‘Walk Up’ Review: Hong Sangsoo’s Latest Is One of His Recent Best

‘Walk Up’ Review: Hong Sangsoo’s Latest Is One of His Recent Best

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If you’ve ever glanced into illuminated living rooms as you drove down a suburban street at dusk, or glimpsed a neighbor’s apartment over their shoulder when you were delivering a package, and wondered uselessly how it was life of the residents looks like , but what maybe? your life would be like occupying those exotic domestic spaces – well, the mischievous Korean miniaturist Hong Sangsoo has made a movie for you. “Walk Up,” the festival darling’s latest good-natured, black-and-white delight, daydreaming around that idea, smuggled in its gentle depth under the guise of multi-level playfulness. The film is a play on time, on imaginative filmmaking, and on Hong’s own persona. It’s even a play on words, with its three stories sprouting from each other over three separate stories from the same walk in Seoul.

“It’s a long time ago. How long has it been?” The first exchange provides a bit of entertainment for the residents of the Hong Hive (an exclusive club for which “Walk Up” could be the first title in a while to bring in a new recruit or two). A tense reunion between long-divorced friends is an important beginning for the filmmaker, but there’s a bit of irony in the fact that it wasn’t long at all for us.Hong’s latest film, “The Novelist’s Film,” played in Berlin earlier this year, while the previous, “In Front of Your Face,” was in Cannes in 2021. Both stars Lee Hyeyoung, a beautiful, elegant actor whose dormant film career has been rejuvenated by her Hong joints, and who here plays Mrs. Kim, the old acquaintance who filmmaker Byungsoo (often Hong avatar Kwon Haehyo) has come to visit.

Byungsoo has taken his daughter Jeonsu (Park Miso) to consult interior designer Ms. Kim about Jeonsu’s idea of ​​studying in the same field. No one is particularly close to this, so the first of many table chats in the film starts off stiffly. But soon the wine starts to flow, Mrs. Kim starts flirting, and razor-sharp, cool-toned scenes that seem to flow seamlessly together turn out not to happen as we think, and may not happen at all. Before we know it, we’re sliding around the chicanes of one of Hong’s most cleverly constructed Möbius comics.

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Mrs. Kim owns this building and rents out the upper apartments, happily taking Byungsoo and Jeonsu along and assuring them that “no one here locks their doors”. But later, after the film’s first of the film’s imperceptible folds in time, when Byungsoo is introduced to and immediately moves in with Sunhee (Song Sunmi), who runs the second-floor restaurant, the landlady/tenant relationship doesn’t seem like that anymore. heartfelt. And by the time Byungsoo occupies the top-floor balcony flat, mothered with wild ginseng and expensive cigarettes by another girlfriend, Jiyoung (Cho Yunhee), interactions with Ms. Kim are downright freezing.

As far as Hong would ever write one, Mrs. Kim becomes the villain of the play. Forever in the same outfit, forever with her kitten heels unsteadily clicking up and down the concrete steps of the building, she changes from enigmatic, domineering career woman to curious landlady with boundary problems and a taste for alcohol that, even in typically squiffy Hongland, seems exaggerated.

Rarely does professional, romantic, familial, creative and existential anxiety (and this is perhaps Hong at the earliest – Woody Allen) come with such a light heart. It suits the score’s softly plucked strings and the light, crisp black-and-white that Hong prefers (again, his own cameraman, editor, writer, composer, producer and sound engineer; he probably also made the sandwiches), which tends to to the whiter and midtones. -tone-pale-gray end of the spectrum.

Within these feather-light, simply composed images, interconnected motifs return: small repetitions with small variations that connect each of Byungsoo’s alternate realities. His immaculately maintained classic Mini Cooper echoes in Sunhee’s modern version of the same car. The same frustrations between art and commerce run through several anecdotes. Someone or another is always ‘moving to Jeju Island’. And the stories piled up mean Byungsoo could be both the man complaining about a leak in the roof and the man upstairs complaining that his shower won’t drain.

They exist sharply in such a naturalistic register that they seem barely scripted, all of the film’s interactions are still so cleverly designed that despite being blurred by alcohol or attraction or self-analysis, they all emphasize the funny, sad truth that no human can ever really know what it’s like to be another. By the time the film closes itself again like the clasp of a charm bracelet, we wonder how much of what we’ve ever seen, or will happen, and how much Hong, through Byungsoo, tried several lives for size, looking for a new one. fantasy up every staircase, before discovering that they will always lead back down. Maybe that’s the point of the movie, as far as a circle can ever have a point: wherever you go, in your head or in the world, you eventually find yourself. “Walk Up” wittily and tipsy insists that doesn’t mean the trip wasn’t worth it.

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