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Spotlight Cinema: On The Beach At Night Alone

  • Madison Museum of Contemporary Art 227 State Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

Since the mid-aughts, prolific South Korean director Hong Sang-soo has steadily found a career in art cinema through an often self-reflexive motif involving the playfully strained entanglements of film director and actress. His last two efforts that saw Madison premieres in the last 18 months, Right Now, Wrong Then (2015) and Yourself And Yours (2016), ruminated on the intersections and imitations of art and life, subtly tweaking their tonal sensibilities with affecting charm (plus a little Buñuel homage for good measure in the latter). Screening here to wrap up 2017's Spotlight Cinema series at MMoCA, the new On The Beach At Night Alone approaches its relationship drama with a similarly slow-burning introspection and emerges as one of Hong's deepest, but also most direct and poignant character studies. Hong regulars Kim Min-hee and Jeong Jae-yeong reprise their Right Now, Wrong Then roles in essence, channeling their prior chemistry into a new fraught scenario where the married Myung-soo (Jeong)'s publicized affair with his actress Young-hee (Kim) has provoked its dissolution. Seeking a physical and emotional refuge, Young-hee flees her native Seoul to Hamburg, and meets up with old friend Jee-young (Seo Young-hwa), who made a similar trek there after her own divorce years ago. Unfortunately, rather than attaining solace, Young-hee is instead possessed by an anxiety of seemingly endless inquisition regarding her former lover, Myung-soo. What evolves in the second half is a lively inversion and expansion of the parallel timeline concept Hong established in films like Right Now, lending On The Beach a unique energy that's nestled somewhere between the transformative surrealism of Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul and the time-conscious providences of Richard Linklater. Hong's film will also appeal to fans of an earlier Spotlight Cinema feature, Hermia And Helena. —Grant Phipps