Hong Sang-soo's 'In Front of Your Face' is about finding romance in the tedious

Asia's Tech News Daily

Hong Sang-soo's 'In Front of Your Face' is about finding romance in the tedious

A scene from the film “In Front of Your Face” / Courtesy of Jeonwonsa Film

By Kwak Yeon-soo

Like many of his other films, director Hong Sang-soo 26th feature “In Front of Your Face” is about finding the extraordinary within the ordinary, and romance in the tedious. The auteur brings attention to the otherwise mundane events of everyday life with a sharp sense of humor.

The film begins with middle-aged actress Sang-ok (Lee Hye-young) waking up in her sister’s house. She is visiting her sister Jeong-ok (Cho Yun-hee) in Korea after years of living in the U.S. Most of this segment tracks Sang-ok as she sits in the living room, waiting for her sister to wake up.

The next segment of the film focuses on her spending the day with her sister and taking a stroll around the neighborhood. The conversations between the two reveal how barely they know each other as Sang-ok shares that she has acrophobia and ran a liquor shop in the U.S.

Tension arises when Jeong-ok asks her to settle down in Korea, asking why she didn’t reply to her letters. Sang-ok appears to be free-spirited in scenes where she doesn’t care about the spills of tteokbokki sauce that stains her elegant pink blouse, but looks self-conscious in scenes where she smokes under the bridge to avoid the eyes of some attentive walkers who notice her.

The final part captures a conversation between Sang-ok and filmmaker Jae-won (Kwon Hae-hyo) as they discuss Sang-ok’s acting career and her illness. The director appears skittish and unreliable as he changes the meeting location when Sang-ok is on her way and serves her coffee when they had promised to have lunch together

Hong Sang-soo's 'In Front of Your Face' is about finding romance in the tedious

A scene from the film “In Front of Your Face” / Courtesy of Jeonwonsa Film

Expressing his deep admiration for Sang-ok’s performance in an old movie he remembers, he makes an awkward request for her to star in his next feature. When Sang-ok reveals why she can’t make plans to shoot a film with him, the director proposes they take an impromptu trip so they can shoot a short film.

Next morning, Sang-ok receives a call from the director who says he simply proposed the trip because he was tipsy. Dumbfounded, she bursts out laughing hysterically.

“In Front of Your Face,” which premiered in the Cannes Premiere section, is typical of Hong’s works, in which he layers characters through heavy amounts of dialogue. Rather than defining the plot structure or character development, Hong simply lets the story flow slowly without dramatic incident. The fact that this film doesn’t thrust its narrative or message upon the audience allows them to find connection and insight into their own lives.

“When I read the script, it reminded me of Anton Chekhov. There are only actors and dialogues. I felt a sense of freedom there because there was no need to compromise on anything,” actress Lee said during the “Guest Visit” talk at Busan International Film Festival.

“In Front of Your Face” will hit local theaters, Oct. 21.

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