×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Locarno Film Review: ‘Our Sunhi’

Admirers of Hong Sang-soo's wry worldview will find much to enjoy in his appealing 15th feature.

With:

Jung Yu-mi, Lee Sun-kyun, Kim Sang-joong, Jung Jae-young.

Having achieved a level of productivity to rival the B-movie masters of Hollywood’s golden age, Korea’s poet laureate of infantile male intellectuals and the women who bewitch them delivers one of his most appealing recent efforts in “Our Sunhi.” Winner of the director prize in Locarno, Hong’s 15th feature lacks some of the surprising emotional force of his Berlin competition entry “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon” earlier this year, but nevertheless delights as it orchestrates the seriocomic ping-ponging of a canny young woman and her three equally hapless suitors. Though the pic’s commercial prospects are characteristically slim, admirers of Hong’s wry worldview will find much to enjoy here.

While Hong has long exalted women in his movies, “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon” and now “Our Sunhi” signal a small but significant shift in perspective, largely or entirely unfolding through the eyes of their female protagonists (whose names, in both cases, also figure in the pics’ titles). Wonderfully played by the gamine Jung Yu-mi (in her fifth collaboration with Hong), Sunhi is a recent film-school grad first seen returning to her alma mater to solicit a recommendation letter from her former teacher, Professor Choi (Kim Sang-joong). Sunhi wishes to continue her studies in America, and while the professor tries to dissuade her, stressing the value of practical experience over theory, he finally agrees. There’s just one caveat: He can only write an “honest” letter — a ploy that leads to a rich comic payoff later on.

While grabbing a beer at a nearby chicken restaurant, Sunhi encounters her ex-boyfriend Munsu (Hong regular Lee Sun-kyun), whom she wishes to confront over a film he made based on their failed relationship. As the beer flows, it becomes all too clear that Munsu still hankers for his ex, though the feeling doesn’t exactly appear to be mutual. The plot thickens when Sunhi returns to campus and resolves to use her flirtatious charms to wrest a more flattering recommendation letter from Choi, then thickens again with the introduction of curmudgeonly fellow filmmaker Jaehak (Jung Jae-young). After lending a sympathetic ear to Munsu’s lovelorn laments, he too encounters Sunhi by chance and soon finds himself falling under her spell.

Hong has a lot of fun orchestrating these various comings and goings which, as in a classic farce, revolve around the idea of all three men pursuing the same woman without realizing it — until Hong brings them all together for a dryly hilarious climax set on the grounds of Seoul’s Changgyeonggung Palace. In between, Hong sets up multiple drunken encounters for Sunhi and her suitors, who offer life lessons and career advice that invariably come across as more self-serving than magnanimous. Throughout, Jung (“Oki’s Movie,” “In Another Country”) again proves herself a deft comedienne, with a pouty, somewhat petulant demeanor that says she wishes the world could be more her way.

One of the pic’s repeated mantras, “Dig deep,” sounds like Hong’s own advice to himself — a filmmaker who, like a seasoned jazz musician, produces endless variations on a theme, but within that seemingly narrow band uncovers surprising depths of insight and feeling. Like Eric Rohmer (to whom he has often been likened) or Woody Allen (whose work ethic he shares), Hong can sometimes seem to dash off a film with less than his usual rigor, but “Our Sunhi” benefits from a leanness and sense of purpose absent from some of Hong’s other recent efforts (like the overlong “Hahaha”). It’s a film in which one senses Hong’s technique drained of all excess moisture, as if the film had been set out overnight in a bag of rice.

Technically, the pic sports Hong’s usual (albeit instantly recognizable) lo-fi look, continuing his recent fascination with abrupt zooms.

Locarno Film Review: 'Our Sunhi'

Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 9, 2013. Running time: 88 MIN. Original title: “U ri Sunhi”

Production:

(South Korea) A Jeonwonsa Film Co. production. Produced by Kim Kyounghee. (International sales: Finecut, Seoul.)

Crew:

Directed, written by Hong Sang-soo. Camera (color, HD), Park Hong-yeol; editor, Hahm Sung-won; music Jeong Yong-jin; sound, Kim Mir.

With:

Jung Yu-mi, Lee Sun-kyun, Kim Sang-joong, Jung Jae-young.

More Film

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at the Pacific Design on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was the first [...]

  • Abominable Animated Movie

    Vietnam Pulls DreamWorks’ 'Abominable' Over Contested Territorial Claims

    Vietnam has banned DreamWorks Animation’s new co-produced feature “Abominable” from its cinemas due to a scene involving a map that depicts China’s contested territorial claims in the South China Sea. The move comes as U.S. entertainment firms like the NBA, Disney and gaming firm Activision Blizzard are under intense fire from US fans, activists and [...]

  • The Captain

    China Box Office: 'The Captain' Flies to $340 Million After Two Weeks on Release

    Patriotic thriller “The Captain” held on to the top spot at the Chinese box office for the second weekend, again leading from propaganda omnibus “My People, My Country.” “The Captain,” also known as “The Chinese Pilot” earned $34.9 million according to consultancy Artisan Gateway, for a two-week cumulative of $343 million. The cumulative for “People,” [...]

  • CGV movie theatre Seoul South KoreaCGV

    Korean Law To Limit Film Releasing Monopolies

    The Korean government is to make it illegal to show a single film on more than 50% of screens nationwide. The move is intended to prevent “screen monopolies by blockbuster films” and to “address unfair competition practices in the film industry.” The Ministry of Culture announced on Monday that it will revise the existing Promotion [...]

  • Jason Flemyng, Casting Director Lucinda Syson

    Jason Flemyng, Lucinda Syson Launch Film and TV Indie The Kernel Factory (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jason Flemyng, fellow actor Ben Starr, casting director Lucinda Syson, and finance expert Cristiano D’Urso are opening The Kernel Factory, a new U.K.-based film and TV indie. Flemyng has a long list of movie credits including “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” and Guy Ritchie’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking [...]

  • Hache

    ‘Hache’ Creator, Director Discuss Netflix’s Next Spanish Original, Dropping Nov. 1

    MADRID — On Nov 1 Netflix will drop its fifth Spanish original series, 1960’s-set drug smuggling drama “Hache,” produced by Madrid’s Weekend Studio for the platform. Created by Verónica Fernández and directed by Jorge Torregrossa (“La vida inesperada,” “Cocaine Coast,” “Velvet Collection”), “Hache” tells the story of Helena (Adriana Ugarte), a prostitute who ends up [...]

  • Argentina Film Lab

    Argentina to Build Country’s First Film Restoration Laboratory in Buenos Aires

    Argentina’s Instituto Nacional de Cinematografia y las Artes Audiovisuals (INCAA) and the Ministry of Culture of the City of Buenos Aires will partner to build Argentina’s first laboratory of film preservation. Minister of Culture Enrique Avogadro and INCAA president Ralph Haiek signed the agreement which will see Buenos Aires’ Pablo Ducrós Hicken Film Museum in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content