Dir: Hong Sangsoo, S. Korea, 2008. 147mins.
Light, charming but not terribly engaging, and as French as any Korean film is ever going to get, Hong Sangsoo's full-on tribute to the New Wave follows Korean expatriates around the City Of Lights. While brevity has never been one of Hong's particular talents, he raises the bar even higher here with a running time of 147 minutes.
These expatriates in Paris are lonely, meet, fall in love, visit exhibitions and discuss life, but there is no real urgency to any of their encounters and some clever pruning could have reduced Night And Day to a manageable size without sacrificing anything. As it is, the film is festival fare, but will face serious resistance with international distribution, all in relation to its considerable running time.
Just like any self-respecting classic New Wave picture, Hong's hero is an artist, a painter named Kim Sungnam (Kim Youngho) who catches the first plane to Paris to avoid the police after a pot-smoking incident. He moves into a guesthouse populated only by Koreans like himself, and eventually meets an ex-girlfriend he had completely forgotten, Minsun (Kim Youjin), who has married a Frenchman.
He is also introduced to Hyunju (Seo Minjeong) and her roommate Yujeong (Park Eunhye), who studies painting at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He falls for Yujeong in what would best be described as a fit of passion, rather than true romance. Meanwhile, his wife Sungin (Hwang Sujung), who has been calling him from Korea very single day, tells him that she is pregnant.
Taken at a relaxed, leisurely pace and structured as a diary of Kim's Paris trip, with titles indicating the dates (from early August to mid October), the script takes a kind of dispassionate view of the characters, never too involved or overly familiar with any of them. As a (presumably) character study of human foibles, it is smart, amusing but never very profound or revealing. Camera set-ups are precise and effective.
Kim Youngho is on screen practically through the entire picture, delivering an interesting, though not always coherent, portrait of the proverbial innocent in a strange city (a bit too innocent for somebody his age). Park Eunhye, his love interest for most of the film, has a charming youthfulness that carries her through but less effectively portrays her character's supposed dark side.
But all-in-all, this is an amiable romp and one of the more enjoyable entries in this year's competition.
Production company/int'l sales
Bom Film Productions
Director of photography