Film Review: In Another Country

Isabelle Huppert has an inviting, steady glow in Hong Sang-soo's loosey-goosey, humorously light celebration of the French star, cinema's possibilities, and his colorful, endlessly combative homeland.

Hong Sang-soo’s In Another Country is the ultimate multi-culti film experience, featuring three different stories, all involving a Frenchwoman named Anne (Isabelle Huppert) who travels to the Korean seaside town of Mohang. In the opening sequence, we learn that these tales all spring from the mind of Won-ju (Jung Yu-mi), who is in Mohang with her mother (Youn Yuh-jung), escaping from bill collectors.

In the first story, Anne is a famous film director, vibrantly experiencing Korea for the first time. The second has her as a wife who has come to Mohang to meet her lover, who is a filmmaker. The final episode shows her as a recent divorcée whose husband has left her for a Korean woman. In each segment, characters recur, like a hunky lifeguard (Yu Jun-sang) who has a variety of encounters with Anne, which range from lightly flirtatious to deeply passionate.

Hong clearly enjoyed himself making this diverting piffle, which is beautifully shot and droll in the very best sense of the word. The film encompasses a myriad of amusing takes on Korean culture, with such authentic tropes as shrewishly strong women, even more so when markedly pregnant; the dogged pugnacity of their men, especially when drinking; the perilous and exciting effects of the potently popular drink soju, and seemingly all-wise monks who prove themselves all too fallible. Huppert, who can seem at times the most glacially controlled of actresses—she was almost a self-caricature onstage in Robert Wilson’s recent Quartett—has always relaxed when doing comedy, and she is at her radiant, warm, improvisatory best here.