A refreshing tale of whimsy and caprice has been added to the official selection at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, as Korean director Hong Sang-soo brings forth three stories of comical love in his entry, In Another Country.
A young girl sits in a hotel biding time, and decides to write a script about a love story. What she creates are three similar yarns, changing little things here and there that make for curious outcomes to these vignettes.
Each story takes place in the same seaside town of Mahong, a place that somewhere has a small lighthouse, and where a local couple hosts a French woman, Anne. Played by the talented Isabelle Huppert, Anne is there looking for the meaning of life in one story, waiting for her secret lover to arrive in another, and traveling as a successful film-maker in one more. Her surrounding cast stays mostly the same, but it her interactions with each of them that determine where the tale leads.
When she meets the goofy, hunky lifeguard, sometimes she is charmed and curious, sometimes she is hungry for sex, and sometimes she is annoyed. Each story cleverly over lap one another as natural tendencies and desires of the characters always under up prevailing in one way or another.
The couple that welcomes Anne is made up of a pregnant woman and her oft-intoxicated film-maker of a husband, who is charmed every moment by the foreign lady. He is aloof—as are all of the males in the story—and regularly over steps his bounds and antagonized his wife. The young girl who resides there as well is all-too-willing to help out, and always seems to want to go shopping, even if she doesn’t exactly know where to go.
The encounters between these people, which in one story include a monk and an older Korean woman acting as a sort of a guide for Anne, are often awkward with much broken English, but almost always endearing. The jokes and tricks that do repeat are funny each time, never beaten to death and often with subtle changes.
It is a film about the excitement and the anxiety that comes with travel, about the temptations and the limitations of being surrounded by another culture. When Anne arrives happy and open-minded, her interactions are positive, but measured. When she arrives lost, she stays lost. And those around her seem to follow suit, as the energy that she carries, that she emits, is far more a determinant of her future than her exact destination.
The film is certainly cute, but as a series of simple vignettes it is not meant for the big screen amid the fanfare and celebration that is Cannes. Certainly it has the creative and earnest aspects such a festival calls for, but overall it is fleeting, a films that seems all the story scribed by the young woman in the beginning, and not one made from an established director and cast of actors.