It’s clear that South Korean director Hong Sang-soo knows a thing or two about human relationships, of longings, self-delusions, attitudinal dead ends, and, once in a very miraculous while, he has a revelation or insight suggesting a new way to conduct them. On the basis of six heralded films, including 2004’s Woman Is the Future of Man (his only one before Woman on the Beach to have gained distribution in the U.S.) Hong has been labeled an Asian Rohmer. At first glance he seems to have learned lessons directly from the French master in how to tell conversation-heavy, behavior-observant stories by means of an “economic” visual grammar, which in Hong’s case includes long, patient single takes punctuated here and there by zooms or intrusive (and sometimes incongruously light) soundtrack music.
But Hong’s worldview is remarkably distinct. Constructively cynical and optimistically disillusioned, he maintains an unclouded perspective on the expedient reasons underlying human interactions, particularly those of his stunted male characters, who, blessed with artistic intelligence but lacking in emotional maturity, are some of the most real to be seen on current art-house screens. Click here to read the rest of Michael Joshua Rowin’s review of Woman on the Beach.
Also, earlier: Jeff Reichert on Woman on the Beach.