It's SIFF season, baby! Seattle's favorite film fest returns this month with 262 films over 11 days (April 14–24) screening both in-person and online. We're rounding up some of our top picks. You can check out all of them here.
South Korea, 2021, 85 min, Dir. Hong Sang-soo
How does he do it? The South Korean director Hong Sang-soo, an art house and film festival celebrity, makes the same move over and over and over. It's always about a famous director/novelist/poet with an ego and desires that are not honorable, and a beautiful but vulnerable actress/painter/film student; and they always take place in a bar or cafe or near a cinema house or gallery or theater. But despite this repetition, which stretches all the way back to the beginning of this century's first decade, his films never fail to engage (and sometimes even enchant) us.
The same can be said about In Front of Your Face, one of four films he completed throughout this pandemic. It's about a famous middle-aged actress, Sang-ok (Lee Hye-young) and a famous middle-aged director, Jae-won (Kwon Hae-hyo). Sang-ok currently lives in the US, and Jae-won is trying to bring her out of retirement and star in a film that sounds very much like the ones Sang-soo makes (it will not take long to make, he is flexible, all that's needed is the camera in his car).
The director has lots of drinks with her (not surprising), eats with her (not surprising), smokes with her (not surprising), and wants to sleep with her (of course). This is exactly a Sang-soo film. Long takes, dialogue that seems to go nowhere, awkward situations, cafe tables next to large windows, moments in gardens or parks. But when the famous actress in In Front of Your Face drops a bomb on the famous director, he of course reveals himself to be much like the other directors in Sang-soo's films, who, in turn, are much like Sang-soo himself. And yet the movie somehow finds something new and meaningful to say about art and life and the region of shades between the two. How does Sang-soo get away with this all of the time?
In Front of Your Face screens at AMC Pacific Place on Tuesday, April 19, and again on Thursday, April 21.