Directed by Hong Sang-soo
Country: South Korea
The films by the South Korean writer/director, Hong Sang-soo, are widely known for the exploration of multiple possibilities within the same story. That’s why his latest film could have been entitled “Right Then, Wrong Now,” instead of “Right Now, Wrong Then”, the two realistic parts of a fictional story about a celebrated art-house filmmaker from Seoul who arrives in the city of Suwon, accompanied by his seductive assistant director, to give an oral presentation after a screening of his new film.
Regarded as a womanizer, the married Ham Cheon-soo (Jae-yeong Jeong), tries to avoid further gossips and disregards her company, without guessing he would fall for a model-turned-painter, Yoon Hee-jeong (Min-hee Kim), with whom he engages in a warm conversation and spends the day with. The explorative Mr. Sang-soo, telling the story twice, benefits with the compelling performances and with the honesty of the situations created. During the first vignette the high expectations of the dedicated painter are thwarted by the director’s posture and behavior, while in the second, in a slightly funnier way, he creates an alternative situation in which the opposite happens: a bad start makes way for a wonderful finish.
Mr. Sang-soo intelligently combines the structure with a very particularly serene mood, creating a few familiar situations that can be identified in his previous titles: “The Day He Arrives”, “In Another Country”, and “Nobody's Daughter Haewon”, just to name some of my favorites.
By resorting to the use of typical scenes like the ones taking place in restaurants where the characters drink and become closer, we have a feeling of déjà-vu that not always work beneficially. The repetition of the ideas, even impeccably executed, feels a bit time-consuming at times. Moreover, the dialogues and the chemistry between the protagonists are not as strong as in the movies mentioned above.
The film, even living from the power of words and the burst of feelings that the characters try to pour out, shows a final segment that felt moderately unseasoned, having trouble to get away from its mechanical re-enactment. With this being said, it’s not my intention to make you disregard the few enchantments presented in this relaxed Korean drama, sensation of the Locarno Film Festival (best film, best actor, prize of the Ecumenical Jury – special mention). It’s just that this two-sided tale feels like ‘not-so-right-now, right-then’ when compared to other identical chapters of Mr. Sang-soo’s career.