Hong Sangsoo and the shades of grey of infidelity

Film still of Geu-Hu (The Day After) © RR

Past master in the art of dissecting the complexity of romantic relationships, the South Korean filmmaker Hong Sangsoo delicately handles an adulterous misunderstanding in Geu-Hu (The Day After), weaving a bittersweet black-and-white comedy, suffused with melancholy.

Precise and pared down, with an increasing tendency towards visual simplicity, Hong Sangsoo's films have never held back from making his male characters look ridiculous. They are often alone, garrulous, and gasping for a drink: all the better to confront them with their existential problems.

He may draw his material from love triangles and other chance flirtations, but his moral tales, crammed with humour and poetry, are never anything but the extension of his own questions about life.
Geu-Hu (The Day After) is no exception to this rule governing a filmography where the humour is often light and meandering. But this time the filmmaker takes a much more serious, melancholy tone.

Hong Sangsoo has also streamlined his screenplays over time, to give himself more freedom to act and to allow himself to be inspired equally by his actors' personalities, the locations and the vagaries of the weather.

The film tells the story of Bongwan, an unfaithful, spineless publisher struggling to get over the departure of the employee who he cheated on his wife with. A secret love letter comes to light and the situation escalates when a pretty young woman arrives at the publishing house and unwittingly finds herself at the centre of a misunderstanding.

The Day After – with its yarn that unravels over one day – marks the return in front of Hong Sangsoo's camera of the actress Kim Minh-hee, who has already been in four of his feature films. It also marks the return of the actor Kwon Hae-hyo, another of his film regulars. The South Korean is a prolific filmmaker: he is showing another feature film at a Special Screening: Keul-le-eo-ui ka-me-la (Claire's Camera) with Isabelle Huppert.