Of Men and Half-Truths
The clear master of contemporary Korean filmmaking, Hong Sangsoo divides his time by teaching films and making them (often with his students), and his films reflect how one man’s two lives continue to intersect in profitable and always amusing vectors. One cannot help but feel that certain scenes of U ri Sunhi were shot in between Hong’s lectures, perhaps after the class has been dismissed and all adjourned to a fried chicken restaurant for vittles and soju.
This laid-back feel, rather than giving U ri Sunhi a slapdash or jotted-off sense, illuminates the everyday in a way that only Hong, the closest our cinema has to Eric Rohmer, can. It’s also indicative of a recent trend in Hong’s prolific filmography, beginning with the last section of Oki’s Movie (and seen earlier this year in Nobody’s Daughter Haewon, which screened in Berlin), which sees the director employing female protagonists, signified by his titles—but rather than only taking their viewpoints, he complicates matters—especially here, by “analyzing” Sunhi through the misdirected perspectives of three men in her life, all also involved in filmmaking (three Hong Sangsoos?).
In Hong’s universe, men, in particular, are compelled to define women in a misguided search for truth, which reveals more about themselves than the object of their desire. In the end, in this work of philosophy, we are left pondering something like the riddle of the Sphinx. Yes, indeed, it is another Hong Sangsoo film.Mark Peranson