The Power of Kangwon Province (1998)

SANG-SOO HONG

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5.  

Original title:  Kangwon-do ui Him

South Korea, 1998.  . Screenplay by Sang-soo Hong.  Cinematography by .  Film Editing by .

A young woman goes on vacation with two girlfriends to the region named in the title, hoping to forget an ill-advised love affair with a professor.  While there she strikes up a relationship with a policeman that turns out to be as disappointing as her previous experience.  Director Hong Sang-soo then turns his delicate eye to the instructor himself, who goes to the same spot on a trip and forgets the responsibilities of wife and child in order to enjoy the company of a lady of the night.  He is reunited with his former flame and the two are given the opportunity to find their shared experience again, although the results are not quite what they expected.  Hong’s sympathies show themselves best in his most famous trope, scenes of his characters getting drunk (which he reportedly has his actors do for real), but he never exploits them or takes advantage of the opportunity to let them get ugly, rather celebrating the relief of tension that happens in such moments before getting back to their regular lives.  It’s not for everyone, but Hong as always puts a romantic edge on the trope of Asian social realism that sets him apart from the more cerebral intensity of his Taiwanese counterparts like Tsai Ming-Liang, and his hands-off sympathy for his characters and their flaws makes it a smooth experience.

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