With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ACF 1434: THE DAY HE ARRIVES reviewed; opens in NY on Friday

 The Day He Arrives / Book chon bang hyang
Directed by HONG Sangsoo 
South Korea, 2011, 8079 minutes 
When: Opens Friday, April 20, 2012 in NYC
Followed by national release
Where: Lincoln Plaza Cinema
1886 Broadway, NYC
 Map and directions here
A Cinema Guild Release

The Day He Arrives is the latest release from South Korean director HONG Sangsoo. Like many of his films, the protagonist is a film director. Seongjun (YU Junsang) made four films, then moved to Daegu, in the south-eastern area of the country, where he now teaches. The film takes place entirely in Seoul, to which he has returned to visit his friend Youngho (KIM Sangjoong). Upon arriving, Seongjun is unable to reach Youngho. He spends the evening first with three young film students, then visits Kyungjin (KIM Bokyung), a former girlfriend that he hasn't seen for two years.

Kyungjin and Seongjun

The next day he hooks up with Youngho, who's with his female friend Boram, who teaches -- surprise! -- film. Youngho, who is divorced, clearly has amorous feelings towards Boram. That evening the three of them go to a bar called "Novel." The bar's proprietress, Yejeon, bears an uncanny resemblance to Kyungjin, Seongjun's former girlfriend. (KIM Bokyung does double duty as both characters.)

The next two nights of Seongjun's visit are again spent at "Novel." There are various repetitions that occur. The proprietress is not at the bar when they arrive. Someone joins Seongjun after he steps outside to have a cigarette. Yejeon goes out to buy food from a nearby store. But these repetitions often include variations that are intriguing and somewhat mysterious, especially because none of the characters seem to notice them.

Boram, Youngho and Seongjun

Visually The Day He Arrives differs in two ways from the other four HONG films that I've seen. First off, it's in black and white, not color. Personally I found this change was quite suitable to HONG's material and aesthetic. His movies can reasonably be likened to a cinematic counterpart to George's description of the show that he and Jerry pitched on Seinfeld: "a show about nothing." In HONG's films much time is spent wandering around doing mundane, routine things such as sitting in a park, waiting to get a haircut, and most often of all, eating and drinking. Nothing much seems to happen. But what's always going on is an intriguing, often wryly witty exploration of relationships between the characters. The use of black and white seemed to bring this more into the forefront.

Another variation pertains to HONG's trademark zooms. Here he sometimes employs pans and tilts in conjunction with the zooms. The effect is a much more "cinematic" look, a gentle illusion of camera movement when it actually remains mounted on a non-moving tripod. HONG does continue to eschew tracking or dolly shots. This approach may be for aesthetic or financial reasons or both. Personally, I believe it's to allow for quicker set-ups and tear-downs, thereby reducing the cost of filming.

Seongjun and Yejeon

The Day He Arrives opens in New York this Friday; a national release will follow. While I've enjoyed and appreciated the other four films by him that I've seen thus far, I liked TDHA the most. MY ACF Rating for it is 3.5 out of four stars; very highly recommended.

Also keep in mind that the U.S. theatrical premiere Oki's Movie, one of two HONG films released in 2010 (the other being the comedy Hahaha) continues here in NY through April 22nd. (My review of Oki's Movie here.)

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