By Aldo Padilla
To grab a thread to hang on to in Hong Sang-Soo’s cinema is not always an easy feat, especially when it’s time to write about the ideas in his new film, since his themes and tools he uses in cinema are well known. The truly complex feat starts in deciphering these subtleties that make the latest film unique, especially now that the filmmaker is going through a particularly prolific stage, with four films a year.
His last film Grass, is centered in the ambiguous line that separates the world of the writer’s mind and his surroundings. How many of the situations that an artist poses in a narrative work are invented? , or how many are directly lived? All of this is narrated from the uncertainty of these occasions, where those two worlds overlap and it’s impossible to know if the footage in what’s real or just a product of the mind.
Sangsoo’s latest film is possibly one of the most closed in terms of space and time, since a great part of his filmography lets the narrative flow through different spaces, to focus in the characters over their surroundings. In Grass, the space is limited to a small café and its surroundings, and this makes the space a certain protagonist, defining its personality with certain very recognizable melodies, (something that appears to be a personal taste of the filmmaker). Its lead character (played by Kim Min Hee) works more as a kind of hinge between the different couples, although she keeps the role that has characterized her in the last films of Hong, defined by a strong honesty with her environment, stripping naked certain truths.
There’s a valuable exploration in Grass in respect to the behavior of the couples, alone or in group, a certain way of defense of the intimate where both seek to maintain a discourse despite possible differences in private. From reconciled couples, to the ones that cannot be, an others that are just starting, Hong seeks to bring together the variety of spectrums of couple relationships limiting time and space, and achieving an interaction between them, showing that the rules that build his universe are limited despite its simplicity.
The ending of the film is a gift for its spectators and a salute to classical cinema, a resource he haven’t used in his previous films and becomes a sort of summary, showing a very relaxed Hong, which is reflected in a work with a distended tone with his usual actors, and also in the duration of the film (66 minutes) which works for his films in a positive way.
Not everything that Sangsoo does belongs in the main sections of festivals. It is possible to enjoy his films in intimacy, with no other pretention that to enjoy a film that despite following certain formulas, always achieve that nuance that has turned Hong in one of the great masters of today’s cinema.
Written and directed by: Hong Sangsoo
Cinematography: Kim Hyungkoo
Cast: Kim Minhee, Jung Jinyoung, Ki Joobong, Seo Younghwa, Kim Saebyuk, Ahn Jaehong, Gong Minjeung
Editing: Son Yeonji
Sound: Kim Mir
Producer: Hong Sangsoo
South Korea, 2018, 66 min