Night and Day
Night and Day
Kim Young-ho, Park Eun-hye, Seo Min-jung, Kim Yu-jin
Director: Hong Sang-soo
As Hong Sang-soo's Frenchwoman-lost-in-Korea project, In Another Country, was unveiled on Thursday as part of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival's official selection, it's perhaps timely to revisit his Korean-man-lost-in-France film from 2008, Night and Day.
Released on DVD in the US earlier this year - marking the first time the award-winning film was made available on home video in the English-language world - Night and Day could be viewed as a precursor to the South Korean director's latest outing, which stars Isabelle Huppert.
Hong being Hong, Night and Day rarely milks its international setting for exotic imagery. Rather, it feels like a sort of homecoming for the director, whose banter-heavy style and self-centred characters could find a home in Eric Rohmer's work.
Chic cafes and tourist landmarks are almost nowhere to be seen, as the staggeringly long film - 2? hours - follows the fumbling, nondescript painter-professor Sung-nam (Kim Young-ho) as he wanders aimlessly in Paris, where he fled after a student grassed on him for smoking pot back in Korea.
The only time Sung-nam is placed in a particularly Parisian setting is when he visits the Musee d'Orsay with a newly acquainted art student, Hyun-ju (Seo Min-jung). The pair gaze at Gustave Courbet's painting L'Origine du Monde, which depicts a faceless, naked woman's genitalia.
Not that this is a harbinger of erotic scenes to come, though. Instead, Hong probably wove the image into his film to emphasise the leitmotif of nearly all his films: men may be more imposing in appearance but they are actually the weaker link in the gender equation.
As Sung-nam falls head over heels for Hyun-ju's prettier roommate, Yu-jung (Park Eun-hye), what's left of his integrity begins to drain away as he makes advances which are made even more awkward by the woman's sloth and selfishness.
As in most of Hong's films, Night and Day's portrayal of the antics of a pitiful and self-pitying man has its interesting moments. But as the film meanders forward it gradually loses steam, its linear structure proving too simple for a filmmaker who usually tells stories from multiple perspectives.
Night and Day would soon be followed by the more idiosyncratic Like You Know It All, Ha Ha Ha and last year's The Day He Arrives - and one hopes In Another Country will be even quirkier.