DAILY | Cannes 2012 | Hong Sang-soo’s IN ANOTHER COUNTRY
Reviews may be mixed, but the clips are absolutely delightful.
“Beguilingly simple, relaxed in its mastery and enhanced by Isabelle Huppert’s impeccable poise, helmer-writer Hong Sang-soo’s ambivalently titled In Another Country plays like the flipside of his Paris-set Night and Day,” begins Maggie Lee in Variety. “While that 2008 film satirized Koreans’ antics abroad, the new pic makes Huppert’s ‘otherness’ a dramatic lodestone, observing not only how Koreans treat foreigners, but also how they behave toward each other in the company of strangers; their amusingly awkward interactions constitute a deeper reflection on the concept of give-and-take in love and life…. As strictly symmetrical as all Hong’s works, In Another Country adopts a triptych structure in which Huppert plays three different French women, all named Anne, who make a brief stopover at the West Blue Hotel in the seaside town of Mohang. The meta-fictional premise is that the three stories rep different versions of a script written by film student Wonju (Jung Yung-mi) as an exercise in stress management.”
In the Hollywood Reporter, Neil Young briefly sketches Huppert’s three roles: “[I]n the first section, she’s a famous film-director (who may or may not be based on Claire Denis); in the second, she’s the wife of a motor-executive who arrives in Mohang for a tryst with her film-director boyfriend; in the third, she’s a wealthy housewife recently divorced from her unfaithful husband. As each ‘Anne’ interacts with the locals—including Wonju, who works at Anne’s lodging and helps show her around—certain faces, situations and lines of dialogue recur, their effect and implications changing depending on context and delivery. Issues of infidelity are present in each story—as is the live-wire chap identified only as the Lifeguard (Yu Junsang)—who meets Anne on the beach in each of her ‘incarnations.’ These scenes involving Huppert and Yu—a TV star who’s has appeared in each of the increasingly prolific Hong’s recent features Like You Know It All (2009), Hahaha (2010) and The Day He Arrives (2011), are the comic highlights of In Another Country—wittily crystallizing the language and cultural barriers which complicate each Anne’s stay in Mohang.”
For Mike D’Angelo, writing at the AV Club, “this is pretty much the same movie Hong always makes, and while I’ve enjoyed some of his recent work (especially Oki’s Movie from two years back), I begin to fear that he’s creatively exhausted, having rung almost every possible variation from his limited set of interests: formal repetition, drunken male idiocy, the vast gulf between self-image and what others perceive, and (increasingly) the subtle neuroses of people who make movies…. Reverberations among the triptych are slight, and it almost seems as if Hong is poking fun at his own single-minded oeuvre, creating a fractal representation of how his other films obliquely interrelate. But that’s crawling quite a ways up your own ass, frankly, and the novelty of seeing Huppert in this context doesn’t much compensate.”
Dan Fainaru in Screen: “Shot with the naturally sprightly approach of the early French New Wave, moving briskly and cheerfully while dispensing amusing wisecracks, Hong offers ironic portraits of the Korean male as a self-conscious, but not particularly competent, lecher who can’t help hitting on pretty foreigners when they come their way.”
In a quick dispatch to Artforum, Melissa Anderson writes that “In Another Country forgoes much of the mortification that defines his earlier works, focusing instead on the playfulness of the stories’ architecture.” But for the Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw, “In Another Country looks very much like something written on a napkin and shot in the one afternoon that Huppert could come to South Korea. Slight, diverting, forgettable.”
Update: The LA Weekly‘s Karina Longworth writes that “as an outsider to his world and as an extremely gifted actress who nails Hong’s target of pathos rising off of goofball sex farce, [Huppert's] presence also allows Hong to not just cop to, but actually interrogate some of his favorite themes from point-blank range in a way in which I’ve never seen him do before (I’ve seen his eight most recent features). There’s one scene in which one of the Huppert characters seeks guidance from a monk. She asks, ‘What is love for you?’ And he answers, ‘Something you will have to do forever.’ To her follow-up, ‘What is sex?,’ he responds, ‘Something I will have trouble with until I die.’ That’s the driving contradiction of Hong’s work in a nutshell, and the transparency of it is weirdly poignant.”
Updates, 5/25: Daniel Kasman in MUBI’s Notebook: “Unlike The Day He Arrives‘ attention to creating an aesthetic atmosphere, In Another Country is mostly interested in the tone of communication—friendly but awkward, flirty, frustrated, limited but telling—in English between Huppert and the Korean cast, as well as the reaction of the Koreans to the appearance of a beautiful, single female foreigner. It is by continually stumbling around these exchanges, getting flustered or getting pleasure from them, that Huppert tests the world around her and herself. The highlights are the exchanges between the actress and Yun Junsang as the brash, handsome, barely fluent lifeguard of the town, part guiding post that shows up in all three stories and part sex interest, whose exaggerated, forward friendliness nearly moves the film unexpectedly towards farce.”
“The screenwriting process produces a kind of sandbox cinema in Hong Sang-soo’s In Another Country, the Korean director’s latest jazz riff on human interconnection,” writes Glenn Heath Jr. at Press Play. “The film’s beach side location may be consistent with earlier films, but its unique characterizations traverse freely outside the logic of conventional storytelling…. From its beginning, In Another Country somersaults forward, spinning and turning on a dime whenever it pleases.”
“Many elements of Hong’s esthetic court a knee-jerk comparison with Rohmer,” writes Michal Oleszczyk at Hammer to Nail, “and while he’s definitely equally fond of lazy summer settings, long scenes of uninterrupted dialogue and free-floating erotic arrangements, he’s also very much his own creation. His sense of humor much more bubbly, his images way brighter and his plots structured in a palpably looser manner, Hong is mainly interested in tiny shifts of his characters’ self-image. He doesn’t necessarily reflect on the larger moral scheme of things (his My Night at Maud’s would involve more drinking and less philosophical talk, that’s for sure). Thanks in part to his punctuation device of choice (a slight, whimsically applied zoom-in), there’s always a sense of willful artificiality to Hong’s work.”
More from Robbie Collin (Telegraph, 4/5) and Kevin Jagernauth (Playlist, B-). Dennis Lim interviews Hong for the New York Times and indieWIRE‘s Nigel M. Smith reports that Kino Lorber has picked up US rights.
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