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November 01, 2012

Starz Denver Film Festival 2012 - In Another Country

in another country.jpg

Dareun naraeseo
Hong Sang-soo - 2012
Kino Lorber Films

If Hong Sang-soo had not already had a film titled Woman on the Beach, this film certainly could have had that title. And in a way, Hong's new film has some tenuous connections with Jean Renoir's movie that originally possessed that title. touching on the subjects of professional artists, misunderstandings, and sexual jealousy and infidelity.

Some of the misunderstandings are due to language and culture, with Isabelle Huppert as a French woman in Korea, where the shared language is English. It allows for the Koreans to speak among themselves, while explaining to Huppert that what is discussed is something else. It is the use of language that adds a layer of confusion between people, a recurring theme in Hong's movies where there is often a conflict between words and intentions.

After The Day He Arrives, a nearly perfect distillation of previous Hong films, I had expected that the casting of Huppert would have been a catalyst for a different kind of film from Hong. What is different is the format, with Huppert in a trilogy, as the French woman in a small resort town during the off season, as a film director, a housewife meeting her lover, and as a divorcee trying to assess her future. The three stories are variations of the woman, Anne, sparking sexual interest, searching for a lighthouse, and encountering a lifeguard who expresses interest in her. There is bonding over barbeque and alcohol. With the exception of Jung Yoo-mi as Won-ju, the young woman who runs the resort house where much of the film takes place, and Yoo Jun-sang as the lifeguard, Hong uses some of the same actors playing different parts within the three stories. Little bits of business connect one story to another.

The second episode is the most interesting in terms of Huppert's performance. There is something particularly girlish about the way she carries herself, almost skipping through the small town in her red dress. At one point, spotting a couple of small goats, Huppert loudly calls to them in her imitation of a goat's bleat. She later is seen briefly following the lifeguard, imitating his waddle. That Huppert would be collaborating with Hong might be best understood as a continuation of her playful work with American independent filmmakers like David Russell and Hal Hartley.

The Korean cast is made of actors who have worked with Hong previously. Special mention should be made of one of my favorite actresses, Moon So-ri, who appears as a very pregnant wife keeping an eye on a husband ready to stray at a moment's notice. I know that Moon was recently pregnant and gave birth to a daughter in August, 2011. She discusses her role in a video clip that's in Korean. I bring this up because one of the the things I like about Moon is her lack of vanity, and total ability to play the least glamorous women. Moon first caught my attention, as she did for others, with her performance in Oasis, so that many viewers thought she actually had cerebral palsy. Moon here has a small supporting role, something of a bonus for a film centered on the most celebrated actress of French cinema.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 1, 2012 08:07 AM