Archiv der Kategorie: Hong Sangsoo

Berlinale 2021: Reviews Part 2

By Sascha Krieger

Inteurodeoksyeon (Competition / Republic of Korea / Director: Hong Sangsoo)

A young man, a young woman. In almost timeless black and white, a distant memory, a casual story told. By whom? Who knows. Three episodes does Hong Sangsoo build around the pair. Momentary glimpses the spaces between them the viewer has to fill. The stories remain sketchy, much to guess. It’s a film about the unknowable, the other person, that enigmatic being. As so often with Hong, the camera pretends to be a neutral observer but really shapes our view. Subtle zooms, slow moves from one face to the other, it accentuates, loneliness, distance. A film not directly commenting on but being informed by the pandemic. There is just one real physical touch, right at the end, a necessary one, almost apologetic. But it sets the screen on fire, highlighting what is missing in these lives dominated by the unspoken, the unspeakable, by a never-ending series of constant withdrawal. The other remains distant. Is she looking at us, two friemds wonder when spotting one of their mothers in the distance. They don’t try and find out. Don’t bother her, the son says. Just 66 minutes long, Hong’s film is an essay on the human condistion, a semi-abstract poem, a sketchy study on the lengths we go to not to bother each other. Until it explodes in an uncalled for embrace. Black and white magic, a sigh, a cry for love. A humble masterpiece.

Inteurodeoksyeon (Image: © Jeonwonsa Film Co.Production)

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Berlinale 2020: Day 6

By Sascha Krieger

Domangchin yeoja (Competition / Republic of Korea / Director: Hong Sangsoo)

Three conversations with three women. That’s all Hong Sangsoo’s latest film is. The connecting element is a young woman visiting or happening to bump into old friends. For the first time, she’s away from her husband. They had never been apart before, he thinks it’s natural. Three times she tells this, every time is pretty much exactly the same words. Yet all we see is female bonding, sometimes awkward, often quietly understanding. Men are intruders, threats, side notes. As always in Hong’s films, he accentuates cinematic means: Zooming in, turns to the same motif as a connector between scenes, unmotivated soppy music, slightly distorted, as if played via a tape deck or radio. This creates distance and sometimes comic relief, always tinged with seriousness as in the scene a neighbor comes to compain about stray cats being fed – a masterpiece of hyper polite passive aggressiveness in which the woman stands her ground almost apparently timidly and the final say belongs to a rather confident cat. Humour is a weapon where others aren’t accepted. The film highlights the women’s independence as well as their socially demanded dependance on their male „companions“, the first woman visited has given up for good and the second ridicules quite brutally. As they straddle the fine line between emancipation and social expectation, the film keeps emphasizing its artificiality. The reality it’s clean though somewhat impersonally rigid imaged capture is fragile, almost illusory. And yet, it cannot be denied. In the end, the mountain gives way to the sea as a visual leitmotif, endless boundlessness instead of something to be overcome. Another quietly symbol to be missed at your own peril. Just like this entire beautiful film.

Domangchin yeoja (Image: © Jeonwonsa Film Co. Production)

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Berlinale 2018: Day 11

By Sascha Krieger

L’empire de la perfection (Forum / France / Director: Julien Faraut)

In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, tennis enthusiast Gil de Kerdemac produced various series of instructional films about tennis. Starting with simple dry demonstrations of techniques and movements he later started filming the greats of his day during competitive matches.  His favourite subject soon became John McEnroe, the emotional and sensitive genius of 1980s tennis. From that footage, French director Julien Faraut has constructed a film about the pursuit of perfection – in sport and in film making. He looks at McEnroe’s obsessive perfectionism but also at the evolution and techniques of the films de Kerdemac made, has both realms mirror each other and sides of the same coin. The search for perfection in the one is used as a symbol for that in the other. Which makes sense, especially when it’s done in such a light-hearted, humorous and gently ironic way. Particularly convincing are the isolation of images only looking at one player (McEnroe) and the series of the same scene from different angles. This allows us to look at the familiar in different ways, sometimes bordering on the absurd, as well as show the difference between film making and TV and the images Gil de Kerdemac produces are quite different from those of live sports broadcasts. However, the viewer grasps the point rather early on during these 95 minutes and soon – the audience’s reaction was obvious – focuses more and more on the match the film closes with, McEnroe’s 1984 French Open final against Ivan Lendl. And suddenly we’re much closer to the realm of distanced and unreflected sports TV than the film would like us to be.

L’empire de la perfection (Image: © UFO Production)

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