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.
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
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.