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January 09, 2006

A Tale of the Cinema

Geuk Jang Jeon
Hong Sang-soo - 2005
Woosung Entertainment Region 3 DVD

I jumped into seeing a film by Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-Soo without being familiar with any of his previous work. This has to do with my continued interest in any movies that are in some way about movies.

The film is made up of two parts. The first is a story about a young man who decides to commit suicide with a young woman, a former high school classmate. The second part of the film is about a young man who has watched the film and his attempt to make his life parallel art. There are small reminders of the French New Wave with a title that recalls some of Eric Rohmer's films, first person narration frequently found with Truffaut, and a narrative that somewhat Godardian without name dropping.

In the first part, after a night of awkward sex and much drinking, the young man, Sang-Won, and the young woman, Yong-sil, attempt suicide by ingesting a lot of sleeping pills. Yong-sil can not hold down the pills and calls Sang-Won's home to let them know of his condition. Sitting with his family, Sang-Won explains his motivation is due to his inability to communicate with his mother. Sang-Won is last seen running out to the rooftop of his apartment, standing by the edge. The music from the final scene in the first part is continued, with the sound muffled, as the film cuts to a shot of a movie theater lobby. The first film has become a film within a film, and the subject of the second part of A Tale. The second part follows Tongsu, a former film student and his encounters with the actress who plays Yong-Sil, also named Yong-Sil. While some scenes in the second part are variations of the first part, the second part also works as a critique of the linking of art and life.

With the second part of the film, Hong seems to be criticizing notions of misplaced romantism, in particular the romance that is linked with suicide. Also, Hong deflates the concept of life reflecting art and vice-versa. Sex is awkward, relationships of any kind are uncomfortable, and characters seek opportunities to avoid each other. Creating art may be important, but creating one's own life is of the greatest value.

Posted by peter at January 9, 2006 03:49 PM