the working class seaside village of Mohang, there is not a lot to do except
drink. Fortunately, that is what Hong
Sang-soo’s characters do best. Intimacy
on the other hand is a problem, especially for a trio of French women stumbling
through cultural and linguistic barriers.
Isabelle Huppert plays all three of them in Hong’s sort of English
language debut, In Another Country (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
debt collectors, film student Wonju and her mother are laying low in a sleepy
Mohang inn. To pass the time, she starts
writing a screenplay very much in the style of Hong Sang-soo. It is a triptych in which the French expat
Anne comes to the very same hotel under different circumstances, yet has similar
experiences each time.
first Anne is an accomplished filmmaker, who tries to discourage the attentions
of a drunken colleague with a very pregnant wife. The second Anne is cheating on her wealthy
husband with an almost famous film director.
The third Anne bitterly resents her ex-husband leaving her for a Korean
woman, but it is not hard to understand why he dumped her. In each case, she flirts with the meathead
lifeguard with varying degrees of ambiguity, half communicating through their broken
Country is just so Hong
Sang-soo, but the tone is a bit lighter than Oki’s Movie or The Day He Arrives. Nor is it as self consciously
post-modern in its approach to narrative.
Each of the three Annes’ stories are discrete and completely self
contained (though take 2 includes a dream sequence that could almost count as a
fourth strand). In fact, it is a rather
sunny film, taking long walks on the beach and chatting amiably with the cute
but shy Wonju, who also appears in each arc as the daughter of the hotel
it is rather fascinating to watch Huppert brings successively darker shades to
each Anne. Frankly, the third is a bit
of a pill, whereas the flawed but self-aware second is the most fully
developed. Yu Junsang, the only other
constant besides Jung Yumi’s pleasant but rather inconsequential Wonju, is a
perfectly believable lunk, but his best dramatic moments come during the first
go-round. However, Youn Yuh-jung, the veteran
leading lady of Korean television and cinema, is absolutely perfect as Anne #3’s
academic friend Park Sook (and appearing as Wonju’s mother in the opening
segmentas well). Smart, somewhat tart
tongued, and likably world weary, she brings some real verve to the talking and
is a chatty film, utilizing English as a second language, so communication
is always an issue. The manner in which
Hong repeats certain key phrases is often very droll, but there are no great
profundities to be found here. That is
not necessarily a bad thing. Watching
Hong’s latest is like falling in with a group of strangers at a party who are
amusing for an evening, but you don’t really want to make a habit of seeing
afterward. Again, if they are good for
some laughs, that is not so terrible.
For Hong and Huppert’s fans, it works quite well. Recommended accordingly, In Another Country opens this Friday (11/9) at the Lincoln Plaza
Labels: Hong Sang-soo, Isabelle Huppert, Korean Cinema, Youn Yuh-jung