Hong Sangsoo

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#401 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu May 21, 2020 9:09 am

No need to be embarrassed! All readings are fair, and we all bring ourselves into the world of film when we engage with it. Hong intentionally makes this challenging I think, because it’s a challenging process for us all to reckon with certain actions that go against our morals or ideals. I think something that Hong does very well actually is to express his worldview, and even own personality, in a gender fluid manner (especially over time). While his ‘director’ characters are clear mirrors of himself- or shades of him- they are deceptively whole stand-ins. There are a few key female-centered films later on (List, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon, Oki’s Movie, etc.) where the female lead is exhibiting Hong-like behavior and grappling with identity, enigmatic future, and meaning. In many of these, the male characters become thinner characters and take on that ‘jerk’ brand, while the females get to be more complex, but they are still not saints. I enjoy how Hong allows two contradictory therapeutic processes to occur here: he can expose himself, and have some masochistic fun beating himself up, through these male characters and validate himself - including these same ‘jerky’ behaviors, or at least the common-denominator roots of them - through the female characters, who are also reflections of him.

One could probably make cases for Hong using traditional signifiers of masculinity and femininity and playing with them as his two halves, boiling down males to this machismo and ego, with the females as a sensitivity and longing, but that doesn't feel so clearcut to me. I do think he employs these ideas earlier and then jumps off from there to evolve his comprehension of himself through his characters, including this gender fluidity. Female characters (i.e. Haewon) take on masculine characteristics, and the director in that film is the one who is sensitive to the point of becoming pathetic. Hong seems to be both using male and female characters to introspectively explore his different sides of himself and using them to macro-analyze how people, regardless of gender, experience this inner conflict. This itself is another fitting contradiction since he's embracing traditional socially-constructed ideas of masculinity and femininity, and rejecting them in favor of a uniform equality in nondiscriminatory humanism.
Michael Kerpan wrote:
Thu May 21, 2020 9:06 am
I think Hong very much approves of Mun-suk overall -- especially once she begins to "wake up". But that does not mean he "approves" of everything she does -- especially before she does. ;-)

What I like about this film is the fact that it portrays a character being shaken out of their initial state of mind (makes me think a little bit of Green Ray, another of my favorite Rohmer film).
I second this, well said (much more succinctly than what I was attempting to in my last few posts!) - including the specific Rohmer comparison

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lzx
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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#402 Post by lzx » Wed May 27, 2020 11:06 pm

US trailers for Hill of Freedom and Yourself and Yours, serendipitously posted at the same time

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barbarella satyricon
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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#403 Post by barbarella satyricon » Thu May 28, 2020 12:55 pm

Recently received the Korean blu ray of The Day After, and while I haven’t yet rewatched it in this format, all the recent activity on this thread is prompting me to chime in and say that it’s at or near the top of my own Hong Sangsoo top five. That list would also include Hotel By The River, which, after a first viewing a few months back, has only grown in estimation and resonance in my mind.

I think these two, along with Grass, could be seen to form a loose trilogy? Black & white works starring Kim Min-hee, with what registers to me as sustained preoccupations with mortality (more obviously in Hotel By The River, but also in Grass, if I’m not misremembering some of the more morose and somber of the film’s overheard conversations) and moral consequence.

In The Day After, Kim Min-hee plays the wronged party in an adultery drama. And while her character is not the one being cheated on, she is the innocent third (or fourth?) party who inadvertently becomes the target of other characters’ recriminations and machinations.

The adultery trope is no big whoop-de-do within the Hong oeuvre by now, but I do think it took some daring to cast one’s own much-publicized adulterous partner in such a role. Or maybe it was a role custom-made for and growing out of such a backgrounding context? By the end of the film, Kim’s character walks off in the final shot, something of lower-case saint (a true believer in the Christian sense), ultimately unbesmirched, vindicated even.
SpoilerShow
re: ”...in the Christian sense” — the character’s embarrassed admission of her own religious belief in one of the restaurant/drinking conversations and, later, her prayer in the late-night taxi ride home represent genuinely new elements in Hong’s repertoire of much-revisited themes and tropes. These parts of the film surprised me enough that I spoiler this part of the post.
And not to belabor the adultery angle, but the spiritual differentiation and elevation of Kim’s character in this film (again, quite a trick, considering the seemingly incidental narrative details that line up with Hong’s own life – e.g. the wife and daughter, to whom the film’s male lead is ultimately reconciled, and to whom Hong, as far as celebrity news would have us know, is not) put me in mind of a soft-pedaled version of maybe what Rossellini was doing for Ingrid Bergman in Europa ’51: the impulse toward saint-making and scandal-expiating for a compromised leading lady?

Maybe that’s a bit of a reach, but I think the film is a rich enough one that a little bit of interpretive overreach would enhance rather than diminish the very subtle and intricate narrative and observational things it’s got going on.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#404 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu May 28, 2020 1:56 pm

Interesting reading- while I didn’t love the film as much as you, it did have what I think is the most intense scalding of Hong’s standin by a female character in all his works. I wrote it up earlier in the thread, but after he spouts a philosophical theory on life, instead of a jab taking him down a peg, his wife unleashes and her projected emotions are strong enough to strip him bare. Not just reduce his worldview to a flawed intellectualized one, but to herself theorize (while maybe not explicitly saying this) that it’s all a defense to cover up for his actual flaws and immorality. I don’t think Hong sees the world in morally-distinct terms, but he allows himself to be called on his shit, so to speak, in a deeper destructive way, and validate that impression. At least in that moment I was impressed with his ability to become so vulnerable through self-flagellation.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#405 Post by Nasir007 » Tue Jun 02, 2020 7:30 pm

barbarella satyricon wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 12:55 pm
Recently received the Korean blu ray of The Day After, and while I haven’t yet rewatched it in this format, all the recent activity on this thread is prompting me to chime in and say that it’s at or near the top of my own Hong Sangsoo top five. That list would also include Hotel By The River, which, after a first viewing a few months back, has only grown in estimation and resonance in my mind.

I think these two, along with Grass, could be seen to form a loose trilogy? Black & white works starring Kim Min-hee, with what registers to me as sustained preoccupations with mortality (more obviously in Hotel By The River, but also in Grass, if I’m not misremembering some of the more morose and somber of the film’s overheard conversations) and moral consequence.

In The Day After, Kim Min-hee plays the wronged party in an adultery drama. And while her character is not the one being cheated on, she is the innocent third (or fourth?) party who inadvertently becomes the target of other characters’ recriminations and machinations.

The adultery trope is no big whoop-de-do within the Hong oeuvre by now, but I do think it took some daring to cast one’s own much-publicized adulterous partner in such a role. Or maybe it was a role custom-made for and growing out of such a backgrounding context? By the end of the film, Kim’s character walks off in the final shot, something of lower-case saint (a true believer in the Christian sense), ultimately unbesmirched, vindicated even.
SpoilerShow
re: ”...in the Christian sense” — the character’s embarrassed admission of her own religious belief in one of the restaurant/drinking conversations and, later, her prayer in the late-night taxi ride home represent genuinely new elements in Hong’s repertoire of much-revisited themes and tropes. These parts of the film surprised me enough that I spoiler this part of the post.
And not to belabor the adultery angle, but the spiritual differentiation and elevation of Kim’s character in this film (again, quite a trick, considering the seemingly incidental narrative details that line up with Hong’s own life – e.g. the wife and daughter, to whom the film’s male lead is ultimately reconciled, and to whom Hong, as far as celebrity news would have us know, is not) put me in mind of a soft-pedaled version of maybe what Rossellini was doing for Ingrid Bergman in Europa ’51: the impulse toward saint-making and scandal-expiating for a compromised leading lady?

Maybe that’s a bit of a reach, but I think the film is a rich enough one that a little bit of interpretive overreach would enhance rather than diminish the very subtle and intricate narrative and observational things it’s got going on.
That's an interesting thought - thinking of them as a trilogy. With an oeuvre so prolific, you are bound to have major works and minor works. I definitely consider Grass to be a minor work and The Day After to be a major work - so I would categorize Hotel to be either semi-major or semi-minor. And they are all in black and white and star the glorious Kim Min-Hee but beyond that I would struggle to find any commonality between, save that they were consecutive films. Conceptually, I would say maybe Grass is the most high concept, River slightly less so and Day After a kinda standard drama but The Day After I feel has the greatest depth of execution and feels a more considered work whereas the other two feel like very quick works - even from a script point of view.

Hotel does have one of the more interesting conceits I have seen in a film of this sort of late.
SpoilerShow
It is a film which is essentially the opposite of a hyperlink "everything is connected film". The film teases the viewers very strongly by presenting them with 2 separate stories and narrative convention and certain hints lead us to believe that the in a dramatic twist, the stories will tie together for a cumulative impact. And all through the film the viewer has this anticipation or suspense - only for the twist to be - that these stories afterall are disconnected and have nothing to do with each other. I thought that was a clever subversion and the reverse of what we see in films and not something I think that I had seen before.
Glass also has a good concept.

If you'd like to expand on how these 3 films might be connected, I'd be most interested to discover fresh readings in each of them. His films are of course always ripe for interpretation.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#406 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jun 02, 2020 8:15 pm

Nasir -- the two plots in Hotel ARE connected...
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but only by a single link, which breaks right before the end.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#407 Post by Nasir007 » Tue Jun 02, 2020 8:27 pm

Can you remind me what that is? I have seen the film only once at NYFF 2018. And my memory is admittedly not the best.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#408 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Jun 02, 2020 9:30 pm

Nasir007 wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 8:27 pm
Can you remind me what that is? I have seen the film only once at NYFF 2018. And my memory is admittedly not the best.
SpoilerShow
The two plots are linked only through the father himself -- and when he dies the two groups of characters and their actions become totally unrelated.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#409 Post by Nasir007 » Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:07 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 9:30 pm
Nasir007 wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 8:27 pm
Can you remind me what that is? I have seen the film only once at NYFF 2018. And my memory is admittedly not the best.
SpoilerShow
The two plots are linked only through the father himself -- and when he dies the two groups of characters and their actions become totally unrelated.
How are they -
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linked by the father? Again, sorry for asking, I simply can't recollect at the moment and there is no summary to be found on the internet.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#410 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:14 am

Nasir
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Yhe father interacts around half of the time with the young women and the other half of the time with his sons. These two groups almost meet at points, but always just miss each other. We keep expecting them to ultimately come in contact, but that possibility vanishes once the father dies.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#411 Post by Nasir007 » Wed Jun 03, 2020 12:31 pm

Ah. I see.

With my original post -
SpoilerShow
I had meant that there was an expectation, or at least, I had an expectation that the characters will turn out to be related in some way or form or their pasts related in some shape or form - which does not happen. That seemed to me the novel aspect. Chance meetings aside, the two stories do not connect.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#412 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Jun 03, 2020 1:24 pm

Nasir --
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I never thought the two groups had any _past_ connection, but did think they would have to connect at least briefly in the present.
;-)

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barbarella satyricon
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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#413 Post by barbarella satyricon » Thu Jun 04, 2020 3:00 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Thu May 28, 2020 1:56 pm
I don’t think Hong sees the world in morally-distinct terms
I would agree with you, and as far as the long line of films preceding The Day After goes, I was thinking to say, in my previous post, that his authorial viewpoint is a sustainedly amoral one. Always observing, never really judging – although, of course, the viewer’s own subjective response to any one character’s actions would mediate how the nuances and ambiguities of representation are interpreted.

When Hong does seem to drop a hint of a value judgment, his reflex is toward low-key satire and comic irony, I think. Like in Woman is the Future of Man (if I’m remembering the correct restaurant scene in the correct movie – they really do pile up) when the two friends, each in the absence of the other, both come on to the waitress by talking up their professional credentials, their very interesting projects and pursuits. She catches on in about two seconds the second time around.

That’s one random example, but I think it does represent the extent to which Hong ever guides the audience’s view of or reaction to a character or situation: an eye-roll, a little bemusement, some slight queasiness maybe.
SpoilerShow
The big exception (if we’re talking in generalities across lengthy filmographies) might be the double murder at the end of The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well, though it’s up for debate whether the deaths of the characters can be construed as any kind of calculable outcome in a morally regulated universe. It is also, as far as I know, the one film that wasn’t scripted solely by Hong.
So that’s a long lead-up to say that this sustained amoral viewpoint is interrupted in a significant way, I think (whatever the quirks of subjective viewing), in a later scene in The Day After where
SpoilerShow
the male character and the former employee (assistant? colleague?) with whom he has been having an affair sit in a back room/office, plotting the way in which a case of mistaken identity could be credibly sustained so as to cast the person mistaken by the wife for the mistress (Kim Min-hee’s character, now out of the story, no longer employed) as the actual mistress, thereby leaving the two actual cheaters to carry on in a newly cleared playing field, enjoying somewhat reduced suspicion and surveillance.

There are still a handful of Hong films I haven’t yet seen, but this was the first time that any one of his characters struck me as a repellent or strongly objectionable one – or at the very least, that their incidental actions or words in an isolated moment spoke of such a character. Again, that might be a subjective reaction, but this particular depiction of a pair of desperate cheaters departs, I think, from other not dissimilar setups, as in something like Hahaha, where the married and clinically depressed man exchanges desperate, bathetic affirmations of love with his skittish and emotionally precarious codependent lover.

The loopy and slightly unhinged lovers’ protestations in that film tie up like a sad, sloppy bow at film’s end, not completely beyond the realm of piss-take, but more like a wryly and benignly understanding depiction of socially (and, to my mind, cosmically) frustrated love.

The similar desperation of the lovers in The Day After carries them over into areas of genuine malice and social irresponsibility – i.e. playing fast and loose with an unwitting person’s reputation so as to set up a cover for one’s own running around.

But to balance and offset that a little bit (because this spoiler block hasn’t gotten long enough), the female half of this “pair of desperate cheaters”, as I may have too unfeelingly called them, has, earlier in the film, one of the more heartrending (drunk) crying performances I’ve seen in a Hong film or any film. Outside of any sympathy the crying may or may not engender, the volume of the weeping, both in the audio and the quantitative sense, is just full sail. (How do they carry on like this in a dining establishment, not a manager or server around to check in to see if everything’s alright?)

It calls to mind, if anything, the crying scene on the bus in The Power of Kangwon Province, the culminating scene in the first half of that film’s bifurcated adultery narrative: a person coming brutally to terms with the reality of being, at the end of it all, left alone.

The more I consider it, having typed all this out, and with other details coming to mind now, the more I would stand by the theme of moral consequence as a new inflection within Hong’s usual index, and introduced with this film.
The Korean blu ray of The Day After comes in a scanavo case housed in a box, and the cover image for the case inside is a cropped detail of the close-up shot (maybe a slightly tight medium CU) of Kim Min-hee in the taxi on her snowy night ride home.

I was going to post and say that my previous reading of her character as being “spiritually differentiated and elevated” may have been overstated, but looking at the blu ray cover image, and mulling over the thought that this character may be the most demonstrably good of any in a Hong film, and with my mind moving toward a tangent on the paucity or near-absence of similar close-up shots in any other Hong film I’ve seen, I’m now thinking to say that it looks, within the wider context, like a freaking Falconetti moment.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#414 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Jun 04, 2020 11:23 pm

Great thoughts! I would reframe it a bit though, to fit both readings. I do think that Hong is moving therapeutically toward increasingly finding new onion layers to peel back. I've also noticed a trend in him disallowing his usual defense mechanisms to intellectualize, or escape into a grey diversion, from taking hold. Basking in moral consequences doesn't make him an objective moralist though, which is really what I mean. The best way I can describe it is that Hong, like us, has subjective morals. It's easy to preach moral relativism and differentiate oneself from the reality that actions have consequences and subjective morals affect another's emotions, but Hong is not letting himself default to that diversion this time (or he's desperately trying not to- it's kind of inevitable due to a solipsistic part prohibiting complete separation from our perspective). He may not believe in objective morality, but reality includes people with different equal moral compasses harming one another. If that person does so without a willingness to stew in self-awareness, then they are perpetuating that harm. Hong catches himself in this cycle all the time - he acknowledges his faults but broadens the scope to macro philosophy and disperses micro-emotional authenticity, which is lovely but also distracts from, and arguably negates, his reflective admissions back to zero.

I actually find Hong more interesting when he is constantly clawing at himself in that battle between expressing emotional honesty, and seesawing between flagellating himself and escaping with intellectualization. Yet I admire his maturation on the neverending therapeutic road of enigmatic studies involving the self, and how it's led him to accepting subjective morals as equal to the idea of objective ones, which also lends more sustained empathy to another's emotions without pulling back to getting drunk on solipsistic reason.

Speaking of, I find Hong's processes of flooded thinking, self-destruction, aloof bouts of serenity, and retreat into himself to all be reminiscent of heavy alcohol use (which he does not shy away from connecting to basically every main, or stand-in, character). This internalized obsession with self, including constantly thinking about others with desperate empathy, and obsessing over greater concepts of philosophy, is too familiar to put into writing, but I think his films are essentially identical to an evening inside an cerebral yet emotionally-sensitive alcoholic's brain.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#415 Post by BenoitRouilly » Sun Jun 14, 2020 4:38 pm

Great podcast with David Bordwell on Hong Sangsoo's oeuvre and particularly Hill of Freedom! at CinemaTalk

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knives
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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#416 Post by knives » Tue Jun 23, 2020 4:13 pm

The Fanciful Norwegian wrote:
Sat May 16, 2020 11:30 pm
Jang Sun-woo's The Road to the Racetrack is very much like a proto-Hong film in some respects, especially its structure—though typically of Jang it evinces a much more jaundiced outlook than Hong's own films. Hong has been open about its significance to him; he saw it while living overseas and it convinced him that he could make movies in Korea. The Korean Film Council has uploaded it to its Youtube channel, though it's a big step down from the DVD.
Wow, finally seeing this almost makes Hong seem redundant and that's even as a booster. This is easily the best Korean film I've seen outside of Bong's work.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#417 Post by BenoitRouilly » Thu Jun 25, 2020 3:55 pm

List of all HONG Sang-soo films that are available legally online at The Cinema Guild

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#418 Post by goblinfootballs » Thu Jun 25, 2020 7:21 pm

BenoitRouilly wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 3:55 pm
List of all HONG Sang-soo films that are available legally online at The Cinema Guild
That's somewhat helpful, except not entirely accurate. Currently Woman is the Future of Man is not available to stream anywhere, but HaHaHa is available on FandangoNow.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#419 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Jun 25, 2020 8:26 pm

knives wrote:
Tue Jun 23, 2020 4:13 pm
The Fanciful Norwegian wrote:
Sat May 16, 2020 11:30 pm
Jang Sun-woo's The Road to the Racetrack is very much like a proto-Hong film in some respects, especially its structure—though typically of Jang it evinces a much more jaundiced outlook than Hong's own films. Hong has been open about its significance to him; he saw it while living overseas and it convinced him that he could make movies in Korea. The Korean Film Council has uploaded it to its Youtube channel, though it's a big step down from the DVD.
Wow, finally seeing this almost makes Hong seem redundant and that's even as a booster. This is easily the best Korean film I've seen outside of Bong's work.
I didn't like this as much as you but I did enjoy it and can see how the film influenced Hong. It's clear that Hong identified most of all with this method of how to expose his own flaws and strengths via cinema, and saw a lot of himself in the male protagonist, though I think Hong's cinema taken together has used this formula to demonstrate a lot of more complex growth. I'd be interested to check out more from Jang to see if he did something similar in autobiographical development over time. This film definitely reflects most of Hong's earlier exhibitions on his 'self' following his first few films, rather than where he grew to in the 2011+ stage.

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Re: Hong Sangsoo

#420 Post by knives » Thu Jun 25, 2020 8:38 pm

Though it is telling that Hong maintains Moon as a member of his stock company.

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