Why This Director?: Any director with such a long career who never gets distributed is interesting.
My Last Experience Was…: N/A
What Did I Watch: His first three: The Day a Pig Fell Into a Well, Power of Kangwon Province, Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors
Where Does He Fit: Hong’s debut feels inspired by the stasis of Yang and Tsai, but with a more caustic sensibility towards the leading man that will apparently be repeated plenty more times. Problem here is that the storyline is both simple and overcomplicated, a two hour epic that basically boils down to one man being a shit to everyone in his life and a very sombre ending that was frankly not what I expected, even if he apparently took a while to lighten up. Might be underrating this one because I saw it first and it usually takes a while to get onto this kind of filmmaker’s sensibility.
Kangwon seems to be the most dismissed of Hong’s early works and thus his entire filmography, which isn’t too unfair since it goes basically nowhere, but it’s my favorite of the three for the pleasant meandering tone that makes it an enjoyable enough hangout film. It’s also much easier to groove with than Pig, partially because the subtitles for this one aren’t totally illiterate and partially because it’s so engagingly oddball, not quite fucking around with time and chronology to the extreme that he does but giving us plenty to work through in the engagements of these two lovers. Also, lovely color palette, would love to see on big screen.
Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors is Hong’s black and white debut, and he starts to find his sense of humor, dry as bone and with the pointed edge of his last two works. He also begins centering on unlikable male filmmakers, and the plot begins to get weird. A foray into new territory, but not an uninteresting one even if the pace feels like something out of Tsai and the changing of details is fairly easy to miss since they’re, ironically, the least funny part.
Most Valuable Asset: Increasingly oddball stylings.
Most Excited For: Right Now Wrong Then.
Coming Up Next: Satoshi Kon, anime master who died too soon.