Sunday 21 June 2020

On the Beach at Night Alone [2017]

Hong Sang-soo’s poignant, delicate and melancholic film On the Beach at Night Alone is structured like two films rolled into one; however, unlike, say, Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, where the perspectives switched, or Tale of Cinema, which was split into disparate narratives, or Right Now, Wrong Then, where the same sequences were repeated differently, there was a clearer continuity here, albeit with various intertextual elements thrown in as always. And, while his works are usually always self-reflexive, this was especially personal given that Hong’s extramarital affair with actress-muse Kim Min-hee had caused media gossip leading to this film, and that was clearly alluded to throughout its length leading to a self-lacerating outburst near the end. The contemplative and relatively shorter 1st segment follows Young (Kim) hanging out with a pensive divorced lady (Seo Young-hwa) in Hamburg – while possibly awaiting her married lover – as they stroll around the local market, visit a musician bookseller, etc. In the emotionally volatile 2nd segment, Young, who’s a famous actress, floats around in a small town back in Korea, has rambling conversations over copious quantities of soju with old friends – a lovely older friend (Song Seon-mi), a gruff movie theatre manager (Kwon Hae-hyo), a cuckolded former flame (Jung Jae-young) – and spends solitary moments in the beach reminiscing her turbulent affair with a filmmaker. During the narrative switchover it wasn’t clear if the first part was a memory or segment from a film starring Young, while the climactic scene could potentially be a dream sequence – these intriguing meta elements, combined with a quintessentially freewheeling flow, lilting score, and Kim’s stunning, mercurial and wrenching performance, made this such a reflective, capricious and absorbing work.

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

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