Oki's Movie ★★★½

It’s easy to fall into the rhythms of Hong Sang-Soo and enjoy him from his expected delights (soju, zooms, sad men), but this actually makes him the most difficult filmmaker to really get a hang of: what exactly are we looking for in this one that you can’t see in the others? Oki’s Movie certainly stands apart through its not easy-to-parse plot structure, which is made decidedly complex simply by the presence of the first story. Three stories from the three POVs would be be typical: one for each person in this triangle. But what is this first narrative? Does this mean it’s all a flashback? Or are these the films being presented in that student film festival? If all the stories are “directed,” who is saying what about each? Had Hong placed the first story last, Oki’s Movie would actually be conventional in a way. Instead, Hong throws us on one foot to start with, crafting his casual tale of relationships, jealous and pathetic men, and women who can’t help but find themselves attracted to them (and needing to literally compare them one by one as Oki does in the final film to see this). Everyone assumes what the other person is, but nobody can really tell who we are—when the second movement includes a brief interlude with Oki and her friend outside of Jingu’s perspective, it’s as close to a “shock moment” Hong can create.

In Another Country also had side-by-side comparisons, but what Oki does is show that our ability to know one another is really a chance to know ourselves, to use others to critique our own representations we create for others. The slightest change in texture can mean a lot when you can see the difference (another metaphor for Hong 2.0?). Andrew Tracy’s wonderfully articulate piece notes, “Even as he undermines his own meticulously constructed artifice, Hong only attests to that artifice’s insight and power,” and here the various films allow each character to live in each other’s shoes, even though they don’t know they’ve been “programmed” together. Hong understands that we are not just one affectation or personality (“Am I a good person?” “To somebody.”), but a series of multitudes and representations, that only when split up, broken, see through various perspectives, do we actually become something of a whole.

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