In Another Country (2012)
Directed by Hong Sang-soo
In Another Country was Hong’s first film with a non-Korean lead performer—here, French actress Isabelle Huppert—but it both furthers his usual thematic concerns and foretells certain threads he’d further explore in subsequent pictures. Its tripartite structure isn’t exactly innovative for Hong, and its bemused view of the sexual foibles of Korean men is definitely not new—it underpins just about every movie he’s made. But his satire of miscommunication borne from language barriers would become one of the wittier running gags of Hill of Freedom (2014), while his use of recurring motifs across different episodes would reach an artistic zenith in his soon-to-be-released Right Now, Wrong Then.
Still, In Another Country has tantalizing merits of its own. Its opening framing-device scene suggests that these three episodes are young film student Won-joo’s (Jung Yu-mi) attempts to work through her anger toward the father that forced her and her mother Park Sook (Youn Yuh-jung) to hide out in the seaside Korean town of Mohang. But while the Huppert characters in the first two sections are puzzled by the behavior of Korean men, the Anne of the final segment—a widower whose own husband left her for a Korean woman—more readily invites their lecherous advances. Perhaps this is Won-joo’s way of leveling the gender playing field, suggesting foreign women are just as capable of this kind of behavior as Korean men? Hong, of course, refuses to explicitly say, instead observing all with his customary drollness. Kenji Fujishima (June 17, 7pm at the Museum of the Moving Image’s Hong retrospective)