Tuesday, October 01, 2013

In Another Country

Writes Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian:
To distract herself from money worries, a young film student sketches out three different versions of a script featuring an elegant, slightly haughty Frenchwoman (naturally, Huppert) who comes to Mohang. In the first version, she is a visiting film director; in the second, a woman having an affair with a Korean film director and in the third, she is a single woman whose husband has deserted her for a Korean man, and now she seeks guidance from a monk.

We of course see these three variations acted out on screen, interspersed with scenes showing the woman scribbling: it is a little like Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda. But the "real" story, the story of the writer's financial woes – that is left irritatingly unexamined and unresolved. Perhaps even the fiercest Isabelle Huppert fan would not expect her to give three radically different performances, and so it proves. 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.

Writes A. O. Scott in The New York Times:
Like many other films by the sly and prolific South Korean director Hong Sang-soo, “In Another Country” is at once a comedy of manners and an oblique commentary on the power of cinema to expose and alter reality. Its three chapters, each a little under a half-hour long, are scenarios dreamed up by an aspiring young screenwriter (Jung Yumi) in the midst of some vague family trouble. The movies she writes, which we see enacted on the screen (with Ms. Jung as a helpful neighbor), are variations on some of Mr. Hong’s favorite themes: social awkwardness, sexual frustration and the selfishness of Korean men.

In each vignette Isabelle Huppert plays a Frenchwoman named Anne, who finds herself the only foreigner in an overcast beach town. Whether she is a filmmaker, the lover of a filmmaker (Moon Sungkeun) or a newly divorced spiritual seeker, she finds herself entangled in an odd group dynamic made more so by her cultural and linguistic estrangement. Whatever the situation, she attracts the clumsy, infatuated attention of a lifeguard (Yu Junsang), with whom she communicates in halting, half-shouted English.

Other recurring characters include a pregnant woman (Moon Sori) and her husband (Kwon Hyehyo), whose relationship is unsettled by Anne’s presence. Anne is not precisely the same person each time. Her clothes and hair are a bit different, as is her temperament: coy when she wears red, reckless and abrasive in green. The others are sometimes rude, sometimes solicitous, and variously puzzled, exasperated and charmed by her presence.

Which might sum up the experience of this movie, which is never less than moderately interesting but only intermittently more. Mr. Hong’s playful formal ingenuity is evident in the way certain shots, scenes and events are repeated with small but significant alterations. He — or his alter ego, the fledgling writer — is pleased to show us how much he can do with a strictly limited set of elements. We notice patterns and motifs without worrying too much about the structure that governs them. Our job is not to interpret things like the repeated theft or borrowing of an umbrella, or the way certain scenes echo one another, but rather to notice that these things are there.

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