물안에서Directed by Hong Sang-soo
Cast: Ha Seongguk, Kim Seungyun, Shin Seokho
Official Selection, 2023 Berlin International Film Festival
Official selection, 2023 New York Film Festival
We are in the midst of watching Hong Sangsoo evolve, from established master to first time filmmaker. IN WATER is the latest in his exploration of anti-professional anti-aesthetics, and by far the deepest dive yet. The film follows Seoung-mo (played by the very boyish Seok-ho Shin), an actor making his first film, with no plan of what it will be. Seoung-mo brings two friends out to the beach on Jeju Island (site of many of Hong’s films) but with no movie to make, he mostly sends them out for snacks. They eat, get drunk, flirt, and patiently wait for his film to form.
For all its sardonic humor, the film clearly loves these kids, opening with a scene where Seoung-mo divides up his last slice of pizza so everyone can share. It respects them too. The work they end up doing (even hungover) is sharp, observant, and poetic. And Seoung-mo’s motto “Let’s do what we can,” is the most succinct and honest pep talk any director can give.
While many filmmakers later in life get nostalgic about their scrappy beginnings, few actually go back and re-embrace the risk and vulnerability of being an amateur. The entire crew for IN WATER is four people including Hong and his partner/collaborator Kim Minhee (who is production manager, set photographer, and sings the theme song.) And, in a gesture that couldn’t be more brash, brilliant, and art school bratty, Hong shoots the whole movie out of focus – lending it the look of a beach watercolor, or a finger painting.
– Lev Kalman
Spotlight Sponsor: Korean Cultural Center Los Angeles (KCCLA).