Directed by Hong Sang-soo
Sunhi from the Department of Film stops by the school one day to get a letter of recommendation from Professor Choi to leave to the US. She expects him to write her a nice one since he took favor to her. She runs into two men from the past she's never met in a long time; Moon-soo, a recently turned movie director and senior director Jae-hak.
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★★★★½ review by Thomas Prieto on Letterboxd
My greatest goal in life is to go out drinking with Hong Sang-soo.
★★★★ review by Peter Labuza on Letterboxd
Hong parsed down to the essentials in what (having only seen his last six films) might be his best film in terms of directorial work. New visual textures are abound, from the repeated use of establishing shots that stare into the sky before situating us within the moment (all leading to that final out zoom) to the exceedingly long takes with much less dialogue than usual, emphasizing the spaces and gestures made in a way closer to something like Hou's Cafe Lumiere or that penultimate shot in Tsai's Stray Dogs than the larger beats and more varied intensity seen in films like The Day He Arrives and In Another Country.
Sunhi begins by being essentially assaulted by a man trying to take advantage of her for a date, but all three men use her for their own need by assigning her a role: "the one who got away," "the exploitable young fling," or the "the possible soul mate that just gets me man" (who also represent past, present, and future lovers). The ex-boyfriend Munsu attempts to "dig deeper" and find who he really is, but the only way he can really do that is define himself in relationship to Sunhi. All the men do the same, searching for their best selves by molding their relationship to her (and she does the same, getting a "more accurate" recommendation letter).
With a completely straightforward plot (I realize how totally wrong I was about Day He Arrives), Hong allows scenes to breathe, and here everything becomes about the hands—who places them where and especially when do they reach across the table and how they grab each other (intense sudden grasp or longing slow touch). The body emphasizes desire and feelings with these movements, most notably the two interactions at the Arriang Cafe with Jaehak, while the long pauses speak the essential textures of relationships in a way Hong's words cannot articulate. On top of that, one of the most startling shots in Hong's entire cinema appears when Jaehak and Professor Choi chat about the latter's interest in Sunhi (unbeknownst to the former), where the window behind them reflects two different women at them. With a split running down the window, these women almost act as the imagined desired partner for each—Jaehak "sees" an active woman preparing a dish for a man, while Choi imagines a quiet, introverted reader. Hong's cinema usually works on a flat space, so to see this sort of layering is quite ecstatic.
★★★½ review by Sea Lucas on Letterboxd
My first film by Hong Sang-soo left me feeling a little torn. It certainly didn't wow me, but I enjoyed it and felt like there was indeed an underlying depth to the film that I just wasn't connecting with, perhaps due to my unfamiliarity with the director. Also, there seem to be several nuances in the dialogue that simply didn't hold up in translation. The humorous moments did induce a few smiles though, so kudos for that. All I know for sure is that Our Sunhi gave me a major craving for booze, cigarettes, and fried chicken that I intend to fully indulge this weekend.
★★★★ review by charulata on Letterboxd
This one's just so effervescent and delightful. Possibly his most overtly comedic film (since Oki's movie?) and I've always been partial to his funnier films. But the comedy masks a wonderful wistfulness and contains within its breezy exterior all the tragicomedy of life and our (perhaps futile) pursuit of love and connection. Lovely.
★★★★★ review by Logan Kenny on Letterboxd
movies where people frequently get shitfaced and have long conversations about women, filmmaking and life among other things are what cinema was created for
my first hong sang soo film and what really grabbed me was the periodic development of all the men surrounding sunhi, scene by scene their insecurities and character flaws are revealed. they're fully formed individuals and are treated with empathy but are clearly imperfect and trying to hide themselves behind the masquerades of their supposed identities. sunhi, the one who is called innocent and naive throughout is actually the most mature and knowledgeable of them all, the one with ambition and the one who doesn't need them like they all need her. the dialogue and performances are obvious stand outs but hong's formalism is great as well, he doesn't do anything flashy but every shot is well framed and lit, the periodic zooms are fantastic and he knows exactly when to cut a shot. this is remarkably engrossing and infectiously charming, i really need to see more hong as soon as possible
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