Turning Gate (2002)

8 02 2008

Kim Kyung-soo is an out-of-work actor. One night, he recieves a phone call from an old friend, he remains unenthusiastic, but still takes him up on a reunion offer. Kyung-soo meets his old friend, and is introduced to a dancer named Myung-suk, who is not only familiar with his acting, but also madly in love with him. They waste no time becoming acquaintances and before the night is over, they’re in bed together. Kyung-soo cannot make a commitment, unfortunately, and he has to travel back home to Seoul. On the train ride home, he meets Sun-young and another romance begins. In this case, Kyung-soo is the one left alone and heartbroken.

With the possible exception of Woman on the Beach, this is Hong’s least complex narrative structure. It ultimately plays out like a slightly more-abridged retelling of The Brown Bunny but with a larger focus on the relationship, as usual with Hong. Kyung-soo certainly comes off as being pathetic but he may very well be the most sympathetic male character in any of Hong’s films. This is not much of an accomplishment, though, seeing as how Hong is well-known for depicting the confusion brought on by romantic relationships. This film is no different, of course, but it feels slightly more personal than the rest of the director’s filmography.

The more personal tone comes with a trade-off: this is the first time in any of Hong’s films that any one line of dialogue wasn’t completely convincing. There’s this slightly silly verbal motif throughout the film that actually brings to mind the fatherly advice in Mizoguchi’s Sansho the Bailiff. This problem is not overwhelming, thankfully, especially considering how great this is to my last Hong experience, The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well. If you like seeing drunk people argue and be awkward (which you should) then this film will impress you a great deal, as will the rest of Hong’s oeuvre.

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