Night and Day
Directed by Hong Sang-soo
Sung-nam (Kim Yeong-ho), the latest of director Hong Sang-soo's caddish male specimens, is the very embodiment of superfluity. An expat who doesn't speak the local language, a painter who never paints, a married man who crudely, awkwardly pursues new romantic possibility, he's the not-so-innocent abroad whose exile would be poignant if it weren't put to such aggressively questionable uses.
Fleeing Korea for Paris amidst impending drug charges, Sung-nam's interaction with the French capital remains confined entirely to the ex-pat community, most notably a pair of female art students, one of whom he quickly decides he's in love with. As he passes the time with these young women (and others, including an ex-girlfriend), Night and Day picks apart the interplay of desire and uncertainty with typical Hongian precision. The filmmaker may be merciless but he isn't unfair: Even as he lays bare Sung-nam's largely unscrupulous desires, they're tempered by a small degree of moral regret and an accompanying, if understandable, indecisiveness on the women's part.
Seizing on a series of running motifs and recurring images (the ongoing question of whether or not one character likes oysters, that same character's bare feet sticking out of a blanket), Hong ties emotional nuance to situational detail, filtering the uncertainty of feelings through an endless series of frequently awkward exchanges. If, in the end, Sung-nam remains remarkably lacking in any sort of self-knowledge, then thanks to its exact rendering of the subtle ebbs and flows of that character's interactions with the opposite sex, the film places the viewer in a far more privileged position.
October 23-29 at Anthology Film Achives