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Woman on the Beach

Posted by martinteller on February 13, 2013

Film director Kim Jung-rae (Kim Seung-Woo) wants to get away for a while and work on his screenplay.  He nags his production assistant Won Chang-wook (Kim Tae-woo) to come along, and Won agrees as long as he can bring his girlfriend Min-suk (Go Hyun-jung).  They head for the beach, where it’s soon revealed that Min-suk isn’t really Chang-wook’s girlfriend (to his protest and dismay) and Jung-rae starts to put the moves on her.  The trip is cut short the next day, and in the second half of the film, Jung-rae returns to the beach and another love triangle commences.

So… this is my third by Hong Sang-soo and it’s somewhat like the other two (Woman is the Future of Man and Night and Day), but that’s not too surprising since I’ve heard many of his movies are alike.  I wouldn’t say I’m warming up to his style, and overall I liked this about as much as Night and Day… good, but not exactly ringing my bells.  It’s a bit lighter in tone than the others (making it one of his “more accessible” films according to many reviewers, although I haven’t seen anything by him all that inaccessible yet) but still concerned with jerky guys and love triangles and destructive patterns of behavior.

Which is fine, except I don’t share Hong’s apparently bottomless fascination with jerky guys, love triangles and destructive patterns of behavior all that much.  But it’s different enough, and entertaining enough, to make it not feel like a repeat.  There are some nice moments of humor of a rather cynical nature.  It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but it doesn’t need to be.  For the most part I was interested in these characters and how they reconfigured their relationships and tried to figure each other out.  Not all of it rings true (Jung-rae’s weepy concern over Min-suk’s having slept with foreigners felt totally wrong, but I’ll chalk it up to cultural differences) but it’s genuine enough and has some insight.  I liked the bit with the dog, mirroring the themes going on with the humans.

Although I did enjoy this movie, I can’t help being a bit disappointed that Hong is not living up to the hype for me.  All three of the films I’ve seen so far are from the middle of his career, so I think I’ll be switching to the early stuff next.  If that proves promising, I’ll try the newer ones.  Rating: Good (75)


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