October 24, 2009

Night and Day: A Cad Abroad (And the Broads Who Love Him)

Somewhere out there is a pamphlet entitled A Beginner's Guide to Existential Filmmaking, Vol. 7: The Paris Edition and somehow director Hong Sang-soo got his hands on a tattered copy. You can tell because his flick Night and Day follows many of the rules therein. To wit: #3 Your protagonist should be a middle-aged man (Kim Yeong-ho) who smokes incessantly. #8 He should fall for a nymphette (Park Eun-hye) whose feet he glimpses poking out from under the sheets. #56 He should also have a wife, a mistress, an ex-girlfriend and a random woman to reject. #114 Scenes should end abruptly, right before something big is going to be said ("What is painting?") or done ("Make love to me!"). Hong's a competent filmmaker so Night and Day is never boring but like a skillful kiss given by a man with bad breath, it's not particularly satisfying either. That disappointing kiss is actually a good analogy too because there's no passion behind Night and Day either. More than anything else, the movie feels like an intellectual exercise in which the director explores ideas like deception, desire, and displacement, minus the deeper anxieties. There's ennui but no poignancy, disillusionment but no real grief.

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