This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

16Jun/16

TALES OF CINEMA: THE FILMS OF HONG SANG-SOO

A couple tries to rekindle their romance in NOBODY’S DAUGHTER HAEWON

A couple considers rekindling their romance in Hong Sang-soo’s NOBODY’S DAUGHTER HAEWON

Museum of the Moving Image
35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria
Through June 19
718-777-6888
www.movingimage.us

The Museum of the Moving Image’s seventeen-day, eighteen-film retrospective of the work of South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo heads into its final weekend with his five latest works, as Hong continues his exploration of the creation of art and cinema itself. (The museum previously celebrated Hong’s oeuvre with a 2012 series that consisted of five films.) The festival, which began with such works as The Day a Pig Fell into the Well, On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate, and Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, concludes June 17-19 with In Another Country, Our Sunhi, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon, HaHaHa, and Hill of Freedom.

IN ANOTHER COUNTRY (DA-REUN NA-RA-E-SUH) (Hong Sang-soo, 2012)
Friday, June 17, $12, 7:00
www.movingimage.us

Hong Sang-soo continues his fascinating exploration of cinematic narrative in In Another Country, although this one turns somewhat nasty and tiresome by the end. After being duped in a bad business deal by a family member, an older woman (Youn Yuh-jung) and her daughter, Wonju (Jung Yumi), move to the small seaside town of Mohjang, where the disenchanted Wonju decides to write a screenplay to deal with her frustration. Based on an actual experience she had, she writes three tales in which a French woman named Anne (each played by an English-speaking Isabelle Huppert) comes to the town for different reasons. In the first section, Anne is a prominent filmmaker invited by Korean director Jungsoo (Kwon Hye-hyo), who has a thing for her even though he is about to become a father with his very suspicious wife, Kumhee (Moon So-ri). In the second story, Anne, a woman married to a wealthy CEO, has come to Mohjang to continue her affair with a well-known director, Munsoo (Moon Sung-keun), who is careful that the two are not seen together in public. And in the final part, Anne, whose husband recently left her for a young Korean woman, has arrived in Mohjang with an older friend (Youn), seeking to rediscover herself. In all three stories, Anne searches for a lighthouse, as if that could shine a light on her future, and meets up with a goofy lifeguard (Yu Jun-sang) who offers the possibility of sex, but each Anne reacts in different ways to his advances. Dialogue and scenes repeat, with slight adjustments made based on the different versions of Anne, investigating character, identity, and desire both in film and in real life. Hong wrote the film specifically for Huppert, who is charming and delightful in the first two sections before turning ugly in the third as Anne suddenly becomes annoying, selfish, and irritating, the plot taking hard-to-believe twists that nearly undermine what has gone on before. As he has done in such previous films as Like You Know It All, The Day He Arrives, Tale of Cinema, and Oki’s Movie, Hong weaves together an intricate plot that is soon commenting on itself and coming together in unexpected, surreal ways, but he loses his usual taut narrative thread in the final, disappointing section.

HAEWON

A drunken night at a sake restaurant reveals some hard truths in another bittersweet Hong Sang-soo cinematic tale

NOBODY’S DAUGHTER HAEWON (NUGU-UI TTAL-DO ANIN HAEWON) (Hong Sang-soo, 2013)
Sunday, June 19, $12, 2:00
www.movingimage.us

In South Korean director Hong Sang-soo’s bittersweet tale Nobody’s Daughter Haewon, nearly everyone who meets college student Haewon (Jeong Eun-chae) tells her that she’s “pretty,” from her mother (Kim Ja-ok), who has decided to pack up and move to Canada, to legendary star Jane Birkin (playing herself), whom she bumps into on the street, to a hot bookstore owner, to fellow students and teachers. Rather stuck up and direct on the outside but much more tender and lost on the inside, Haewon reaches out to a former lover, film professor Seongjun (Lee Sun-kyun), who is married with a baby. As they contemplate rekindling their affair, they wind up getting drunk on sake with a group of Seongjun’s students, who suspect the teacher-student romance and clearly do not like Haewon. Meanwhile, Haewon, who is reading Norbert Elias’s The Loneliness of the Dying, is intrigued by the flirtations of another film professor, Jungwon (Kim Eui-sung), who teaches in San Diego. From Seoul’s West Village to the historic Fort Namhan, Haewon tries to find her place in the world as writer-director Hong employs a chronological narrative that combines her dreams with reality over the course of a few weeks in springtime. Hong has explored similar terrain in previous films, but there’s just enough of an edge to Nobody’s Daughter Haewon to prevent it from feeling repetitive and more of the same. As always, Hong favors long establishing shots and a stationary camera that suddenly and awkwardly zooms in, instantly reminding viewers that they are watching a film. However, the scene in the restaurant goes on for several minutes with no cuts or camera movements, letting the acting and the dialogue tell the story without cinematic interference. Nobody’s Daughter Haewon also clocks in at a mere hour and a half, much shorter than most of his earlier work, which tends to go on way too long, but this one feels a little lighter in substance as well.

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