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Bam gua nat (Night and Day)

Posted by martinteller on February 7, 2013

Sung-nam (Yeong-ho Kim) is a painter who flees to Paris after being ratted out for marijuana use.  He stays in a guest house full of other Korean expatriates, makes weepy calls back home to his wife, and spends a lot of time wandering around.  He bumps into an old girlfriend — without recognizing her — and after a failed tryst, focuses his attentions on a young art student.

Attempt number two with Hong was more successful than Woman is the Future of Man.  Although a rather long film, the added length allows for a greater breadth and depth in its exploration of human flaws.  Hong makes some keen observations about deception and delusion, the lies people tell each other and themselves to both get what they want and avoid the consequences.  Sung-nam (a fine performance by Kim that makes the character’s foolishness plain without reducing him to outright buffoonery) makes half-hearted attempts to ease his conscience, just enough to say he tried.  There’s also some incisive wit, and the scenes are varied enough to keep it from getting repetitive.  And the female characters are more defined and tangible than the earlier film.

Still, I can’t help feeling that either I’m missing something or Hong just might not be my kind of director.  The film is well-written, well-crafted and well-acted, but I failed to find much inspiration or enlightment from it.  My reaction is very much of the “it is what it is” variety.  There are things Hong does that, to me at least, he seems to be doing just for the hell of it… for example, the repeated push-in zooms, or the numerical significance of Sung-nam arriving in Paris on 8/8 and leaving on 10/10.  It’s things that you notice but feel empty.

I did enjoy the film in its humor and episodic construction… the most common complaint appears to be the running time, but it didn’t bother me at all.  I’m just not seeing what the big deal is yet.  I have more Hong waiting in the wings, so I haven’t given up.  Rating: Good (74)


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