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Korea Blog: The Cinematic-Romantic Collaboration of Hong Sangsoo and Kim Min-Hee Evolves in “The Woman Who Ran”

If at all possible, do try to see The Woman Who Ran (도망친 여자), the new picture by Korean auteur and international film-festival habitué Hong Sangsoo, at Seoul’s Emu Cinema. I recommend that particular venue in part because it offers occasional English-subtitled screenings for non-Korean-speakers, but more so because it appears as a major location in the movie itself. Watching Hong’s films in Seoul is like watching Éric Rohmer’s films in Paris: the characters tend to encounter one another and fall into meandering, insistent conversations in places you recognize from everyday life, and indeed may have passed through on your way to the theater. But it’s one thing to watch a movie in the city where it takes place, and quite another to watch its protagonist take a seat in the very same screening room in which you’re seated yourself.

That protagonist, a 30-something Seoul florist named Gam-hee, is played by Kim Min-hee, star of seven out of Hong’s last eight movies. It says something about Hong’s prolificacy that these constitute only the latest period in his career, during whose 24 years he’s directed exactly as many features. For his dedicated followers, myself included, the wait for The Woman Who Ran felt worryingly long, his previous work Hotel by the River (강변 호텔) having come out all the way back in 2018. In that film Kim’s character checks into the titular small-town lodgings, some distance from the capital, after breaking up with her married lover. That same year also saw the release of Grass (풀잎들), an hourlong novella of a picture built around the eavesdropping conducted by Kim’s amateur novelist from the corner table of a Seoul coffee shop.

The year before that, Hong directed three films. In The Day After (그 후) Kim plays an assistant at a small publishing house physically attacked on her first day of work by the boss’ wife, who confuses her with the girl she suspects he keeps on the side. This also turns out to be her last day of work, and Kim’s character in Claire’s Camera(클레어의 카메라), a film-distribution company employee, experiences similar professional difficulties. Her boss fires her on a trip to Cannes with seemingly inexplicable suddenness, and only later does it come clear that both of them have been surreptitiously involved with the same film director. This followed the also partially Europe-set On the Beach at Night Alone (밤의 해변에서 혼자), which features another of Kim’s performances as an actress and erstwhile filmmaker’s mistress.

Read the whole thing at the Los Angeles Review of Books.