LFF: Jayuui Eondeok (Hill of Freedom, 2014)

BFI London Film Festival FILM FESTIVAL FILM REVIEW: London Film Festival || Seen at ICA, London, Wednesday 8 October 2014 || My Rating 3 stars good


© Jeonwonsa Film

When an acclaimed ‘world cinema’ director makes their English-language debut, it’s usually that familiar route, by filming in an English-speaking country, or getting some more bankable English-language star as the lead. Prolific Korean director Hong Sang-soo, however, may not perhaps be making the sort of films that attract interest from English-language producers, but he certainly isn’t the sort to do things in the customary way. Therefore, like last year’s Our Sunhi, what we have here is another entry in Hong’s increasingly familiar style, a sort of casual comedy of manners, still set in Korea, but with a Japanese protagonist (Ryo Kase as Mori) who doesn’t speak the local language, thus requiring most interactions to be in English. The setup is that Mori is in the country looking for an old flame, Kwon, but the framing story is her returning to find a bundle of letters from him, narrating his quest and his affair with a waitress called Youngsun (Moon So-ri). At some point near the start, Kwon drops the letters, so the scenes — flashbacks prompted by Mori’s words — come out of order. It’s all fairly slight as a setup, and indeed the running time is a very laconic 66 minutes, but there’s plenty of genuine humour, prompted by the second-language misunderstandings, the array of colourful smaller characters (including a hipster-ish Westerner), and the ersatz shooting style with its periodic zoom shots at moments of disquiet or confusion. Hong is certainly building up a persuasive body of work about feckless students and impulsive relationships, not to mention frequent scenes of drunkenness over restaurant tables, and it all serves to pass the time very agreeably.

CREDITS || Director/Writer Hong Sang-soo | Cinematographer Park Hong-yeol | Starring Ryo Kase, Moon So-ri | Length 66 minutes

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LFF: Uri Seonhui (Our Sunhi, 2013)


BFI London Film Festival 2013 FILM FESTIVAL FILM REVIEW: London Film Festival || Director/Writer Hong Sang-soo | Cinematographer Park Hong-yeol | Starring Jung Yoo-mi, Kim Sang-joong, Lee Sun-kyun | Length 89 minutes | Seen at ICA, London, Tuesday 15 October 2013 || My Rating 3 stars good


© Finecut

It takes dedication to continue making the kinds of films that Korean director Hong Sang-soo specialises in. He crafts slight, occasionally comedic relationship dramas with a handful of central characters, including at least one self-involved young man often chasing a young woman. Perhaps he’s going for a latter-day Woody Allen, and certainly his characters can at times be as infuriating as any in Allen’s comedies. Yet Hong’s films have their charms, perhaps for not sharing quite the same bitter worldview as Allen, putting him more in the company of French director Eric Rohmer.

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