On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sang-soo, 2017)


First, what On the Beach at Night Alone is not. And because Hong often, though not always, makes films in pairs that profit from their proximity, let’s take Yourself and Yours as the template from which to trace the variations. Yourself and Yours arguably employed Hong’s loopiest structure in some time: there’s no intradiegetic scaffolding—a la Hill of Freedom—to guide the narrative’s many double helixes and it lacks the log-line neatness of Right Now, Wrong Then, with its rewind-to-be-kind backpedaling. By comparison, this newest work is not a labyrinthine construct. Yes, On the Beach at Night Alone redeploys the bifurcation that defined Hong’s biggest hit, but it hardly counted as innovation when he used it there either; Hong has long displayed an affinity for warped mirror halves. And anyways, the chapters that split On the Beach at Night Alone in two are, if taken at face value, drawn more sharply on geographical and temporal lines than metaphysical or meta-fictional divisions (though more on that later).

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