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The Power of Kangwon Province

Posted by martinteller on February 19, 2013

Three girlfriends are havig a brief getaway in the mountain region of Kangwon Province: Ji-sook (Yun-hong Oh), Misun (Sunyoung Im) and Eunk-young (Hyunyoung Park).  Ji-sook is kind of the odd one out, and there’s friction in the group that gets exacerbated by alcohol.  She hooks up with a young, married policeman (Yoosuk Kim) and later returns to visit him.  In the second part of the story, we see two male friends also visiting Kangwon at the same time.  Sangkwon (Jong-hak Baek) and Jaewan (Jaehyun Chun) are both professors.  But Sangkwon is looking for a new job and he’s also getting over an affair.  So the two friends go to get away from it all.  Again, tempers flare up a bit when the two get inebriated.  In the end, we learn of a connection between the two stories.

Although Woman is the Future of Man was my first complete Hong film, I had managed to watch the first 20 minutes of this before that.  It seems to be a rather divisive work in his catalogue, with some praising it as one of his best and others being very let down.  But I was intrigued by what I saw… the fragmented narrative, slow unfolding, and interesting framing gave it an air of mystery.  I was sure that after being slightly disappointed by the other Hongs I’d seen, this would be much more my speed.

And my instincts were right.  Although I wasn’t totally captivated, this one dug into me a lot more.  The themes of disconnection and awkward human fallibility resonated with me much more… it felt closer to Tsai than Rohmer to me, and that’s more in my wheelhouse.  There’s a lot of subtle and overt plays on the theme, many scenes where seemingly nothing important is happening but it gracefully adds on to the idea that people just aren’t on the same wavelength.  Missed connections, botched connections, non-connections.

I also really liked the performances here.  All the characters felt very genuine, more honest portrayals than some I’ve seen in Hong’s later movies.  Yes, we see jerky guys again, but they felt deeper and more nuanced to me.  There’s also some nice bits of humor, and although the tone is ultimately cynical, it doesn’t seem quite so mean-spirited.  More of a sadness.  This film has encouraged me to continue exploring Hong, though I think I’ll stick to his earlier films for a while.  Rating: Very Good (84)

IMDb
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