Already considered one of the forefathers of the new Korean cinema, South Korean auteur Hong Sangsoo continues to pursue a distinctive style that challenges conventional cinema. Fresh from winning the Un Certain Regard prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for “Ha Ha Ha,” he continues his current creative streak with “Oki’s Movie,” further evidence of a visionary filmmaker undaunted by the whims of the market.
In a multipart narrative divided into four chapters, Hong fashions a new kind of love triangle. Oki is a young and beautiful college student majoring in film production and torn between the affections of two men: an older cinema professor and a former student/budding filmmaker. As the story shifts perspectives and timelines, Hong depicts each relationship with the authentically awkward rhythms of real life.
Rather than following the conventions of movie romance, Hong turns “Oki’s Movie” into a formally irreverent exercise in minimalism. A calming, mostly static visual palette evokes documentary style and imposes a kind of moral perspective on the three lovers. Ascetic in sensibility, the more Hong’s camera probes the cruder side of love, the more it shows up the baseness of romantic jealousy and competition.
The balance of tones in Hong’s films is always complex. Here he instills this love story with his unique brand of humor, but it is mixed with heartfelt melancholia. The film builds to a genuinely moving ending. But, disdainful of simplistic storytelling, Hong makes sure to wind his way to the finish with elaborate plotting and an insider’s sense of living within cinema.
Sparse, relaxed and jarringly real, “Oki’s Movie” bravely rejects easy classification. It is the work of a self-assured artist unafraid to expose the inner worlds of his characters to reveal their flawed humanity. [Synopsis courtesy of Giovanna Fulvi/Toronto International Film Festival]