‘In Front of Your Face’ Review: The Difference Is in the Details in Hong Sangsoo’s Latest

‘In Front of Your Face’ Review: The Difference Is in the Details in Hong Sangsoo’s Latest

7/25/2021 9:22:00 AM

‘In Front of Your Face’ Review: The Difference Is in the Details in Hong Sangsoo’s Latest

Hong Sangsoo characters have a habit of — you might even say a genius for — diffidence in the face of profundity. In that way, they’re very like the films in which they appear: outwardly casu…

characters have a habit of — you might even say a genius for — diffidence in the face of profundity. In that way, they’re very like the films in which they appear: outwardly casual, slight, polite, holding pain and truth and existential observation in check with an airy gesture, a sad smile or, in “In Front of Your Face,” the South Korean auteur’s second film this year (after the Berlin-awarded “Introduction”), an unexpected peal of utterly genuine, soul-repairing laughter.

Long-Silent Facebook Friend Comes Out Of Woodwork With Post Asking About Insulating Windows Liz Cheney: `I was wrong' in opposing gay marriage in past Amateur divers discover 'enormously valuable' hoard of Roman coins

Certainly, Sangok (the luminousLee Hyeyoung, who, like her character, gained considerable fame in South Korea decades ago but has not acted much recently) laughs at the strangest moments. A merry, musical gurgle bursts from her after she drunkenly shares her most painful secret — one she has not even confessed to her sister — with a relative stranger, whose sobbing response is much more appropriate. And again, at the very end of this wonderful, winsome tale, when the potentially important grace-note opportunity she’s been offered evaporates over a single phone message, Sangok dissolves into an infectiously rueful, joyful belly laugh. One way to rob cruel fate of its triumph is by showing that despite its dispensing life and death, it is powerless over your mood.

Sangok is a well-known ’90s actor who is now living in the States but has returned to Seoul for a visit. She’s staying with her sister Jeongok (Cho Yunhee) — whom she discovers she does not know terribly well — and has a loose plan to meet up with a celebrated Korean director (one of Hong’s frequent stand-ins, headtopics.com

Kwon Haehyo). During her stay, she breakfasts with Jeongok, sneaks a cigarette under a bridge, stains her blouse at a noodle shop and visits the house where she used to live, which is now a boutique. The encounters are banal, the dialogue eccentric, halting and very Hong Sangsoo. And yet not so, because we have already heard fragments of Sangok’s occasional internal monologue — a flourish not typical of Hong — and these little poetic shards of observation have helped us guess the nature of Sangok’s secret, even though it’s not till two-thirds through that she states it aloud.

Popular on VarietyIt can be difficult, when discussing Hong’s films, to sort the stand-alone virtues of the work in question from the manifold pleasures gained from a compare-and-contrast critique of the movie as a fragment of a greater whole, a riff on prevailing themes. But while “In Front of Your Face” presents that dilemma as well, it is less beholden to the looped rhythms and circular conversations that give a prismatic sheen to so many of Hong’s 26-title-strong feature filmography. Instead there is an unusual emotional directness to this film, which is perhaps more intimately involved with one remarkably sympathetic woman’s internal journey than any of his since the 2017 Berlin Silver Bear winner “On the Beach at Night Alone.” Even there, the story was silvery opaque and oblique; here, it is simple and possesses what can only be called

a hook, not something that Hong films can traditionally boast.The drinking scene between Sangok and the director is a case in point of the minor altered detail marking a demonstrably different atmosphere. Where there’s usually soju, here there is Chinese liquor. And where there are normally conversational games and gambits about memory and misremembering, and sly, easily retracted flirtations, here there’s an almost overt courtship happening underneath the surface exchanges, even before Sangok asks bluntly, “You want to sleep with me, don’t you?” and the director confesses he does.

With Hong wearing all available hats — as he has been doing increasingly — as writer, director, editor, composer and cinematographer (his partner and muse, Kim Minhee, does not appear on-screen but gets a line producer credit), we know it’s not by accident that even the shooting style is keyed to a slightly different register. Many of Hong’s recent films have been monochrome, or of such a deliberately blanched palette that they might as well have been. But “In Front of Your Face” features vivid pops of color: green grass, a red top, a bright blue umbrella — that burst out like Sangok’s enlivening bouts of laughter. headtopics.com

Liz Cheney: 'I Was Wrong' In Opposing Gay Marriage In Past Britney Spears Thinks These 'Cheesy' Instagram Photos Look Like Her Yearbook Pictures Lauren Patten Thanks Trans and Nonbinary 'Jagged Little Pill' Colleagues While Accepting Best Actress in a Musical

At one point, Sangok and the director are caught in a downpour and share a cigarette. She wears a trench coat. They juggle an umbrella. The alley is narrow, and at the far end a turquoise shutter frames them. It is an assemblage of Hong elements viewed from a moving point, and for a second, it fleetingly coalesces into an achingly romantic Wong Kar Wai composition. And then it flies apart again, the way all things do, the way all promises made rashly under the influence of alcohol are broken in the sober light of morning. It’s a melancholic observation, but Hong’s film and his radiant star are not made for melancholy, and so instead they laugh — at the absurdity of hoping for some castle in the air when there’s so much life all around you, always, right in front of your face.

Read more: Variety »

BP says nearly a third of its UK fuel stations running on empty

BP said nearly a third of its British petrol stations had run out of the two main grades of fuel on Sunday as panic buying forced the government to suspend competition laws and allow firms to work together to ease shortages.

Hong Kong police explain reasons for arrests over children's booksAuthorities said the children's books looked to 'beautify illegal behavior' and simplify political issues 'not comprehensible by children.' Yeah right, I bet only activists had these 'books.' International Human Rights / Democracy / Free Speech Groups Need to Be Taking Note and Making a HUGE Fuss Righ About Now!

China sanctions Wilbur Ross, 5 other Americans over Biden's Hong Kong warningsThe Chinese government imposed sanctions on Monday against six Americans, including former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in response to an advisory from the Biden administration warning businesses of the increased risks of operating in Hong Kong.Why it matters: It's the latest example of China responding furiously to U.S. attempts to shed light on human rights abuses in places like Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, which Chinese officials routinely condemn as 'interference' in domestic affairs.Ge They can have Wilbur! He's asleep. He won't notice a thing.

China sanctions Wilbur Ross, others in response to U.S. warnings on Hong KongChina imposed sanctions on former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and 6 others, in response to recent U.S. actions over Chinese threats to Hong Kong's autonomy We all should stand up for finding out the truth as to how the January 6th insurrection on our Capital happened and make all accountable! In my opinion Trump had some of the Republican Senators in on setting up the attack! Fingers crossed a 'repatriation squad' will be involved. Also ninjas.

Is it ping-pong or table tennis? Everybody's basement favorite at the OlympicsThe Olympic sport has some key differences from what you play in the basement. Table tennis? 😂 No - it’s ping pong. Whatever you call it, it’s fun to play! How did we come up with the name Ping Pong?

What's The Big Frigin' Difference?Can you spot the THREE differences in these MyKayla Skinner and Simone Biles photos? 1) Hair bun. 2) Flags. 3) extra O on floor.

Review: The many unseemly faces of FacebookGiven the controversies that have dogged Facebook (FB.O) in the past few years, the social network’s continuing domination is remarkable. A new book by New York Times reporters Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang reveals disturbing details about recent scandals and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg’s handling of the near-$1 trillion company’s growing power. Despite all the bad publicity and political outrage, there’s a nagging sense that none of it really matters, least of all to its 3 billion-plus users.