Wednesday 8 June 2022

In Front of Your Face [2021]

 Hong Sang-soo, poet of the understated and the quotidian, crafted a disarmingly sublime work – delicately laced with melancholy, regrets, old memories, and impermanence – in his 26th feature, and second in 2021, In Front of Your Face. And its striking self-reflexive flourishes and sly infusions of wry, deadpan, self-deprecating humour made it an archetypal work in his prolific but understated canon. The protagonist here is Sangok (Lee Hye-young) – a middle-aged woman and one-time actress – who’s come back to Korea after many years in the US. The gently unfolding narrative captured small yet surprisingly profound moments over 1 ½ days – bittersweet reconciliation with her younger sister (Jo Yoon-hee) who clearly loves her but was left deeply hurt upon her sudden disappearance from their lives many years back; a quiet cigarette under a bridge during a walk in the gardens; bafflement at seeing Seoul’s urbanization (euphemism for relentless construction of skyscrapers) and gentrification during her absence; an elegiac visit to the house where she’d grown up; and a customary extended session of rambling conversations over endless glasses of soju at a lonely café where a garrulous and effusive filmmaker (Kwon Hae-hyo) is desperate for her to come out of her self-imposed retirement in order to star in his next movie. The film, in itself, was captivating in its evocative portrayals, formal sparseness, humane character and Hong’s continued exploration of Seoul’s locales, taverns and back-alleys. And these attributes were made even more fascinating by the fact that the lead actress – a former star in the country during the 80s – was the daughter of legendary filmmaker Lee Man-hee, with whom Hong’s mother Jeon Ok-soon – who was a movie producer – had collaborated on five films.

Director: Hong Sang-soo

Genre: Drama/Family Drama

Language: Korean

Country: South Korea

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