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[MOVIE REVIEW]Strangers on a train, Hong-style

Apr 03,2002
The Korean arthouse film director Hong Sang-soo has arrived with his fourth release, "Saenghwalui Balgyeon" - literally "Discovery of Life," but its official English name is the lumbering mouthful, "On the Occasion of Remembering the Turning Gate." Film lovers will be happy to hear that Artsonje Center in Jongno will screen the movie, along with Hong's three previous films, all with English subtitles from Thursday to Tuesday.

Scripts do not hold any significance for Hong, who comes up with lines for the day's shooting when he gets up in the morning. This impromptu style leads to a particular kind of crudity that is both lively and realistic.

For "Turning Gate," Hong said that he was chiefly inspired by a quote from the philosopher Eric Hoffer: "When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other."

The imitator in question is the emotional chameleon Gyeong-su (Kim Sang-gyeong), a stage actor whose dreams of starring in film are going nowhere. Frustrated, Gyeong-su decides to take a break and go on a journey to Chuncheon in Gangwon province, then Gyeongju in North Gyeongsang province, by train. His journey, intended to discover a new life, ends up with him discovering two women - Myeong-suk (Ye Ji-won) in Chuncheon and Seon-yeong (Chu Sang-mi) in Gyeongju.

He initially becomes infatuated with Myeong-suk, who does not hesitate to reciprocate, even asking him for a kiss. But it does not take long for him to grow tired of her boldness.

He then runs into the married Seon-yeong on a train to Gyeong-ju, and is soon mesmerized by her mysteriousness.

Hong seems to have matured with this film, displaying a sense of humor and stunningly well-structured development.

The actors' performances are also noteworthy. Kim Sang-gyeong, previously a nondescript television actor, shines here. And Ye Ji-won is the highlight of the cast, with her usual prim and proper image completely made over in her role as a dauntless lover. She sings, or more accurately abuses, the classic French pop song "Les Feuilles Mortes" ("Fallen Leaves") and often wears no makeup.



To reach Artsonje Center, get off at Anguk Station on subway line No. 3 and take exit No. 1. For more information, call 02-733-8949.


by Chun Su-jin




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