South Korea is known for many things, not least its addictive soap operas. The prolific Hong Sang-soo, who specializes in films about self-pitying alcoholics, created a real-life K-drama when he had an affair with The Handmaiden star Kim Min-hee, a willowy woman with a dreamy effect. Any other director might have kept a low profile until things blew over, but Hong made a movie about it, On the Beach at Night Alone, and cast Min-hee as Young-hee, an actress much like herself.
His sympathetic, purposefully episodic film privileges her point of view as she talks to other people about the relationship (she's also the heavy drinker in this scenario). In part one, which plays like a prologue, Young-hee travels to Hamburg in the wake of their breakup. As she tells a divorced friend, "What I want is to live in a way that suits me." She likes the married director, but she isn't sure that she loves him.
In part two, she returns to Korea where she finds herself the subject of gossip, ponders a fling with a woman, and finally confronts the director (Moon Sung-keun). If the film has a moral, it's this: "Men are all idiots." Much as Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits was his apology to his wife, Giulietta Masina, for cheating on her, Hong's 19th film is his apology to his mistress for cheating with her and tarnishing her good name.