Title: In Another Country
Director: Hong Sang-Soo
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Yoo Jun-Sang, Kwon Hae-Hyo, Moon So-Ri, Moon Sung-Keun, Jung Yoo-Mi, Yoon Yeo-Jeong
An intriguing little cross-cultural curio that plays like a woozy, jazz-improv riff on romantic futility and destiny, South Korean director Hong Sang-Soo’s “In Another Country” is a trifling cinematic doff of the cap to French New Wave cinema, but kind of beguiling nonetheless. It’s an arthouse bon-bon all the way, but one that fans of French actress Isabelle Huppert will surely not wish to miss.
“In Another Country,” which played in competition last year at the Cannes Film Festival, unfolds in three segments. In each, Huppert plays Anne, a French visitor to a small South Korean beach town named Mohang. In the first, though, she’s a filmmaker visiting a colleague (Kwon Hae-Hyo) and his pregnant wife (Moon So-Ri), who is suspicious and jealous of their relationship. In the second, she’s the well-off wife of a traveling businessman who slips away to rekindle an affair with a Korean filmmaker (Moon Sung-Keun) in turn gripped by his own petty covetousness. In the final story, Anne is a lonelier divorcée traveling with her friend (Yoon Yeo-Jeong), a university instructor. Undercurrents of infidelity and spiritual and romantic settledness factor into each segment, as does a kind of goofy lifeguard (Yoo Jun-Sang) with whom Anne crosses paths.
Hong (“Woman is the Future of Man,” “Night and Day,” “Woman on the Beach”) is considered one of the more established (and prolific) auteur filmmakers working in South Korea today, and with “In Another Country” he delivers another aesthetically bold work, a movie of watchwork-like moving parts in which characters feel can variously feel three-dimensional and entirely representational. Like many writer-directors, his work often plumbs some of the same themes (neuroses born of relationships) and unfolds in familiar settings (beaches are a favorite). In this regard, “In Another Country” sometimes feels like a whimsical repackaging of past material.
Huppert, however, gives the movie — Hong’s first work in predominantly English, though there are subtitles as well — a fresh and amusing spin. (A scene of her baying at goats is a left-field delight that keeps on giving.) Hong elicits engaging, naturalistic performances from his actors, and in sketching out these different possible lives of Anne he seems to be making a commentary on the ephemeral nature of romance, while also fetishistically indulging his love of the French New Wave.
Written by: Brent Simon