Hong Sang-soo’s startling and incisive chamber piece Grass is a deftly focused work in terms of its cinematic space and time, and its slender length; but, that said, its dense multi-facetedness belied its brevity, as texturally, tonally and thematically it’s a tremendous piece of filmmaking. Set largely within a cosy Seoul café, it’s covered a small group of people whiling their time there, and in doing so, it portrayed an array of emotions and themes, viz. guilt, loneliness, longings, ennui, existential pangs, infidelity, suicides and voyeurism. Shot in sparkling and moody monochrome using mostly static long takes, and made evocative through sparsely used classical scores, the film’s striking interpersonal dynamics provided for a wryly apt addition to Hong’s oeuvre. Areum (Hong regular Kim Min-hee), a shy and softspoken lady, sits at a corner of the café writing into her laptop her musing on her interpretations of the people around, while evesdropping on them – an intensely personal and searing conversation between two ex-lovers racked with guilt over someone who’s committed suicide; a middle-aged director (Jung Jin-young) who, in futility, pursues a lady he knows, and then Areum too, to accompany him on a joint writing venture; an ageing former actor on downward spiral requesting a lady friend to let out a spare room to him; a man accusing a woman of leading a professor, who was besotted with her, to his death. Interestingly, and ironically too, a dramatically different facet of Areum gets revealed – cynical, bitter and even passive-aggressive – when she takes a break from her silent observations and reflections, for a catch-up with her brother and his girlfriend who’re planning to get married.
Director: Hong Sang-soo
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama
Country: South Korea