Monday, February 4, 2013

In Another Country (2012)

WHO: Hong Sangsoo's fourteenth film as a director, and his first collaboration with an international movie star. Isabelle Huppert breaks the ice.

WHAT: If you've seen even a couple of Hong Sangsoo's films before, you should know what to expect. Characters drinking, smoking, talking, being unfaithful to their partners (or at least trying to be), all shot in an exquisitely distanced style that reminds us that the director is using his characters as stand-ins for himself and his peers in South Korea's world of artists and intellectuals, putting this milieu under a microscope for film festival and arthouse audiences worldwide to see.

Casting Huppert in this film makes it clear that Hong is keenly interested in the different ways Korean and foreign audiences respond to his films, his characters, and the situations held within. In Another Country is, unlike many of his films, not bifurcated into two interlocking parts. This time (like in Oki's Movie) he employs a trifurcation instead. Huppert plays three different, but not so different, women named Anna, each struggling with intercultural relationships while spending time in a small seaside village called Mohang (found in the South Korean province furthest from Kangwon Province in case you're curious). Seeing a famous French actress interacting with Hongian characters in Hongian scenarios invites the experienced Hong viewer to reflect on the ways his films serve, and perhaps more importantly, do not serve, as cross-cultural artifacts. This is a new twist for the director; it seems he's always able to come up with a knew way to frame the variations on his superficially similar themes.

WHERE/WHEN: Three showtimes daily at the Opera Plaza Cinema, from now until Thursday.

WHY: I believe In Another Country is not only the first of Hong's films to get a week-long release in a Frisco Bay commercial cinema without the support of a non-profit organization (the San Francisco Film Society presented week-long runs of two of his best films, Woman on the Beach and The Day He Arrives), but it's the first time one his films has had a commercial run here extended. It's important to support such events if we want to see a theatre chain like Landmark continue to book marginally-marketable films by important international auteurs.

HOW: Screened via a projected Blu-Ray disc.

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