Yourself and Yours (당신자신과 당신의 것) – ★★★☆☆

Yourself and Yours (당신자신과 당신의 것)

Synopsis: When aspiring artist Young-soo (Kim Joo-hyuck) discusses his intention to marry Min-jung (Lee You-young), the idea is laughed at by a close friend (Kim Eui-sung). Clearly offended, Young-soo demands answers – and hears of the rumours that Min-jung has been meeting and drinking with different men around the neighbourhood. Deeply hurt, Young-soo confronts Min-jung about the rumours – all of which she denies – and following the fight she decides to leave. Young-soo desperately wants to make things right with Min-jung – but what is the truth?

Young-soo hears rumours his girlfriend is meeting other men

Notions of truth, jealousy and trust are playfully explored through director Hong Sang-soo‘s Yourself and Yours, with the film navigating such potentially dramatic material with the charismatic whimsy audiences have come to expect from the celebrated auteur. Whereas director Hong’s previous film Right Now Wrong Then explored the ramifications of truthfulness in a relationship, Yourself and Yours takes a markedly different approach. While Young-soo’s suspicions initially drive the couple apart, Min-jung is presented in the sequences that follow in completely different personas, seemingly not recognising past acquaintances and behaving erratically.

The film doesn’t provide any simple answers for the situations that arise – perhaps Min-jung has a disorder; perhaps the sequences are purely from Young-soo’s jealous mind – but that’s seemingly not particularly important as audiences are swept along the journey due to the quirky interactions and comedically awkward moments. What the narrative does appear to embrace is that control within a relationship is folly and that compromise is a necessity, while identity is a fluid construct that alters depending on how a person wishes to present themselves. Traditional answers are not the ultimate goal of Yourself and Yours, rather, it’s a charismatic journey of discovery and one that fans of director Hong will undoubtedly appreciate.

Min-jung meets writer Jaeyoung at a cafe, yet her behaviour is erratic

Verdict:

Yourself and Yours is a whimsical exploration of identity and trust within modern relationships, featuring charismatic performances by all involved yet particularly by Lee You-young. Those unfamiliar with director Hong Sang-soo’s work might be a little perplexed, but for the converted Yourself and Yours is real treat.

★★★☆☆

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Reviews

Hong Sang-soo Brings ‘The Day After’ and ‘Claire’s Camera’ to Cannes

Having a film selected to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival is an incredible achievement – having two is quite extraordinary. Yet that is precisely what director Hong Sang-soo has done, as The Day After (그 후) and Claire’s Camera (클레어의 카메라) are due to be screened, with both films starring actress Kim Min-hee.

Selected for the ‘In Competition’ category, The Day After will premiere on May 22nd.

Synopsis: “It is Areum’s first day of work at a small publisher. Her boss Bongwan loved and recently broke up with the woman who previously worked there. Today too, the married Bongwan leaves home in the dark morning and sets off to work. That day Bongwan’s wife finds a love note, bursts into the office, and mistakes Areum for the woman who left.”

Claire’s Camera is located within the ‘Special Screenings’ section, and will premiere on May 21st. The film was shot last year while the Cannes Film Festival was operating, and stars celebrated French actress Isabelle Huppert. This is the duo’s second film together following In Another Country (다른 나라에서) in 2012.

Synopsis: “On a business trip to the Cannes Film Festival, Manhee is accused of being dishonest, and fired. A teacher named Claire goes around taking photos with a Polaroid camera. She gets to know Manhee and sympathizes with her. Claire is like a person who can see Manhee’s possible future or past selves, through the mysterious power of the beach tunnel. Through taking photos, Claire has acquired the ability to look slowly at things, and to transform objects. Now, Claire goes with Manhee to the café where she was fired.”

Film News
Haewon meets Seong-joon, the married professor with whom she has an on-and-off affair

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (누구의 딸도 아닌 해원) – ★★★★☆

Nobody's Daughter Haewon (누구의 딸도 아닌 해원)

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (누구의 딸도 아닌 해원)

Director Hong Sang-soo’s (홍상수) 14th feature film Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (누구의 딸도 아닌 해원) is a wonderfully charming and beautifully endearing tale. The film received it’s world premiere at Berlin before invitations to festivals throughout Europe, the Americas, Asia and Oceania, which are a testament to not only director Hong’s popularity but also for the seemingly effortless sincerity captured within the story.

Fans and newcomers alike will find much to enjoy from Nobody’s Daughter Haewon. Director Hong has infused the film with his trademark nuanced style, employing a subtle and understated method that belies the depth and symbolism within, while also referencing previous works. Yet the film is also notably given heart and soul by the quite lovely performance of Jeong Eun-chae (정은채) as Haewon, a young woman struggling to reconcile her identity and place in the world.

Haewon meets Seong-joon, the married professor with whom she has an on-and-off affair

Haewon meets Seong-joon, the married professor with whom she has an on-and-off affair

Haewon (Jeong Eun-chae (정은채) is a lonely film and acting university student who, due to her attractiveness and strength of character, is often set apart from her classmates. When her mother announces that she intends to live in Canada, Haewon’s loneliness increases dramatically leading to a reunion with married professor Seong-joon (Lee Seon-gyoon (이선균), with whom she has an on-and-off affair. As the couple begin to rekindle their feelings for each other through dates at a traditional park and an old hiking trail, their interactions become increasingly fraught.

Director Hong’s seemingly effortless, almost meandering style perfectly captures the inner turmoil of his lead protagonist. His deceptively simple camera movements and mise-en-scene may appear whimsical at first glance, which is indeed part of the film’s charm, yet there is also symbolic depth within every frame. The empty – and previously restricted – park, the uphill struggles of hiking, the overbearing statues and so forth all emphasise Haewon’s evolving psychology following the departure of her mother and rekindling of a self-destructive relationship. Director Hong employs such aesthetics in conjunction with his trademark ‘repetition with difference’ sequences, and as such each time an interaction is conducted the subtle changes produce alternative meanings and endings that are fascinating to watch unfold. In constructing such repetition seamlessly within the story, each ‘chapter’ – or rather reenactment – is a product of Haewon’s diary entries or dreams adding further allure as she is very much in control of the unfolding events, further accentuated through her occasional narration.

Haewon's dreams and diary entries mark different 'chapters', or rather renactments, within the film

Haewon’s dreams and diary entries mark different ‘chapters’, or rather reenactments, within the film

This would of course mean very little if Haewon was unlikeable, however actress Jeong Eun-chae is wonderfully charismatic throughout. In what is arguably her breakout role, Jeong Eun-chae infuses her character with strengths and flaws in equal measure, conveying a nuanced complexity that is mesmerizing. It’s not so much that her performance is perfect, but that when over-acting or stoicism appears it is wholly natural within the context of the scene. When Haewon meets actress Jane Birkin in the early stages of the film, for example, the awkwardness and slightly cringeworthy moments express not only being star-struck but also Haewon’s desire for a mother-figure to admire and be valued by. Jeong Eun-chae is also great at adapting Haewon as a slightly different person for each repetitive sequence, also symbolised by her striking red and autumnal coloured clothing. The subtle changes, as well as the criticisms and compliments that come her way, are all indicative of a young woman attempting to establish her identity through dreams and diary recollections, and are consistently lovely to watch unfold.

That said, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon will not be for everyone. Critics of director Hong’s style will undoubtedly find the same issues within this film as they have in his previous works. The story does indeed meander; the plot doesn’t progress particularly far due to the repetitive nature of scenes; the intellectual male characters are all indicative of contemporary masculine immaturity. Ultimately it will be down to individual viewers tastes whether such themes are a source of charm or frustration. Yet for fans and audiences interested in non-cliched representations of modern relationships, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon will be a refreshing delight.

Haewon and Seong-joon awkwardly meet another couple in a similar situation at Namhan Fortress

Haewon and Seong-joon awkwardly meet another couple in a similar situation at Namhan Fortress

Verdict:

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon is an incredibly charming and quite lovely film by director Hong San-soo. In depicting lonely film and acting student Haewon as she rekindles an affair with her married professor, a deceptively simple and subtlety nuanced film about identity and direction is constructed, employed through the director’s trademark aesthetics. Jeong Eun-chae is wonderfully charismatic and gives a career best as Haewon. While the story does meander and the male characters are quite immature, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon is a delightful and refreshing tale of modern relationships.

★★★★☆

Busan International Film Festival (제18회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Festivals 2013 Reviews
Our Sunhi (우리 선희)

‘Our Sunhi’ (우리 순희) gets a Trailer and Invitation to Locarno Film Festival

Our Sunhi (우리 순희)

Our Sunhi (우리 순희)

Director Hong Sang-soo’s (홍상수) latest film Our Sunhi (우리 순희) has been invited to Switzerland’s prestigious Locarno International Film Festival, which is due to commence on the 7th of August.

The film tells the story of Sunhi (Jeong Yu-mi (정유미) who, after graduating with a degree in film, returns to university seeking a letter of recommendation from a professor in order to continue her studies in America. Yet Professor Choi (Kim Sang-joong (김상중) is not simply content to give the letter as he likes her, and attempts to give advice for Sunhi’s future. Complicating matters further, Sunhi meets two other men from her past – film director Moon-soo (Lee Seon-gyoon (이선균) and veteran filmmaker Jae-hak (Jeong Jae-yeong (정재영). As they enter her life once more all three men seemingly can’t control their liking of the young woman, and continue to hang around her acting as mentors.

Our Sunhi  is director Hong’s 15th film, and will feature within the ‘Concorso Internazionale’ program of the festival, where it will also receive its world premiere. Please see below for the trailer, which also has English subtitles.

Film News
Cork Film Festival

Cork Film Festival 2011 to screen 2 Korean Films

Cork Film Festival

Poster for the Cork Film Festival, designed by Jimmy Lawlor

From November 6-13th, the Corona Cork Film Festival (CFF) will get underway, celebrating Irish filmmakers and also showcasing international films.

The festival opening gala will be Like Crazy (USA, 2011) which received the Grand Jury prize at Sundance Film Festival, while Toomelah (Australia, 2011, Official Selection Un Certain Regard at Cannes) will close the event. Highlights will also include a focus on Romanian Short Films, an exploration of the Japanese Film Festival 2011, and a retrospective on Portuguese filmmaker Edgar Pera.

As for the offers from Korea, CFF will screen  Jeon Kyu Hwan‘s (전규환Dance Town (댄스 타운) and Hong Sang Soo‘s (홍상수)  The Day He Arrives (북촌 방향). Both films have been making waves internationally through festivals during the past few months.

See here for the incredibly designed interactive festival programme.

Also, as a taster for the CFF, see below for trailer of The Day He Arrives.

Festival News Festivals 2011