The release of Korean auteur Hong Sang-Soo’s Turning Gate (2002) on DVD is a cause for celebration for cinephiles, being only the second of the director’s seven films to be released on video in this country. Ranking as one of Hong’s greatest films to date (along with 1998’s Power of the Kangwon Province and 2006’s Woman on the Beach), Turning Gate is perfectly indicative of his unique and characteristic style, capturing the everyday ephemera of chance meetings with old friends, encounters with new ones, and amorphous love affairs that never amount to anything more than a failed opportunity.
In this particular film, an actor, Kyung-Soo (Kim Sang-Kyung), takes a short vacation to visit a friend of his and ends up having two casual affairs with women: Myung-Suk (Ye Ji-Won), a dancer who is involved with his friend, and Sun-Young (Chu Sang-Mi), a fellow traveler he meets on the train. Hong’s distinctive blend of comedy and drama never sinks to the conventions of either genre, striking an ambiguous and ironic chord somewhere in between the two. Awkward silences speak louder than words in Hong’s films, as though the characters are never quite sure what to say or what they want out of life. When they do speak it is always the wrong thing, and when they decide what they want they are always wrong: self-delusion and uncertainty haunt Hong’s characters like an unwanted epithet.
The DVD, released by YA Entertainment, sports a pristine image and grammatically correct subtitles (both an improvement over Asian DVDs of other Hong films bought off eBay, with washed out colors and misspelled words), but the bonus features leave much to be desired: a short three-minute “Making of” section, and some trailers. Hopefully YA Entertainment (or New Yorker Films, who released 2004’s Woman is the Future of Man on DVD earlier this year) will follow-up soon with more films from Hong’s highly esteemed catalog.