aka La Caméra de Claire 2017 Written and directed by Hong Sang-soo
Hong Sang-soo continues to be an unstoppable movie-making machine, and with Claire’s Camera he continues his streak of producing high quality, entertaining films quickly and distinctively. I immediately pounced when I saw this was screening in this year’s SFIFF, but luckily had I missed it, 4-Star started screening it soon after. Which means I’ll have to make it up to 4-Star by seeing a different film there, no big deal as I don’t mind heading over there at all.
Like On the Beach at Night Alone, Claire’s Camera deals with the results of an affair involving a director, braiding the ropes of reality and fiction of his real life affair with Kim Min-hee into more artistic output. While On the Beach at Night Alone dealt more with the feminine side of a scandal and had a cathartic scene of confrontation, Claire’s Camera is more directly abstract, crystallizing the differences of before and after incidents. Some might argue that Hong is mining the same themes far too often, but he’s handling it in unique ways each time and so many other relationship films deal with similar themes, so hold all criticisms until things start actually getting stale.
Jeon Manhee (Kim Min-hee) is a buyer for films, in France along with the production company she works at, as one of their clients, Director So Wansoo (Jung Jin-young) is screening a film. She meets her boss at a cafe, where the boss Nam Yanghye (Chang Mi-hee) forces her to quit, explaining she no longer has trust in her to do the right thing. This gives Manhee time to wander around France, as she decides to spend a few days in town before heading back to South Korea. Later we learn that the director had an affair with her, and that Nam Yanghye is basically in a relationship with him, explaining the motivations. Continue reading →
aka 밤의 해변에서 혼자 aka Bamui Haebyeoneseo Honja 2017 Written and directed by Hong Sang-soo
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. Continue reading →
aka 아가씨 aka Agassi 2016 Written by Park Chan-wook & Chung Seo-kyung
Based on the novel Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Directed by Park Chan-wook
If you aren’t a fan of Park Chan-wook by now, I’m not sure what it will take to convince you to get out and see The Handmaiden. But if you are one of the millions of his fans around the globe, you know that Park Chan-wook is a force of awesomeness in the movie community, and The Handmaiden continues that tradition of awesome movies from an awesome guy. Basically, run, don’t walk, to the theaters and check out a wonderful psychological thriller. There is a trio of amazing performances by Kim Min-hee, Ha Jung-woo, and newcomer Kim Tae-ri. Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith is moved to 1930s occupied Korea, where it still manages to work in a culture of repression and male dominance.
Kim Min-hee is heiress Lady Hideko. Hideko is isolated and lorded over by her cruel uncle, Kouzuki, who covets her money and title. Her mother died in childbirth, and her aunt was found hanging in a tree when she was a child. Hideko never leaves the family estate and her only contact with outsiders is a weekly reading of erotic literature to exclusive guests. If you are familiar with the concept of that literature, some of it is ridiculous, basically the dime store erotic trash novels peppered with flowery poetry and filled with imagery that at times stretches believability that the writers have even interacted with people who have sex. Hideko’s Uncle Kouzuki has designs on becoming a Japanese nobleman despite being neither of those things and Hideko’s money and title his avenue to obtain them. Kouzuki rejects his Korean heritage in an admiration for the occupying Japanese, but his true passion is rare books, specifically the aforementioned erotic literature.
Kim Tae-ri plays Sook-hee, a gifted pickpocket and thief embedded as a handmaiden whose job it is to help convince Hideko to fall for the fake Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo — Assassination). Fujiwara has a knack for making forgeries and is just the thing Hideko’s creepy uncle needs, as he can’t bear to part with any of his rare books, but is perfectly fine with selling off faked replicas of them. This gives Fujiwara the access he needs to scope out Lady Hideko and enact his plan of seduction and asset seizure, enabled by Sook-hee as Hideko’s new handmaiden. And then it is seduction time. Continue reading →