Chun-su is definitely the sort of director who needs more than one take. That
is just as true of his own life as it is with his films. Strictly speaking, he
will not know he is replaying his visit to a modestly prestigious film
festival. The ultimate results will not vary so drastically either, but sweet
regrets are much nicer than sour ones in Hong Sang-soo’s Right Now, Wrong Then (trailer here), which screens as
a Main Slate selection of the 53rd New York Film Festival.
miscommunication, Ham has come to Suwon one day before his film screens, but we
doubt he had anything better to do. While killing time, he finds himself drawn
to the shrine at Hwaseong Haeng-gung palace, possibly because Yoon Hee-jung is
also a frequent visitor there. Despite his awkwardness, Ham strikes up a
conversation, learning she is a former model who has forsaken her former life to
become a fulltime painter. She is therefore impressed to learn he is an
art-house film director transparently based on Hong.
manages to spend the rest of the day and most of the night with her, but the drunker
he gets, the more he sabotages himself. What was once a reasonably pleasant
ships-passing encounter turns out to be rather disappointing and uncomfortable
for all parties. Take two. Everything happens more or less the same, yet it is
different. Yoon initially seems sadder, but Ham is more honest. Of course,
since this is a Hong Sang-soo film, he gets just as drunk.
you enjoy Hong’s films, you will flip for RNWT,
because it represents the filmmaker at his Hong Sang-soo-iest. On the other
hand, those who are not so into him might still give it a shot, because it is
much less mannered and considerably more resonate than many of his prior films.
Still, all his hallmarks are present and accounted for. It is a defiantly talky
film, featuring a filmmaker protagonist and a bountiful stream of booze—so what’s
not to like?
the smitten Ham, Jang Jin-regular Jung Jae-young shows he also has the stuff to
hang in Hong’s neurotic world. It is fascinating to see how dramatically he
alters the colors and shadings of his performance with one small twist of the
dial. While Kim Min-hee is just as understated, she lights up the screen with
her sensitive, luminous presence. It is a wonderfully wise and sad performance
that gets richer the second time through, even though her character remains in
essentially the same headspace.
In RNWT, Hong
captures the impressionistic sense of a late night spent with an almost
complete stranger that you wish would never end almost as vividly as Zhang Lu’s
Gyeongju (which is an absolutely terrific
film). As with his previous film Hill of Freedom, Hong engages on an emotional level in RNWT, rather than just playing narrative games and reveling in
clever banter. Bittersweet and subtle (two qualities that do not go together so
often), Right Now, Wrong Then is
recommended for those who appreciate mature relationship dramedies when it
screens this Friday (10/9) at the Walter Reade and Saturday (10/10) at the
Beale, as part of the 2015 NYFF.
Labels: Hong Sang-soo, Korean Cinema, NYFF '15