July 16, 2014

Like You Know It All: Just One Second... That May Change

There's something unconcernedly unplanned about Like You Know It All, as if director Hong Sang-soo had daily provided his actors with a single page of rushed dialogue then let them go at it for a few hours. Hong lets his actors loose on the story, lets their impulsive reactions build into something bigger, lets a random idea in the performance or an ad libbed line used to cover a flub as the guiding force for what follows. Or so it seems. Is art-house darling Gyung-nam (Kim Tae-woo) destined to clash with festival programmer Hyeon-hee (Uhm Ji-won) then doomed to reunite with a former lover (Go Hyun-jung)? These encounters hardly seem inevitable. (Who else would throw in a series of arm wrestling matches?) Instead, the realities almost come out of nowhere, as if the unexpected always lied just around the corner. So while the film starts off as a satire about a film festival, full of ass-kissing, back-stabbing, and self-congratulatory artistes -- Like You Know It All ditches that party just at the point when you likely would've grown weary of it yourself. Hong recognizes how boring life is, how repetitious, how squalid, how petty, how hilarious, how misdirected, how laughable. Oh, how wonderful he is!

I laughed a lot during Like You Know It All, perhaps more so than in Hahaha. But Like You Know It All doesn't have that latter film's clever framing device -- a boozy flashback shared by two friends recounting congruent memories. Hong's great at framing devices. Think of the films within films of Oki's Movie or Isabelle Huppert in triplicate for In Another Country. But when you come down to it, I like Hong equally -- if not better -- without the structural cleverness. Meandering, his movies feel fresh and human and vulnerable and ridiculous. Like You Know It All is hardly his most brilliant piece of filmmaking to his credit but it's brilliant all the same.

Footnote: Like You Know It All was shot on HD but is that even newsworthy anymore?

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