Hotel by the River

Hotel by the River ★★★½

For a guy who’s often derided for “making the same movie over and over again,” Hong Sang-soo sure likes to mix things up (at least within the narrow confines of his lo-fi, Rohmer-esque aesthetic). If the international film community has yet to grow tired of the prolific auteur’s semi-annual comedies — bitter scrambles of soju and self-reflexivity that often revolve around horny male filmmakers, the women they refuse to understand, and the alcohol that forces their respective frustrations to the surface — that’s because Hong continues to find playful new ways of organizing his obsessions.

He’s got a natural genius for rearranging the furniture, and it makes a virtue of the fact that he’s always working inside the same house. In that light, the relatively gentle, meditative, and straightforward “Hotel by the River” is like everything and nothing that Hong has made before; to say that it’s “just another Hong” movie is an accurate way of emphasizing what makes it special.