In Another Country Reviews
When Hong had the opportunity to work with Isabelle Huppert, it created a great deal of excitement within the International Film scene. The result of this collaboration are not what was expected.
Huppert was unwilling to become drunk.
Hong has never stated if this played any significant role in the film's tone or outcome, but one cannot help but notice a distinct shift in tone. I think many of us expected to see Hong take advantage of a slightly improved budget and the promise of easier access to his film's distribution to his favorite themes around friendship, romantic, sexual and existential quandaries of the human condition to a different and perhaps darker level.
Instead, Hong Sang-soo has crafted a whimsically surreal comedic film that seems to be more connected to the mid-1950's David Lean than Eric Rohmer. This does not mean that Hong has turned his back on the themes that seem to obsess his work. But In Another Country is about as close to romantic comedy as we're likely to ever see from Hong again.
The film's primary concern is related to the identity of a foreign visitor's identity in relation to the locals of a culture unknown to her. Hong presents Huppert as 3 different characters in 3 various vignettes. It is within these three identities that we see a number of situations exploring how "innocent" and "kind" attempts at interaction/connecting are often misunderstood or misinterpreted.
Huppert delivers an equally "light" and often sweetly charming performances of three different characters -- each of who share two shared challenges: Communication and Making A Potentially Life-Changing Decisions in the later part of her life.
While all the situations feel real, Hong always manages to maintain a surreal vibe. Situations constructed around opposing ideas around marriage, adultery, age, sexuality, romance, friendship and human connection are present but explored in a surprisingly light comedic kind of way.
This is the first time we've seen Hong Sang-soo offer a clearly articulated idea: Whether we like it or not, our lives fulfillment are often condensed to something as minor as which direction we should take when we are most confused.
At the time I first saw this movie, I felt very mixed about it. When I watched it again on DVD, I found it to be an interesting but fun glimpse at life. Never totally simplistic or "cheesy" --- but never challenging enough to cause debate. In Another Country is simply a smart little movie with just enough substance to make it memorable in an unexpected way.
The meeting of two highly regarded film artists may not have resulted in the sort of result we expected, but it did result in something we do not expect to see from either of them.
This is a long way from WOMAN IS THE FUTURE OF MAN, but it is hard to imagine any fan of Korean or French cinema not loving this movie. Spot-On!