THE WOMAN WHO RAN (2019)
Director Hong’s 24th film is a brief, characteristically low-key and conversationalist look at a woman visiting friends while her husband is away
It is unclear whether Hong Sang-soo will convert too many new fans with his latest film, but he is certainly enriching his filmography with another work of subtle social interaction.
Once again, Kim Min-hee returns to star, the seventh collaboration in six years for the pair, and the task is a familiar one – conversations over food and drink where what is not said often proves more important than what is.
That said, there is still plenty of that characteristic Hong dialogue, the best of which may be when Kim’s character was asked if she loved her husband and replies that is not something one could ever actually prove, you simply suspect that you are feeling love.
As ever, these breezy and natural conversations between characters speak to a larger issue bubbling under the surface.
Gamhee (Kim Min-hee) is spending time without her husband for the first time in five years owing to him being away on a business trip. Unmoored from her partner after such a lengthy period, she decides to visit some friends on the outskirts of Seoul.
As she visits the various friends and they catch-up over the latest developments in their lives, we can gradually start to piece together the hopes and anxieties of Gamhee as she reveals more of herself over the separate meetings.
The whole film is in standard Hong gear, the biggest departure being the run time – at just 77 minutes this is his shortest film, but this clipped insight into the Gamhee’s life is perhaps best realised with such brevity.
As with A Tale of Cinema, the film uses the big screen as an important device, with Gamhee twice watching an event-free arthouse film – a self-reference to Hong himself and his conversation-based and often repetitive work.
The Hong zoom is back too, dragging the camera into the characters emotions, but most hilariously repeated when a cat wanders into a frame and seamlessly slides into the Hong world.
Director Hong continues to be a prolific filmmaker and shows no signs of slowing down as he moves into his 60s, averaging more than a film a year in recent times. Considering many Korean directors dedicate time to breaks and then extensive writing periods, Hong is clearly more focused on as much time behind the camera as possible.
He also continues to be a darling of the international film festival circuit, especially across Europe, where The Woman Who Ran competed for the Golden Bear at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival and Hong himself won the Silver Bear for Best Director.
We know what to expect from Hong by now, but thankfully his style is so unique that there is an element of freshness to his works even as they arrive in very much the same package.