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While Hong’s style shifts often (less in terms of camera placement, but rather in terms of narrative construction, and in his use of comedy), it is always enjoyable to sit back and see how his characters relate with each other, either positively or negatively. There is a moment – and it is, in my opinion, the best moment in Hong’s whole career – in Turning Gate in which Myung-sook sits on a bus next to Seon-young, and, while he obliviously reads, she begins to stare at him with such a knowing, and you know exactly at that point that everything that has come before is now over, and that a new moment for this film will begin. It creates a… Read more

While Hong’s style shifts often (less in terms of camera placement, but rather in terms of narrative construction, and in his use of comedy), it is always enjoyable to sit back and see how his characters relate with each other, either positively or negatively. There is a moment – and it is, in my opinion, the best moment in Hong’s whole career – in Turning Gate in which Myung-sook sits on a bus next to Seon-young, and, while he obliviously reads, she begins to stare at him with such a knowing, and you know exactly at that point that everything that has come before is now over, and that a new moment for this film will begin. It creates a palpable tension, but also a dizzying sense of joy and wonder at the craft of such a moment, when we are able to linger on her face and recognize every single emotion being put on display, even when it is ever-so-slight. That moment made me remember exactly why I love Hong Sang-soo’s films, and it might be why I find this film one of his best.

I kind of feel that Hong’s films, for me, can be separated into three tiers.

MASTERPIECES:
Our Sunhi
On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate
Nobody’s Daughter Haewon
Oki’s Movie
Virgin Stripped Bare by her Bachelors
Woman on the Beach
The Day He Arrives


Nobody’s Daughter Haewon

VERY GOOD FILMS:
Lost in the Mountains
The Power of Kangwon Province
50-50
In Another Country
Hahaha
Night and Day
Like You Know It All


Lost in the Mountains

MEDIOCRE:
Woman is the Future of Man
Tale of Cinema
The Day a Pig Fell into the Well


Woman is the Future of Man

Of course, this is all subjective, and, having first started watching Hong’s films two and a half years ago, and with rewatches of only a few of them, I feel that some of this might be inaccurate. For instance, I had a really hard time with Tale of Cinema, but maybe my expectations were elsewhere? Perhaps Night and Day was doing something unexpected? Hong always seems to be doing something “unexpected,” but I guess it’s those films that I feel most surprising that I have the hardest time with.

I feel like, for the most part, his masterpieces are almost all on par with each other, beyond Our Sunhi and Turning Gate, but with the other two portions of the list, it seems that they descend in terms of how much I enjoyed them. That said, there is a large gap between Like You Know It All and Woman is the Future of Man in terms of my own reception. And, even those films that baffled me and left me with uneasiness am I still happy to have seen, because they still feel very genuine.

Savvy

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