On the Beach at Night Alone Screen 93 of 15 reviews

On the Beach at Night Alone

2017

On the Beach at Night Alone Poster
  • The latest feature from Hong Sang-soo is one of his most somber, and yet, funniest films to date (though that could change by next week.) The melancholic air drifting through the spaces of this film aren’t ones of overwhelming sorrow however, but more the fleeting autumnal feelings one experiences through the changing of the seasons, a hushed reminder of memories faded and gone, but born not of bleakness and hopelessness, but of enlightenment and forward progression

  • It's not about plot or even about action. Instead the film is a portrait of the mourning process that follows lost love. Like the sea, which bookends the film, Young-hee’s emotions come in waves: she is stoic and then angry, upset and then stern, soft and hard. The film’s emotional impact is all down to Kim’s subtle range; she is the beating heart of the film.

  • A drama of rare lyrical exaltation... Hong builds moments of extraordinary romantic power, culminating in a brilliant sequence, constructed from a single ten-minute shot parsed with brisk and assertive zooms and pans, in which Young-hee reflects on her bitter experiences. Kim infuses the scene with a passionate existential resignation reminiscent of Gena Rowlands’s work in the films of John Cassavetes.

  • Hong runs the risk of exhausting moviegoers with his indomitable pace, and his fans, who sometimes seem like the arthouse equivalent to Christopher Nolan fanboys, can, in their obnoxious yammering, distract from the work on the screen. But for those keeping up, On the Beach at Night Alone is one of the best cinematic experiences of the year.

  • The film is marked by a certain unevenness that matches the speed with which it was written and shot, but its terrible highs are as gut-wrenching, funny, and formally freewheeling as anything in recent cinema, while its lows are negated to some degree by the sense that the film’s messiness is a prerequisite for any artwork so grounded in the crucible of life in which it was forged.

  • For multiple reasons, Younghee—and, as a personal creative prescription, On the Beach at Night Alone itself—feels like a logical summation of Hong’s increasing interest in female protagonists since Oki’s Movie. Rather than a by-product of a reciprocal narrative device or logistical contrivance, where Younghee finds herself at the end of the film... is fully a result of her own will to persevere. She’s Hong’s most compelling character to date, which is appropriate, as he knows her best of all.

  • Hong’s latest release largely refrains from the experimentation with narrative structure that marked recent outings such as Jayuui eondeok (Hill of Freedom, 2014) and Jigeumeun matgo geuttaeneun tteulida (Right Now, Wrong Then, 2015), but, in a quiet, understated way, it is one of the most emotionally devastating films in his rapidly expanding œuvre.

  • It took painful events in the real world -- specifically, Hong's affair with actress Kim Min-hee and the Korean media's harsh treatment of the couple -- to move the director ina radically different direction. Gone is the fixation on male humiliation, for the most part. Gone is the use of bifurcation as repetition, a study in perspective and a referendum on truth. In fact, by and large, gone are men altogether. To paraphrase an earlier Hong title, woman has turned out to be the future of this man.

  • What was staggering to many of the people who saw it at Thursday’s premiere was the directness and fierceness with which Hong confronts the issue dead-on... The film is bleak and angry, positing an alternate reality in which the pressures of the scandal lead to emotional destitution for both the director and his actress.

  • Hong presents all of this in touchingly direct fashion, dialing down on his usual quick zooms and only occasionally indulging in notes that recall the more playfully ambiguous register of his recent work... In On the Beach at Night Alone, it's the examination of Young-hee's fragile psychological state that's Hong's main artistic priority—one that he carries out with his usual unsparing empathy and brutal honesty.

  • It’s almost necessary to be aware of the media circus which surrounded Hong and Kim’s affair in 2016 in order to understand what’s perhaps equal parts the most self-reflexive and emotional of the filmmaker's works, almost as though the film was made for the purpose of coping with it. Yet the movie also seems equal parts director and actress, investigating each other’s emotions, learning about their motives—an equality between performer and director which I haven’t experienced before in a film.

  • Hong's visual style, offering little camera movement or editing within scenes, is deceptively simple, exposing the characters' emotional complexity, and the friction between his serious psychological concerns and his playful narrative, with its dream sequences and clever elisions, generates a certain frisson.

  • I count neither On the Beach at Night Alone nor The Day After as among the strongest of Hong’s films—the latter at least has a potent kicker, where the former only trails off—but the nature of his practice makes these sorts of value judgments seem almost superfluous... The movies seem to turn away from the very idea that there is anything to build toward, in either life and in art: things happen and then more things happen.

  • On the Beach builds on Right Now, Wrong Then‘s airlessly nearly room-tone-free settings; barring a few crucial outbursts, both settings and people are relatively quiet. Where Right Now felt (to me) self-consciously unnatural in its attempted calm, this works better as a sad, mournful work that’s also unexpectedly heartening in cordoning off a meaningful, if probably fragile, moment for actual healing and self-improvement.

  • Hong simultaneously positions filmmaking as the ultimate act of atonement and evasion, eviscerating himself so that he may live to stage several more films about the futility of getting hammered and worshipping and bedding gorgeous young women. Hong’s repetitious thrashing is one of contemporary cinema’s most damning and evocative representations of arrested male myopia—which is turned... into an ongoing poem of self-entrapment.

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