Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors [2000]

Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, a droll, enigmatic, structurally ingenious and formally audacious commentary on relationships in contemporary urban Korea, and anything but what the rather sleazy sounding title might allude to (it was, rather, a reference to Marcel Duchamp’s abstract artwork The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors Even aka The Large Glass), must surely rank as Hong’s most definitive and important works. The incredibly modernist yet aesthetically muted film portrayed the burgeoning romantic liaison between Jae-hoon (Jeong Bo-seok), an affluent young guy, and Soo-jung (Lee Eun-ju), a demure screenwriter closely working with Jae’s old buddy and struggling filmmaker Young-soo (Moon Sung-keun), who too is interested in Soo. In a startling creative choice, the film was split into two halves comprising of roughly the same set of events but shot through different perspectives. In the first half, chronicled through Jae’s point of view, begins with him desperately asking Soo to meet him at their decided rendezvous, followed by flashbacks of their getting acquainted to each other through Young who’s looking for funding for his movie, and the events that led to where the film began. At this point the narrative suddenly stopped and went back to where the film started, and this time the POV shifted to Soo. To start with it seemed a repetition of the same story, but soon subtle shifts and darker motivations started appearing. Consequently, at the end, the elliptic trajectories and intertwining narrative arcs, shot in striking B/W that added a distinctly French New Wave touch to the proceedings, provided an incisive, ironic and deftly subversive peek into shifting perspectives and dynamics on love, jealousy and intimacy.

Director: Hong Sang-soo
Genre: Drama/Romantic Drama/Avant-Garde
Language: Korean
Country: South Korea

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