Hill of Freedom Screen 16 articles

Hill of Freedom

2014

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  • Hill of Freedom feels wispy and under-imagined. It isn't without its pleasures and occasional insights, but ultimately it's little more than an excuse for Hong to try out a new stylistic color in his auteurist palette. Which is a shame, because the new tools are intriguing enough to warrant a much deeper examination of memory, desire, and regret than he actually offers.

  • Not without reason are Hong’s films frequently compared with Rohmer, but with Hill of Freedom he displays a subtle kinship with Resnais. It’s one of his best films to date, and demonstrates that Hong’s jaundiced vision of Korean culture—soju rituals and awkward passive-aggression, intellectual self-absorption and a condescending attitude toward women—can transcend the specificities of language.

  • ...Hill of Freedom sees the South Korean director condense a young couple's interrupted romance into a lean 66-minute meditation on love, language and letters. If that in any way makes it sound like a minor Sang-soo work, it's important to note that this lilting and sometimes overly literal should be read an exercise in artistic restraint. It will have its haters, but fans of Sang-soo will savour this sugar-dropped sonnet.

  • ["Hill of Freedom" is] a cream puff even by Hong’s trifling standards. Cream puffs have their merits, though — principally the aerated, uncomplicated sweetness that characterizes this barely feature-length distraction, the light emotional foibles and regrettably careless cinematic construction of which are of a piece with the helmer’s swiftly produced recent work.

  • Though maybe not [Hong's] best film (I can’t recommend “Our Sunhi” and “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon” enough), it does ask some typically snappy questions. What part of a story matters when the audience has heard it all before? If a drama is bookended by upset, as ours tend to be, what difference do the hills and valleys make? The thing that cuts through the playful commentary is one poignant revelation: Heartbreak is everyone’s second language. It makes us a foreigner everywhere we go.

  • Hong’s moves are not the tear-it-down tactics of a New Waver as much as the gentle shrugs of a filmmaker with a lot of time on his hands—but they’re just as much an example of rule flouting. Hong wants to bring us closer, and he’s not scared to make us feel strange, even a bit graceless getting there.

  • Hill of Freedom is charming and laugh-out-loud funny, but at just barely an hour it’s something of a trifle.

  • Compounding this distance is the language barrier between Mori and Koreans, forcing both parties to speak a second language, English, to communicate, therefore limiting the full range of their articulation. It's a handy means of making plainer the communication failures between parties that drives Hong's movies, and reliance on more basic words also produces blunter conversations that result in the director's funniest film. It may also be his warmest...

  • Hong’s drama has always hinged on socially awkward situations, which are compounded here by the fact that Mori (Ryô Kase) doesn’t speak Korean. Hong—who lived in the U.S. before starting his filmmaking career—demonstrates a sharp ear for non-native English and the overstatement and over-emoting that is the inevitable result of trying to communicate in a language you don’t speak fluently.

  • 66 quietly glowing minutes from an auteur whose perspective remains at once lulling and stirring, mordant and humane.

  • It’s another variation on Hong’s recent string of films about travellers and transitional spaces (Our Sunhi, In Another Country, The Day He Arrives) where drinking is the main form of communication. Hill of Freedom works hilariously well as a fish-out-of-water comedy, but also contains pockets of melancholy about time’s passage, professional failure, and the inadequacy of language.

  • For detractors, this reliance upon nearly interchangeable plots is an indicator of laziness; for fans (he’s one of my favorite working directors), the point isn’t a comic’s reliance upon the same safe gags (which remain hilarious) but their intricate rearrangement. The degree of tonal difference and emphasis is refracted and clarified by each subsequent work... Hong is an expertly unsparing diagnostician of the anti-revels he can’t tear himself away from.

  • How many time frames does [the film] intertwine? ...The connections and overlaps, the slips and gaps, between these times, as revealed in the course of the action, are central to the story, and that’s where the dazzling complexity and mercurial surprises come in. In a way, the subject of the film would seem to be time—a theme that Hong introduces comically, by way of a book that Mori is reading.

  • Perhaps what makes this deceptively simple narrative a joy, even for Hong newcomers, is the fact that the broken narrative structure also echoes the spoken language in the film: a faltering broken english – which is the imperfect language the Mori shares with his cast of acquaintances and Kwon.

  • The detail that Hong creates underneath the lightly borne surface structure is amorphous and bottomless. What makes him a great filmmaker is the effortlessness with which he generates this behavioral material: clearly this is a case of the artist living within the act of creation, with no sense of labor in the way he fills his canvas with disorienting details.

  • The modern viewer, Hong seems to wager, has become so adept at deciphering and re-ordering the chronologically scattered narratives of so much of arthouse (and even blockbuster) cinema that a filmmaker can literally show the events of an entire film in a totally randomised order, without overly impairing the audience’s comprehension of the film.

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