April 24, 2013

The Day He Arrives: Drink, Eat and Be Melancholic

Dear Hong Sang-soo,

I'd like to offer you a public apology. After years of bad-mouthing your films and trashing them through reviews on my website and elsewhere, I've come to see the error of my ways. You are indeed a great filmmaker and if I don't like all your movies, the ones I do like, I do so with unrestrained enthusiasm. Count The Day He Arrives in this latter category. Much like the heart-wrenching Woman Is the Future of Man and the despairing The Power of Kangwon Province, your 2011 pic The Day He Arrives is an exquisite picaresque in which a seemingly directionless narrative somehow leads us to a greater appreciation of the inherent tragedy of life.

That you're able to convey such depths of emotions from chance encounters, that you consistently pull such naked performances from your actors, that you can revisit your ironic stand-in, the cad-director (an ingratiating Yu Jun-sang), and make him feel fresh... All these things delight me even as they catch me off-guard since the first few movies of yours I saw repeatedly drove me to fits of rage.

Was Song Seon-mi as good in Woman on the Beach as she is here playing a fawning cineaste? Was Kim Ee-seong as natural in The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well as he is here playing an embittered actor? In short, the pleasure I'm getting from your films now makes me doubt my assessments before. Should I retract the savage comments I made on your other flicks? Maybe Night and Day isn't a piece of crap. Maybe your short "Lost in the Mountains" isn't half-baked.

I'll have to go back to those and re-watch them some time. For now, I'll just recommend The Day He Arrives, your flawless, black-and-white meditation on coincidence, love, bromance, loneliness, and the art of creation itself. Well done Director Hong and please, forgive me.


Drew P.

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