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NYFF 2010. While Passing Through a Film Festival, I Found Some Things I Liked

• In Hong Sang-soo’s Oki’s Movie you always know the temperature outside because of the clothing people are wearing.  It’s so cold that no one takes off their parkas and scarves inside; in fact, everyone seems to wear the same clothing inside and out—it's that damn cold.  A real mark, too, to the warmth felt in the unusually chaste (for Hong) sex scene between Lee Sun-kyun (who plays a promising young filmmaker) and Jung Yumi (who plays the titular Oki, in one of the best female performances in a Hong film), a simple little close up of two bodies cradling one another in bed.   The “warmth” is not one of tone but of temperature: the previous shot was of a freezing Lee having spent the night outside Jung's apartment (in his parka of course).  Jump cut to them nude in bed under the covers and you’ll feel warm too.

• I like how in Hong movies people, usually his lead, are silent for several scenes in a row or meditative with inconsequential inner dialog and then will erupt in the most frank declarations, demands, and outspokenness.  This often happens over drinks or in bed, and it’s so nice to see film characters take little leaps of faith, talking impassioned without thinking, so we see their simple frailty, how the scenes preceding and following reveal the inadequacies or hypocrisies of these words, but rarely damaging the naïve dignity and courage of their almost-whiney declarations.  It's almost like they've heard people should stand for something in the world, so they try to do that too.

• A simple pan, following someone walking out of or around somewhere or something, pausing in the flat middle of the cine-stage, and moving on.  Oki’s Movie is probably the least attractive looking Hong film, and probably his least sophisticated use of location (look to his other 2010 film Hahaha for the opposite of these two qualities), but it still has the quiet charm of his deadpan-nonchalant entrances and exits, a mise-en-scène primed for the ridiculous declarations mentioned above (enter as if you are strolling to school, stop and say the most profound thing on your mind, move on).

• The suggestion, as in John Gianvito’s Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, as well as most of the bodies of work of Jean-Luc Godard and the Straub-Huillet team, that everything you film has a history to it, and perhaps a metaphysical quality as well, no less tied to the history.  Thus Robinson in Ruins’ cluttered path through the English countryside looking at flowers, fences, oil pipe markers, abandoned air bases, and such, each imbued if not with post-war history than an English history older and perhaps ancient, and if not that than an even older history, as the Robinson's narration says, one predicted or preordained by the molecules of nature.  All of which has apparently lead to this current state of failure of globalized late capitalism, something Patrick Keiller implies you can read in the lopping of a flower in the wind but is more obvious in the yellow lichen growth florally adorning street side signs and mile markers.

• That cleverness of what are we actually watching, or where is this coming from.  In Keiller's film, an opening title card says that the video images that follow are based on the (film) footage and notes taken by the titular, never-shown character Robinson.  So Keiller's entire video essay is framed as a re-creation, or a reference, or an echo, or a note to another (potentially incomplete) film that is not shown.  Likewise, Oki's Movie features four short stories, but because they are all about or based on filmmaking, and all showcase variations of the same (filmmaking) characters, they could function as independent short films or as a kind of Russian dolls series of a film within a film within a film.

AMAZING FILM! We loved the director too.
Hong has been doing “chaste” sex scenes since Woman on the Beach — he says he gets less “pleasure” from filming sex and that he no longer wants to “share the burden the actors feel when I ask them to be naked”. It would be more unusual at this stage if he reverted to explicit scenes. (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen either of his 2010 films yet.)

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