NZIFF 2021: 당신 얼굴 앞에서 Dangsin Eolgul Ap-Eseo (In Front of Your Face, 2021)

No film festival is complete any given year of the 21st century without a new Hong Sang-soo film. In fact, so far in 2021 he’s premiered two feature films, so I’m a bit sad not to have gotten the other one as well, but this is the one that NZIFF chose to screen so here’s a review of it.

It’s simply not a film festival unless there’s not at least one new film by Hong Sang-soo, but here is this and it’s the usual delight. There’s a lot of talking, a fair amount of eating and drinking in small cafes, a stand-in for the director (Kwon Hae-hyo, who’s been in a few of his recent films), and a teasing narrative that never fully reveals its hand. Sangok (Lee Hye-young) is a former actress back in Korea after years abroad in the States, though it’s unclear why. She talks with her sister, sees her nephew, goes to visit her childhood home and then talks about a movie project with Jaewon, and that’s pretty much all the scenes. But over the course of these dialogues some ideas about mortality and work are teased out — though she’s an actress so it’s never exactly clear where acting and ‘reality’ intersect — and the film seems to be making a case for appreciating the simple and abiding pleasures of each moment, all heartily laughed off at the end.

Dangsin Eolgul Ap-Eseo (2021) posterCREDITS
Director/Writer/Cinematographer Hong Sang-soo 홍상수; Starring Lee Hye-young 이혜영, Jo Yoon-hee 조윤희, Kwon Hae-hyo 권해효; Length 85 minutes.
Seen at Light House, Wellington, Sunday 14 November 2021.