“People tell me that I make films about reality,” Hong Sang-soo has remarked. “They’re wrong. I make films based on structures that I have thought up.” In this masterclass, the director will have a conversation with prof. Tom Paulus (University of Antwerp) about these stylistic and narrative structures and strategies, ranging from his remarkable combination of observational simplicity – attention to the immediate, to mood, attitude and character – with both classical and modernist narrative organization, to his penchant for visual repetition and variation.
“Poetic by its precision, attentive to duration, to the uncertainty of the moment, to outlined movements and to what they betray or control: Hong Sang-soo’s cinema seems to consist only of details, of contingent moments that suddenly get out of hand or explode. ‘I never aim for generalization; there’s never a global view on society at the origin of a film or even a shot. It seems to me that reality can only appear between the cracks of discrete, hypothetic, uncertain elements. I am wary of clichés and big expressions. I do not believe, for example, that something we could call ‘the’ contemporary Korea exists. I never try to share a truth, but only approximations.’”1
« Un film est bon pour moi s’il m’apporte de nouvelles sensations et s’il modifie ma manière de penser. C’est pourquoi la forme est si importante. Nous partageons tous les mêmes matériaux. Mais la forme qu’on utilise mène à des sensations différentes ou à de nouveaux questionnements, de nouveaux désirs. Je ne crois donc pas pouvoir me définir comme formaliste ou réaliste. [...] La seule chose dont je sois conscient sont mes désirs. »
“Some things I come across in every day life sparks curiosity in me. My films are a way for me to unravel these things. […] I start with a very ordinary, banal situation, and this situation usually has something in it that makes me feel strongly. It’s a stereotypical feeling, but very strong. I have this desire to look at it… Perhaps it’s a blind feeling. I put it on the table, and I look at it. I open up, and these pieces surface. They are not related, they conflict with each other. But I try to find a pattern that makes all these pieces fit into one. […] You’re stuck with a certain view for your entire life and only once in a while, you see things differently. I think that’s a great thing. That’s what I try to do.”
“I’m very fond of a Korean filmmaker called Hong Sang-soo. I think he’s doing a magnificent job. He’s a guy who’s working in a field that is much needed: small sentimental comedies. Films that, I think, are much better than Woody Allen’s. Woody Allen used to be good, he’s weaker now… Hong Sang-Soo is the guy who took over and I think cinema needed that, needs that. He does it in a, for me, very wonderful way. He’s reminding people: do you remember these kind of situations between people, how we used to feel watching this kind of things.”
- 1. Jean-Michel Frodon, “Looking for Reality ‘Between the Cracks’,” translated by Sis Matthé, Le Monde, 26 February 2003.
- 2. Sylvain Coumoul, Antoine Thirion et Jean-Philippe Tessé, « Hong Sang-soo: « Un film est bon pour moi s'il modifie ma manière de penser ». Vers l'invisibilité, » Cahiers du cinéma, 590 (2004), 32-35.
- 3. Susie Y. Kim, “Hong Resists Conclusions. Korean filmmaker Hong Sangsoo lays bare his process,” February 11, 2011.
- 4. Pedro Costa, “In Remembrance of Shadows Forgotten,” Diagonal Thoughts, April 2015.