That is what it has become difficult to speak of a film by Hong Sang-soo… Because, obviously, the viewer is entered into a form of familiarity with his work – almost a film per year since 2004 – which led to ownership in a personal way. A set of films that is gradually a full-fledged genre, where you scruterait the resemblances, the repetitions and other similarities, the image of the cinema of Woody Allen. But also, because these famous films, of an apparent simplicity, an extension of the same motifs, the same movements, the same universe and the same characters from one film to the other. And it is this form of ” sérialesque “, which one would expect the new opus, which makes it difficult for their apprehension and finally loses its value, without these intercommunications and exchanges with the earlier works.

A cinema of which it is difficult to speak as the drama (or lack thereof) is based on details – a crop here, an exchange of look which requires a very accurate idea of the mise en scene, which itself is almost transparent. There would be so much to say about the reasons present in ONE DAY WITH, ONE DAY WITHOUT, which discuss and refer to previous works of the director : clever arrangement of the story (the role of music, a sort of refrain that wraps up the tale) ; the microcosm ultra-closed ; neighbourhood cinema ; chance encounters are more or less ephemeral ; ambulation urban nights as days ; drunkenness tragi-comic in long scenes dialoguées filmed in plan-sequence ; same characters “sick” or lost (often artists or film-makers) to repressed desires, between lies and separations…

This new “opus” so, has the peculiarity of telling, in two small films, one-hour, the same story. Finally, only in appearance. Far from a filmmaker’s formalist – j’hear by a filmmaker of plastic, which wishes to create new forms for ecstasy, immersion or sometimes just fun – Sang-soo strives to reflect on the medium, and his way of doing cinema, even if it does not pass through the image processing. Through its constructions of narrative exploded – it shows two times the same scenes, with the only changes, micro-details, such as a look, a gesture or a line of dialogue – cinema is small-bounces and tiny little variations.

“Beyond the enjoyment of playing with fireworks cinematographic refilmant the same scenes, Hong Sang-soo invites them to look more precise on the characters.”

Beyond the pleasure of playing with the artifice of film in re-filming the same scenes, it invites you to look even more precise on the characters. It was already in itself the principle of the famous sequence shots, where Sang-soo was his plan in the long term, in order to exalt the slightest deviation, whether it is tone, attitude, temperature, or staining… And of course it is in those moments that he shows his ability to capture the real, that is to say, his perception of human nature. Unique moments that reveal the universal power of his art – the koreans have never been as close to us as in his movies – and especially an emotional power that, by the economy of means (a plan and a dialogue), returns to filmmakers absolutely essential, such asOzu, Eustache or Buñuel. Being a keen observer of his world, Sang-soo films (that) what he knows. Hence the impression of a microcosm closed, self-centered on this universe populated by intellectuals. But it will, as and to extent, reduce or rather condense some of its grounds (which aspect here two small movies in one), to keep only the essential, which is very rare in the contemporary cinema. This feeling of shortening is also found in a filmmaker like Philippe Garrel, whose gaze on the female (often embodied by “groupies” in Korean) seems to be born of the same misunderstanding.

And if it is necessary to remember that a motif characteristic of his art, that of the gaze arrives at the head. And especially the way in which his camera takes it over (via the zoom), and invites him in. It should also be noted that the precise role played by alcohol in Sang-soo, and the many bars, places of contradiction par excellence, where sexual desires, pent-up and conceited face and then burst. Uninhibited, the characters are often involved in their most beautiful feeling, such a declaration of love unexpected. But this intoxication, at once liberating and pathetic, may sometimes take a sharp turn for the melancholic ; that which gives this stretching exercise too exhausting for the character and for the viewer – a tone tragi-comic contrast with the banality of the situations and chance encounters. Then a simple look down to change a scene in a deep sadness, a different gesture, all too brief, can cause the hilarity is greater. Has the image of this scene where the main character takes her clothes off literally in front of the guests outraged. There are always inversions and of the marks within these long sequences dialoguées, the atypical structure ofONE DAY WITH, ONE DAY WITHOUT proves educational and exciting.

In the end, what really charms us and enchants us with the films of the Korean director, is that beyond their apparent lightness, they offer gently to us, without moralism or cynicism. Unpredictable and dreamlike, the atmosphere of these short films, warm and alive, fascinates us by its detail and carries us away by its musicality. The image of the characters who earn a thick novel and a sincerity that is beautiful, almost unique in the cinematic landscape today. And this, in spite of their shortcomings properly in humans, including Sang-soo grabs and draws the features with a psychology that is never tiring, as they always addressed with transparency (the characters speak to them alone). So although the gravity of some of the characters is swallowed, or does not exhaust, the life itself ; it is a decline in saving that retains the film-maker with respect to the real. And it is in this that it is one of the great.

Antoine Gaudé



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