“Hong is the king of number two: two men for a women (Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, 2000), two women for a man (Woman on the Beach, 2006), two chapters in a male-female relation (Turning Gate, 2002), two films in one (Tale of Cinema, 2005), two filmmakers (Like You Know It All), two countries (Night and Day, 2008), two everything. In his films, almost every character, location, plot twist, and love affair have an alternative. Being true, being honest – as I recall hearing Hong’s angry speeches about cinema – is the only thing that matters to him, but at the same time, the truth is never there: it’s a phantom. The secret of his filmmaking is staying true to the false: that’s why his characters chase truth like a mirage that’s always changing place and shape. That formal device is what makes his films so similar, yet so fresh and so free. Hong’s tales of male hysteria and female madness – those sad-funny stories where everybody cheats on themselves – is an organic labyrinth where all paths cross and destiny can go all ways at each crossroads, though the same sense of loss and frustration lies at the end of every path. And there’s no way out of this nightmare because the world is not a Platonic Avatar but a Hong Sang-soo film.”
“In Hong Sang-soo’s work there is a constant trait, which is neither really stylistic (it’s not a matter of form), nor frankly thematic (it’s not a matter of content either), and which returns, like a butterfly – and even, as its course is erratic, like a moth, the ultimate uncatchable insect. You will forgive me for calling this trait idiocy, a striking word that somehow touches the singular art, so difficult to describe in sentences, of this not exactly talkative filmmaker.
Why ‘idiocy’? First of all, in the regular meaning of the word, which aligns it with the unreasonable or the arbitrary: ‘Everything that happens is, anyway, ‘idiotic’. Because we need to understand the term in the broadest sense: stupid, without reason, like the infinity of possibilities; but also simple, unique, like the totality of the real.’ What happens in Hong’s stories, so true and amusing, is most often idiotic in that sense: a hodgepodge of relationships, misunderstandings and improbabilities.”
“But all the important things that happened to me in my life were by accident! Becoming a filmmaker was certainly one of them. The people I met, the women I fell in love with… I was 20 years old and doing nothing, not even preparing for my university exams, and I met this playwright. He was drunk. I sat beside him and he asked me, ‘Sang-soo, what are you doing in life?’ ‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘Well, you might be good as a theatre director.’ Then I thought about this, and entered university to study theatre. It happens that their department was quite bad. I didn’t like their doctrines. So I looked outside the window and there was the film department on the other block, and there were two or three guys going on the street to shoot with a camera. So I transferred to the film department.”
- 1Quintín, “The Decade in Review,” Cinema Scope 46.
- 2Jacques Aumont, “Idiocies. A Poetics of the Real,” translated by Sis Matthé, originally published in Les variations Hong Sang-soo, Eds. Simon Daniellou, Antony Fiant (De l’incidence, 2017).
- 3Francisco Ferreira and Julien Gester, “TIFF 2015 | Cinema Scope 64 Preview | Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sangsoo, South Korea)—Masters,”.