Tale of Cinema (2005)

I caught this as part of a Hong Sang Soo retrospective last Saturday at USC. They were screening three of his films (This one along with The Turning Gate and Woman on the Beach). The only other film of Hong’s that I’ve seen previously was A Virgin Stripped Bare by her Bachelors and I wasn’t particularly fond of it, but I wanted to give the director’s work another chance as I know that he is one of the most acclaimed Korean directors.

I can’t say that watching Tale of Cinema has converted me into a fan of Hong’s work. I’m a bit more intrigued now and I may try to catch some of this other stuff when I get a chance but this was still a little too not accessible for me.

The movie starts with two young friends meeting up. The boy is an unemployed college graduate and the girl works at her uncle’s optometry store. The two were always attracted to each other but were never able to do anything about it because the girl was dating a mutual friend. The two decide to end their lives together in a small motel room. They get sleeping pill and divide them up equally. The attempt is not very successful as the girl wakes up sick and alerts the boy’s parents who come to pick him up and have his stomach pumped.

This is pretty much the first half an hour of the film (Which is thankfully only 90 minutes long). After that things take a 180 degrees turn and we slowly realize that what we have just watched is a short movie being screened as part of retrospective for a local arthouse director. The director is laying in bed sick and the second part of the film revolves around the director’s friends and how they are reacting to his illness and also to a bizarre relationship that develops between the main actress and one of the director’s friends who claims that the short movie is based on his life experiences.

I couldn’t really get what Hong was trying to say. Perhaps I should have stayed for the Q&A that took place later that night after another screening but the friends I was with didn’t really feel like sitting through another one of Hong’s films. I was left to make what I could of it. I guess it’s some sort of a meditation about the relationship between cinema and life or something. It wasn’t completely boring, but it just left more questions unanswered and it really didn’t make you care enough to seek the answers on your own.

The French love Hong’s films and it looks like all his financing comes from there. Perhaps I should give his stuff another chance sometime. I certainly need to be super alert in order to go through another one of these. It’s certainly something that demands your complete attention without a defined payoff in the end.

Tale of Cinema

Tale of Cinema – A bizarre and not quite compelling riddle of a film.

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~ by bettertomorrow on March 25, 2007.

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