With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, October 23, 2009

ACF 399: NIGHT AND DAY reviewed

Directed by Hong Sang-soo
South Korea, 2008, 144 minutes, 35mm.
In Korean and French with English subtitles.
Distributed by IFC Films

October 23 – 29

NIGHT AND DAY, the latest film from gifted Korean director Hong Sang-soo, begins its one-week NY premiere screening today, Friday, October 23rd, 2009 at New York's Anthology Film Archives. This review is based on a screener DVD provided by AFA.

The film, the first I have seen by Hong, begins with inter-titles that inform us that it's the summer of 2007. Kim Sung-nam, a painter in his forties played by Kim Yeong-ho, has smoked pot with some U.S. exchange students. One who was arrested gave Kim's name to the police. Warned by a friend that the police may soon be coming for him, Kim left his wife and his work, and took the next flight to Paris.

We first see him outside the airline terminal, where he's having a cigarette. A young man approaches him and asks for a light. The strange and awkward scene is played out with both characters speaking in English. I have no idea why. (The movie is primarily in Korean, with subtitles.)

Kim soon sets himself up in a crowded guest house with other South Korean expatriates. Through one of them he meets Hyen-ju (actress Seo Min-jung), who shows him around a bit and clearly has feelings for him . But it's really her roommate, Lee Yoo-jung (Park Eun-hye) for whom Kim has romantic/lustful feelings. On the street, Kim also encounters a woman he had a relationship with ten years earlier.

In the midst of trying to adjust to his self-imposed exile of indeterminate length, Kim's pursuit of Ms. Lee is played off against his long-distance calls to his wife. An interesting twist brings about a resolution of sorts to his situation.

This is definitely an art house flick, and a decent enough one at that, though it has its faults. At 143 minutes, there's a bit too much running time for the somewhat thin material. Judicious pruning in the editing process would have firmed things up.

Also be advised that the camera work is minimal. The shots are overwhelmingly done with a static camera locked on a tripod. There's an occasional pan, a few tilts, and one or two zooms. This is most definitely not a film that employs cinematic pyrotechnics.

Still, director Hong knows how to tell an interesting story. Night and Day may not destined to be a classic of international cinema, but it's definitely well worth seeing.

Showtimes: Friday, October 23 through Thursday, October 29 at 6:30 & 9:15 nightly. Additional screenings on Saturday and Sunday at 3:30.

Anthology Film Archives homepage here. Or go directly to their online calendar by clicking here.

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