On the Beach at Night Alone (Review)

On the Beach at Night Alone

aka 밤의 해변에서 혼자 aka Bamui Haebyeoneseo Honja
On the Beach at Night Alone movie Korean
Written and directed by Hong Sang-soo
On the Beach at Night Alone movie Korean
Hong Sang-soo has gone into overdrive, releasing three films in 2017. While you’d worry that this might lead to a reduction in quality, On the Beach at Night Alone shows that this is not the case. There is still plenty amazing in these smaller productions even as they threaten to be released at a pace where it will be hard to keep up! Luckily, good ol’ 4Star Theater still shows these, so I hoofed it over (aka drove) for a late night screening.

The hallmarks of Hong Sang-soo are all over the place. The long takes with dialogue driven scenes and minimal set up at locations. The film is divided into two parts, a shorter Part 1 takes place in Germany, while the longer Part 2 is back in Korea upon Young-hee’s return. There is also something weird going on, a mysterious guy who no one can see but seems to be around. Of course he represents something. It’s no mystery why his films drive the art house critics wild. Hong Sang-soo has become so prolific recently that I’ve begun to slip catching up with his work. That’s entirely my fault, but real world business conspiring with Hong Sang-soo pumping out a ton of neat films becomes yet another thing that I need to catch up on once I’m done studying

The entire film is built on Kim Min-hee being as awesome as possible. It’s great to see her again, and to be honest I was more interested in watching her again after The Handmaiden than caring that Hong Sang-soo was directing. Sure, I knew the rumors that they had an affair (later confirmed, and basically the basis for part of the story here), but weird things like can often lead to even better performances. And they do, Kim Min-hee owns this movie’s bones, Young-hee becoming one of the most complete and complex female characters of the year. Despite the airs of one who is contemplative of her situation and recovering from a scandal that forced her to seek a vacation away from it all, she is her own person and busts the expected attitude of a star upside its head. She is confrontational, openly admitting that she is destructive, describing herself as a a bomb. She knows she is going to cause scenes, because her life is let so full that she just can’t help it. It is who she is, she just marches in and causes a scene no matter where she ends up. Even her attempts to be good and find herself just end in herself being there all along and doing what it pleases.
On the Beach at Night Alone movie Korean

While the film is about Young-hee, it is also about the reactions of people around her. As the bombs go off, there are spectators and innocent bystanders at the tables as Young-hee casually tosses around her opinions and rage. People at the table looking on in embarrassment and trying not to reveal how much they don’t want to be there when she is having her long-awaited confrontation with the director that she had the affair with. Her return to Korea and reuniting ith her old group of friends, which she seems aloof and barely remembers. Later she goes on a whole rant about love while they can do little but occasionally interject, rolled over by the full force of her conversations.

Young-hee’s more conservative friend in Germany basically becomes a wall for her to bounce her conversations off of. While Young-hee goes along with the fantasy of leaving to find herself, it’s clear that despite all the talk and ideas about doing things for herself, she still longs for the excitement of the affair, and desires him to join her there. Every word of her dismissal of how she doesn’t mind if he shows up or not betrays her.

Throughout it all is the mysterious, faceless person who bothers the two women at the park (they agree to leave before he gets close) and then later is seen carrying away the unresponsive Young-hee as Part 1 concludes. He’s the embodiment of her real desires taking control. Despite all her talk, she’s still wanting the big life, wanting to do what she wants and not walk back into the shadows of her life. This air of magical realism gives the film an extra punch of things to dissect, which is always fun. Generally I don’t read reviews of films I’m planning to write about until after I’m done, but I did check out what people were saying after I finished my draft here, and there are some disagreements on what represents what, which is a healthy sign of a good film more often than it is of bad reviewers.

On the Beach at Night Alone was thrilling actress-driven cinema that thanks to the barebones approach was allowed to focus full force on the performance that makes the film. This is definitely art house cinema, but it’s good cinema, and it is a type of film that doesn’t get its due thanks to the perception that the audience for it is limited. It may be limited, but it shouldn’t be, and this is a good film to use as a trial run to check out Korean film that isn’t the mainstream thrillers that get all the internet press.
On the Beach at Night Alone movie Korean

Rated 8/10

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On the Beach at Night Alone movie Korean

On the Beach at Night Alone movie Korean

On the Beach at Night Alone movie Korean

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Written by Tars Tarkas

Tars Tarkas

Runs this joint!