RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN (지금은맞고그때는틀리다) (Hong Sangsoo, 2015)
7 Ludlow St. between Canal & Hester Sts.
June 24 - July 7
It’s déjà vu all over again in South Korean writer-director Hong Sangsoo’s latest masterpiece, Right Now, Wrong Then. Hong’s previous films, such as Tales of Cinema, The Day He Arrives, In Another Country, and Oki’s Movie, have explored the nature of cinematic storytelling: often, a film director is the protagonist, and scenes and characters repeat from different points of view. In Right Now, Wrong Then, Hong again plays with the temporal aspects of narrative; he essentially starts the film over at the halfway point, switching around the words of the title and repeating opening credits. Jung Jaeyoung won several Best Actor awards for his portrayal of art-house director Ham Chunsu, who has accidentally arrived a day early to the Korean province of Suwon, where he will take part in a Q&A following a screening of one of his films. Wandering around the town, he enters the blessing hall of an old palace and meets Yoon Heejung (Kim Minhee), a shy, aspiring painter. They talk about their lives, their hopes and dreams, as they go out for coffee and tea, eat sushi and drink soju, and meet up with some friends of Heejung’s. And then they do it again, primarily scene by scene, with variations in dialogue and temperament that offer sly twists on what happened in the first half. It’s as if Chunsu and Heejung are given the kind of second chance that one doesn’t get in real life, only in movies, or maybe Hong is showing us an alternate universe where myriad possibilities exist.
Winner of the Golden Leopard for Best Film at Locarno, Right Now, Wrong Then moves at the patient, naturalistic pace and rhythm of real life, with numerous long scenes lasting between five and ten minutes with no cuts. Cinematographer Park Hongyeol, who has photographed six other Hong films, occasionally zooms in on a character, a tree, or other objects, the movement of the camera often slightly awkward, reminding us that we are watching a movie. However, the camera placement and movement, which are decided by Hong, is not what we’re used to in conventional cinema; Park and Hong eschew standard speaker-reaction back-and-forth shots, instead allowing the camera to linger in the same spot for a while, or focus in on the person not talking, or concentrate on a minute detail that appears insignificant. Adding to the film’s vitality, Hong writes each scene the same day that it’s shot, resulting in a freshness that is intoxicating. Jung (Our Sunhi, Moss) is a marvel as Chunsu, a quirky, jittery figure who is not quite as cool or humble as he might think he is, while former model Kim (Hellcats, Very Ordinary Couple) is sweetly engaging as the tentative Heejung, who is trying to find her place in the world. Meanwhile, popping up every once in a while is Jeong Yongjin’s playful, carnivalesque music, as if we’re watching life’s endless circus, which, of course, we are.