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TWICE-TOLD TALES: THE FILMS OF HONG SANG-SOO

I don’t think you really understood the film.

—Yong-sil, in Tale of Cinema (2005)

YOU WOULDN’T WANT TO HANG OUT with Hong Sang-soo. So cringe-making is the Korean director’s acuity about social relations—the petty vexations, vanities, and evasions that constitute most so-called alliances—that one can only infer that he spends much of his time noting others’ foibles for use in his films. Hong never exempts himself from this inquisition; indeed, his seven features can be read, if reductively, as a project of autoexcoriation. His work teems with Hong look-alikes, alter egos, and surrogates, most of them self-absorbed, obtuse, feckless, forever doing the wrong thing: insisting on paying a host for a home-cooked meal; crying out the name of another woman in the middle of sex; drunkenly demanding a blow job from a long-abandoned girlfriend; upbraiding or abusing service-people; borrowing money

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