“In Hong’s latest, Woman on the Beach, which is something of a career summation, his self-reproach takes on a more mordant tone. Joong-rae, a film director who is the pivot not only between the film’s two romantic triangles but also between its two halves, is another of Hong’s hurtful jerks, a volatile narcissist and a classic master of the faintest praise: he compliments his production assistant’s girlfriend, Moon-sook, an aspiring songwriter, by saying, “You sing the way an average person would. I like the amateur feel of it.” Joong-rae may be widely recognized and admired, but when he outlines the idea for his new film – whose gluey title, About Miracles, signals its banality – the concept seems so precious, one wonders whether Hong means to undercut his character or whether Joong-rae’s chain-of-fate scenario involving a mysteriously ubiquitous Mozart tune and a mime is indeed meant to indicate his genius. (Most of Hong’s professional males are in some way second-rate, blocked, wanting.) In any case, Joong-rae, who appears to be one of Hong’s many stand-ins, also seems to test experience against its usefulness in art – something he makes apparent in the silly diagram he draws to explain his psychology to Moon-sook – and no doubt steals details from the lives of clueless acquaintances for use in his films. (Again Hong seems to mock himself, in that the diagram reflects the double-triangle narrative pattern of his cinema; it is as much formula as philosophy.)”
- 1. James Quandt, “Twice-old Tales,” Artforum Vol. XLV, 10 (2007).