterboxd is still in business when I finally decide to go through all of Hong’s movies in a chronological marathon, remind me to re-read their reviews before rewatching this film.

Last year I closed LNKarno with the top prizewinner Girl From Nowhere, but I’ve already suffered through Story of My Death once, so this year I picked a closer from competition which I was sure to enjoy. It’s somewhat of a comedy, coming out between In Another Country and Hill of Freedom – I’m gradually filling in the gaps of recent work but still haven’t caught anything pre-2010. We get a series of scenes of people in conversation drinking too much in no-fuss compositions interrupted only by the occasional reframing zoom – just what we were hoping for.

Sunhi out drinking with the Professor:

Sunhi (Yu-mi Jung: Oki, also in Train to Busan) is visiting the city where she attended school, aiming to get a letter of recommendation from her professor (Sang-Jung Kim, the main guy’s friend in The Day He Arrives) for a graduate film program. They meet up in the park, and he turns in a letter that’s fairly complimentary, but also says she might have good ideas but he wouldn’t know since she’s too reserved and doesn’t work well with others.

Sunhi out drinking with Munsu:

She spots her ex Munsu (Sun-kyun Lee of Hong’s other 2013 student-teacher relationship movie Nobody’s Daughter Haewon) and calls him up to where she’s having a lonely drink, says she saw his film and that it was good but too much about their relationship. These two talk for hours (he orders a bottle of soju, then after a cut there are four on the table) and he blurts out “if I make films till I die, they’ll all be about you” and demands to know why she broke up with him, so she walks out and he goes off to bother his ex-friend Jaehak (Jae-yeong Jeong, lead of Right Now, Wrong Then).

Sunhi out drinking with Jaehak:

Sunhi asks the professor about the reference letter, hangs out over drinks with him, he explains that he wrote it in a hurry and can probably do better, then runs off to tell Jaehak about this wonderful girl he likes. Later, Sunhi spots Jaehak and they go out, as captured in an epic 10+ minute shot. They talk about the other two guys, Jaehak puts the pieces together, but he’s falling for Sunhi. Now all three guys are mooning over her, but Sunhi’s got her own life, collects the much-improved recommendation from the professor and ditches all three guys at the park.

Alice Stoehr on Letterboxd:

She drinks too much soju and leans on them in the street. The men speak with each other, repeating phrases they’d said to her. Deja vu permeates Our Sunhi, as it resounds both with echoes of Hong’s earlier work and with its own internal rhymes … She’ll always be embittered and mistreated and a little too drunk. The men will always be selfish, in performances that are broad enough to be quite funny but still true enough that they hurt.


Besides checking Letterboxd, Critics Round Up and Cinema Scope for reviews of the LNKarno movies I watched this week, I went looking for 2013 festival coverage by media sites that haven’t folded and vanished since then…

Michael Pattison in Slant recommends The Green Serpent and Costa da Morte, and says The Unity of All Things “caused more walkouts in its first 10 minutes than any other.”

Richard Porton in Cineaste talks up Manakamana, A Masque of Madness, and the restoration of Batang West Side (“certainly the most notable film to ever take place in Jersey City”).

Agnieszka Gratza in Frieze covers Exhibition and Lo que el fuego me trajo, and found Pays Barbare more gripping than I did.

Based on Jaimey Fisher’s writeup in Senses of Cinema, El Mudo, Wetlands, and maybe the Aoyama sound good.

“What I want is to live in a way that suits me.”

A philosophical movie starring Kim Min-hee, who has become my favorite actress at playing drunk. Part one is a half hour long and set in Germany, actress Younghee hanging out with a friend (Young-hwa Seo, Hill of Freedom‘s letter-reader) – turns out the actress is fleeing Seoul after an affair gone bad. They go music shopping, then eat pasta at Mark Peranson’s house (with a La Chinoise poster in the kitchen). In the dreamlike final scene, Younghee is left on the beach at night alone for just a minute then is seen being carried away unconscious, presumably by the stalker we’d previously seen walking at them It Follows-style.

Part two opens with the lights coming up at a movie theater and no mention of the beach incident. She has returned to her hometown in Korea and meets up with some old friends, first at a coffee shop some of them run, then for a dinner party. First there’s Hae-hyo Kwon (the prickly guy in part one of In Another Country) then meek Jae-yeong Jeong (main dude in Right Now, Wrong Then). She’s staying at a fancy hotel with friend Seon-mi Song (The Day He Arrives), who decides to be Younghee’s assistant. Younghee is taking a break from her career and daily routines, evaluating her life, but doesn’t seem to be doing too badly – rumors are the director she recently broke up with is worse off. Back at the beach alone, not quite at night but perhaps the early evening, she dreams a meeting with the director (I think he’s the professor from Oki’s Movie) after his crew stumbles across her, and he wants to read her a book passage about love with the crew sitting awkwardly around.

The stalker from part one reappears as a window washer:

It’s a good Hong movie, probably not my favorite, but viewers who follow his personal news were mostly stunned that he made this Kim Min-hee movie about the aftermath of a scandalous affair with a film director right after getting caught having a scandalous affair with Kim Min-hee.

Another really great Hong movie, this one with a different structural game than the others. Kwon (Seo Young-hwa of On the Beach at Night Alone) comes back to Seoul after vacation, picks up a batch of letters from Mori (Ryo Kase, crazed boyfriend in Like Someone In Love), and reads them out of order after they accidentally get dropped. Hong proceeds to play this guy’s story – arriving in Seoul to open his heart to Kwon then hanging around and losing hope and getting distracted when he finds her missing – in the same shuffled order she is reading the letters…

1. Mori hangs out with a girl from the Hill of Freedom Cafe, the same place where Kwon is now reading the letters

Mori is reading a book about time in every scene. Of course he meets a film producer… and of course he gets sad and drunk more than once

The guy in the bad shorts (think it’s Eui-sung Kim of Train to Busan) is Mori’s landlady’s nephew. He appears early on during the search for HoF Girl’s missing dog, then again at the guesthouse haranguing some poor girl.

Mori is sleeping with HoF Girl Youngsun (So-ri Moon of both The Housemaid and The Handmaiden, two titles I sometimes get confused).

Mori is leaving notes on the door of Kwon’s last known residence, returning to find the notes undisturbed. He gets awkward with the cafe girl and accidentally locks himself in her bathroom.

Present-tense, Kwon runs into Youngsun, exchanges pleasantries, then goes looking for Mori and finds him at the guesthouse. “The next day we left together for Japan. We had two children.”

Mori wakes up in the courtyard and it’s not Kwon but Youngsun – she got drunk and slept in his room while he stayed outside. She wakes up, leaves.

Vadim Rizov in Filmmaker:

The dialogue is predominantly in awkward English, because Japanese Mori is in South Korea to search for Kwon without a handle on the language. Lingua franca necessity supplements/supplants alcohol as the primary agent for awkward truth-telling … Obsessed with an idealized phantom, Mori records his days in letters that draw no conclusion or lessons from the random cycle of drunkenness and depressive oversleeping he’s mired in. He’s Hong’s least deluded male protagonist in some time: though he makes errors in judgment, he isn’t perpetually staggering around in an alcohol-fueled haze and seems abstractly aware of the ridiculousness of the situation he’s placed himself in by devoting two weeks to finding a woman who may not want to be tracked down.

This ol’ movie blog has experienced a Minor Setback in recent weeks… will be rushing through some current posts and changing some old ones. Sit tight, loyal (nonexistent?) readers.

Cannes Month continues. Hong has two new films premiering at this year’s fest, and another one premiered just a few months ago in Berlin, so it’s catchup time… this is from way back in 2012, so, ten movies ago. In framing story, girl at a hotel, hiding out with her mom while her uncle is up to no good, kills time by writing a series of stories, similar scenarios which all play out in the same hotel with the same actors playing (usually) different characters. Well, each time there’s a French woman named Anne (Isabelle Huppert, same year she was in Amour and Lines of Wellington) and a lifeguard who also works part-time at the hotel (Joon-sang Yoo, lead of The Day He Arrives), but Anne has different identities each time, and the lifeguard doesn’t seem to remember her from previous visits.

1. Anne is a visiting film director and the lifeguard is stalkerish in this one. Won-ju (Yu-mi Jung, title star of both Oki’s Movie and Our Sunhi) is pregnant and jealous of Anne, since her man Jongsoo (Hae-hyo Kwon of all the 2017 Hong movies) knows Anne from way back. Everyone wants Anne, and she is gracious about it, but really just wants to see the local lighthouse, have some grilled squid and be off.

2. Anne is “a rich housewife,” cheating on her Hong Kong husband with filmmaker Soo (Seong-kun Mun, the professor in Oki’s Movie). The lifeguard is somewhat helpful here, finding Anne’s phone – and she locates the lighthouse (and brays at some goats), but later she doesn’t – maybe a dream sequence or alternate version (it wouldn’t be the first), but anyway it’s quickly interrupted by…

3. Anne has been left by her husband (a different husband, since this is a different Anne), is vacationing with her friend Park (Yeo-jeong Yoon, maybe one of the girl’s friends in Right Now, Wrong Then) and they meet a film director (Jongsoo from #1). Everyone gets drunk on soju of course. The framing-story screenwriter is obsessed with visiting filmmaker characters drinking soju, as is Hong. Anyway, Anne wants to meet a local monk in order to find wisdom, but he talks her in circles, so she goes off and sleeps with the lifeguard, failing once more to find the lighthouse.

Peter Labuza on Letterboxd:

Certainly the MVP here is the lifeguard whose declarations (“I will protect you!!!”) and wonderfully dopey song are probably the closest to broad comedy I’ve seen from Hong so far. Huppert plays three different versions of a cipher (cold, needy, mourning) who all get men attracted to her no matter how she acts … Foreignness is certainly an interesting element; here Huppert’s various roles acting as the exotic figure as if a twist on the usual Western perspective of exotic women.