In Another Country: Charmingly Ephemeral

Yu Jun-sang and Isabelle Huppert
Kino Lorber, Inc.

Hong Sang-soo's films consist of a few familiar items — empty Soju bottles and seaside views among them — being minutely rearranged, with a niggling attention to obscure issues of composition that, seen in passing, might almost be taken for monomania or mild brain damage. Hong's 13th film, In Another Country, is aptly structured as a sequence of reworked drafts. Composed of a series of long-shot setups interrupted by late-period Rossellini zooms, it's a triptych of stories set in a beachfront boarding house. Each segment introduces the same cast of stock characters — the caretaker (Jung Yumi), a philandering film director and his pregnant wife (Kwon Hae-hyo and Moon So-ri), and a visiting Frenchwoman named Anne. Anne is played by a flitting and fretful Isabelle Huppert in multiple incarnations: as a filmmaker, as a married woman meeting her lover for a rendezvous, and as a recently divorced woman looking to escape her life. As Anne makes her way about in imprecise common-ground English, the crux of each segment is her glancing, socially discouraged encounter with a demonstrative, friendly lifeguard (Yu Jun-sang). As ever, Hong is attentive to the particular caginess of male-female relationships in his culture, here a covetousness that masquerades as protectiveness: "You must be careful about that kind of Korean man," various Annes are advised — "that kind" invariably meaning those who aren't around to speak up for themselves. The cumulative impression is of figures being lightly traced in the sand only to be inevitably washed away, intentionally ephemeral and quite charming for it.

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