For some reason, writers love boring us by writing about writer's block. And directors never tire of making movies about how hard it is to be a director, so it's fitting that the frazzled hero of this sophisticated Korean dramedy is both at once.
Kim Jung-Rae (Kim Seung-Woo) is a famous, burnt-out director, struggling to finish a script and in desperate need of a scenery change to stimulate the old creative flow. So he hits the road for a sleepy beach resort, dragging along his assistant (Kim Tae-Woo), who in turn invites his semi-girlfriend Moon-Sook (Ko Hyun-Joung) to join them. Before bags are unpacked, a love triangle's afoot, and it's fairly obvious that the older, smoother man has the moves of a jungle cat and the killer instinct to get the girl. She appeals to his vanity (she's a big fan of his work, natch) and to his creative impulses by saying things like, "The stars gets lonely if we don't look at them." The two begin having trysts in the sand and stealing moments in empty hotel rooms, but the honeymoon is startlingly short-lived. When Moon-Sook admits to having had some foreign lovers while living in Germany, Jung-Rae erupts into a tirade about Asian men's sexual inadequacy, and lashes out at her in a jealous fit. He bolts town, only to return a few days later, quickly picking up a coffee shop manager (Song Sun-Mi) who reminds him of the girl he just ran away from. Complications ensue, as the lies pile up and the deceptions start to catch Jung-Rae faster than he can charm away from them.
Fortunately, the movie has charm to spare, with a relaxed tempo, a pleasant setting and endlessly appealing actors who mellow out the otherwise cruel undercurrent of the material. Filmmaker Hong Sang-Soo's blunt critique of the irrationality of male-female relationships would be harsh they weren't so smartly observed and his conclusions earned so naturally. It's the kind of grown-up movie that rarely gets made stateside, a picture willing to take its time to make a point, unafraid of exposing its characters' deep flaws. The film is also refreshingly even-handed; while the man is an appalling cad, the ladies know what they're getting into with this bad boy, and they choose to encourage his reckless, juvenile behavior, even when they instinctively know that tears are soon to follow. Just like life. >
Showing at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-3237) at 7 p.m. Friday-Sunday, April 11-13.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.