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Woman Is the Future of Man

Posted by martinteller on February 1, 2013

Mun-ho (Ji-Tae Yu) is an art teacher and Hyeon-gon (Tae-woo Kim) is a recent film school graduate.  The two old friends meet up for lunch and drinks after having not seen each other for a while.  Gradually, through flashbacks and conversation, it’s revealed that they both have a history with a woman named Seon-hwa (Hyeon-a Seong).  They decide to look her up, and the three reunite for an awkward evening and sleepover.

I’m usually behind the curve a little bit, but with Hong Sang-soo I feel tremendously out of the loop.  His reputation has apparently been building strongly for the past decade, yet I never heard of the guy until about a year ago.  Recently I started watching The Power of Kangwon Province and was very intrigued… unfortunately my copy developed issues after 20 minutes, so that one’s on hold.  In the meantime, I put most of his other films on my list.  This one happened to come first.

It may not have been the best movie to start with.  Hong seems to draw comparisons to several other directors… Antonioni, Stillman, Ozu, Hou.  The name that pops up most is Rohmer.  I can see it in the frank discussions and close study of human dynamics, but maybe more is lost in translation from Korean than French.  I didn’t get this movie.  I understood what was happening, but I didn’t understand what I was supposed to be getting from it.  Is Hong saying that men are clueless animals, ruled by their sex drives and doomed to repeat the same destructive patterns?  I didn’t quite buy it.  These two guys didn’t feel all that genuine to me, and Seon-hwa is not sufficiently developed to present any kind of adequate female counterpoint.  It comes off like unwarranted cynicism.

I’m not going to resort to any “The emperor wears no clothes” accusations, I hate that.  I feel there’s a complexity here I’m missing, and maybe this will be a good film to circle back around to after I’ve absorbed more Hong.  I did find some interesting things about it, like the completely unexpected daydream/fantasy (alternate reality?) and the mirrored scenes and parallels.  But I don’t have much else to say at this time.  It didn’t leave much of an impression on me, but it hasn’t diminished my curiosity about Hong.  Rating: Fair (64)


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