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2004.09.27

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nkw88

Rohmeresque hint and Bunuelisque style.

Greg Samsa

Saw this for the third time over the weekend at the Korean International Film Festival held by the American Cinematheque in Hollywood. Hong Sang-Soo had been planning to attend(!) but was held up in Canada. At any rate, this is definitely a film that becomes richer and more rewarding with repeat viewings. What really struck me this time was how good the music and sound design are. During the scene where you can see Hyeon-gon dancing with the next door neighbor through the glass and the camera pans over to reveal Mun-ho and Seon-hwa at the window - the sound of the man selling rice cakes down on the street echoed through the theater and sent chills down my spine. Hong is certainly up to something quite interesting; as his body of work grows it feels as if each film attempts to answer the questions raised by the previous, to explore the psyches and motivations of the characters so that a deeper understanding of the relationships between these people seems almost possible, but always slightly out of reach.

There is an excellent analysis of Hong’s work in the new Film Quarterly: http://caliber.ucpress.net/doi/abs/10.1525/fq.2004.57.4.22

Kris

Yeah, whoa I'm glad you have the link to that astonishingly off-base Hollywood Reporter review. I was just itching to read some reviews of "Woman" after it premiered at Cannes and the only one I could find was this imbicilic piece written by a "critic" who obviously had no idea who Hong was nor had even a minimal amount of knowledge about Korean film. It was when the respectable reviews started coming in and giving the film middling-to-poor comments (for example: http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/film_review.asp?ID=1194) that I got worried. An initial viewing of the film on DVD confirmed my suspicion that it wasn't among Hong's best (I'd have ranked it with my least favorite, "A Woman Stripped Bare..."). It seemed to ramble for too long until it finally became interesting in the last 15 minutes or so. But a second viewing confirms that there is actually quite a bit going on in this one. As with all the director's films, the incidental, seemingly patchwork (or, to quote the Hollywood Reporter, "amateurish") style is in fact very carefully composed. Although I still wouldn't rank it with Hong's greatest films "The Turning Gate" or "The Power of Kangwon Province," it's still the kind of sad, quietly insightful kind of flick that he excells at. But I wouldn't recommend it to someone unfamiliar with Hong's previous work or who hasn't lived in Korea before (where the sort of behavior exhibited by the main characters is quite common).

Filmbrain

I could not agree with you more. Perfectly stated.

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