Da-reun na-ra-e-suh (In Another Country)
Hong Sang-soo, one of the most established auteur’s in contemporary Korean cinema, began his career with an astounding debut of The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well in 1996. Twelve films later, he brings to Cannes Competition his In Another Country, a laid-back three-act transnational comedy with only two weapons to fight for our sympathy: the innocent humour arising from cultural differences and, easy to guess, Isabelle Huppert, the only foreign actress in the picture.
The framework of the story is neat, simple and film-referential: a young film student Wonju and her mother run away from the seaside town of Mohang in order to escape their mounting debt. To calm her nerves, the girl starts writing three successive versions of the same story of a middle-aged French woman Anne (Huppert) who visits Mekong. The first Anne is a successful film director, trying to prevent her colleague director Jong-Soo hitting on her in front of his jealous wife Kumhee. The second one is about a wealthy married woman who came to Mohang to visit her lover. The third Anne is a rich housewife coming to Mekong after her divorce, to seek spiritual advice from a monk and figure out how to start her life anew. All three stories also feature a young sexy lifeguard (Jun-Sang Yu), who is always keen to have a holiday romance with the curious foreigner.
Koreans’ inability to correctly express themselves in English provokes many situations that are all too familiar for people who travel a lot and quite funny at the start. However, the more repetitive the film gets over depicting the rituals of Isabelle’s arrival and establishing her new character’s situation (each time, in the same way), the more irritating the film becomes. Since it is already clear that there is no real outcome to the story that is, within the film, invented as a film, there is nothing to incite our curiosity and sitting through the second part of the film becomes a struggle.
The humour also wears out quickly and Isabelle, although providing exactly what is required of her and practically carrying the whole picture on her shoulders, can’t help but look and act too intelligent for the role she is put in. It is too clear that in this picture, she has no equal-weight counterparts, no-one to act against and is only used to raise the market value of the film. Her fans, of course, will love it, but In Another Country is nowhere near as good as Captive which puts Isabelle in a similar role, alone in a foreign situation, or Amour which also features in this year’s competition, but uses her more for the back-up.
This is a film to watch if you want something easy.
Watch the trailer for In Another Country here