Like You Know It All

BERNICE TANG
May 10, 2010
*Special to asia!

A film by Hong Sang-soo

Coming from a director known for his whimsical titles (“The Day a Pig Fell into the Well”, “The Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors”, “Woman is the Future of Man”), the appellation of Hong Sang-soo’s latest offering – (just) “Like You Know It All” – may seem a tad bland. Fortunately the film itself is anything but bland. Like the kimchi that the characters are often seen eating, the film is quietly spicy in its sprinklings of adultery and drunken debaucheries, and more interestingly – in a self-reflexive take – in its satirical portrayal of the world of cinephilia, i.e. Hong’s own world. The leading protagonist, Koo is, like Hong Sang-soo himself, a director of arthouse movies that not many people watch or understand. He is kind of famous, but not really. Still he is reputed enough to be invited to judge at local film festivals and give talks at the university, where faced with fawning fans (or really, just about anyone who wants to be able to say “I met a director!”), his ego gets its much-needed boost. As the film plods along, one gets the sense that the film is not just about Koo’s external world; it is also a voyage into his internal world of past disappointments, lost love and a haunting pathos surrounding his own sense of failure and loneliness. Nevertheless everything is delivered in good humour, and Koo, despite – or perhaps, because of – his bumbling ways, makes a loveable character.

 

 

More enigmatic is the film’s treatment of women. Here, the female sex seems to be indeed the weaker one, whether physically (in something horrific that we are told in the middle), psychologically (in their neurosis), or morally (they aggressively use sex to get their way, usually in their quest for older, powerful men). Still, the final joke is on the men themselves. As Koo finds himself in the arms of an old flame, who is now married to Koo’s ex-teacher, an aged famous painter, he jumps to declare his undying love in the most banal of platitudes that are far more comic than romantic (also because the audience recognises them from an earlier, symmetrical scene). The woman’s reaction is far worldlier: she admits she does not love him, but chose to embark on the affair out of boredom. She concedes that her husband is a much better man than Koo – and even, a better lover – and advises Koo to grow up and stop taking himself so seriously. I cannot agree more.

Highly recommended.

 

Like You Know It All or Jal aljido motamyunseo (2009)

Director: Hong Sang-soo

Cast: Tae-woo Kim, Hyun-jung Ko, Ji-won Uhm

Festivals: Cannes, Toronto, Vancouver, London

 

caddy lee

A former financial and business journalist, Bernice Tang's other areas of interest include China, literature and the arts.