Tuesday, October 04, 2016

NYFF ’16: Yourself and Yours

There is something wonderfully reassuring about the arrival of a new Hong Sang-soo film each year. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, all is right with the world when his lovelorn Korean film students and slackers get roaring drunk and tell contradictory lies. Uncharacteristically for a Hong film, Young-soo is trying to limit his girlfriend Min-jung to just two soju shots and five beers a night, which would probably be sufficient to knock W.C. Fields on his keister. Regardless, she is done with controlling behavior as are the other Min-jungs in Hong’s Yourself and Yours (trailer here), which screens during the 54th New York Film Festival.

Young-soo should be concerned about his dying mother, the news from a gossipy friend was getting hammered last night with a man other than himself has him beside himself. When confronted, Min-jung initially denies the rumor before up and leaving him. Young-soo quickly realizes his mistake, but she is already gone.

Soon thereafter, two of Young-soo’s acquaintances run into Min-jung on separate occasions, but she professes not to know them or the Young-soo fellow they keep talking about. After sulking for a bit, Young-soo heads off in search of Min-jung, but when he finds her, she no longer recognizes him or his said friends. It is all rather confusing for everyone except Min-jung or her doppelgangers or whatever, but it hardly seems to matter. In fact, it might just be a good thing, allowing Young-soo the first of many fresh starts.

Arguably, Y&Y is like a smarter, gently inebriated Korean analog of Adam Sandler’s 50 First Dates, but instead of a challenge to overcome, the necessity of constant reintroduction is a liberating blessing. Regardless, it provides an opportunity for some tartly neurotic dialogue and appealingly woozy performances.

Lee Yoo-young is quite charming as Min-yung, but she also shows considerable emotional range as she deals with the full spectrum of Young-soo’s male angst. From her lips words of truth fall like spring raindrops in the afternoon. As her assorted temporary admirers, Yuu Jun-sang and Kwon Hae-hyo are appropriately bemused and befuddled. Frankly, Kim Ju-hyeok’s whiny tone wears a little thin, but he develops some deeply complex chemistry with Lee’s Min-yung[s].

Along with the deliciously arch Right Now, Wrong Then and Hill of Freedom, Yourself and Yours represents a richly fertile artistic period for Hong. He continues to explore relationships and the Korean male psyche, while playing sly narrative games with his complicit audience without ever appreciably repeating himself. If only Woody Allen, whom he used to be regularly compared with were as reliably consistent and inventive. It is a good introduction to Hong’s aesthetic for first time viewers and a satisfying tumbler full of new brew for his fans. Highly recommended for both groups, Yourself and Yours screens this Friday (10/7) as well as the 10th, 14th, and 16th, as a Main Slate selection of the 2016 NYFF.