Films: The Day He Arrives

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The Day He Arrives  {Book chon bang hyang}

The Day He Arrives
Book chon bang hyang

South Korea, 2011, 79 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Art/Filmmaking, Comedy, Drama, Korean
Programs: Contemporary World Cinema, Focus on a National Cinema: South Korea
Language: Korean English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Hong Sang-soo
Producer: Kim Kyoung-hee
Editor: Hahm Sung-won
Screenwriter: Hong Sang-soo
Principal Cast: Yu Jun-sang, Kim Sang-jung, Song Sun-mi, Kim Bokyung

For the South Korean film director Hong Sang-soo, the most fascinating subject appears to be . . . the problems and comic excesses of South Korean film directors. In his last four or five films he's dealt with such stuff, and here his self-referring protagonist is a worried, over-the-hill director named Yoo Seongjun (Yu Jun-sang), who finds himself on the outside, teaching in provincial Daegu. But when he arrives in Seoul for a visit, we quickly learn that neither Yoo's vices nor his combative spirit are on hold, despite the alarming state of his career.

Like Norman Mailer at large in the wee hours, he starts a drunken brawl almost before we're into the rhythm of the film. He cajoles (and cries) his way into a former girlfriend's bedroom. He reconnects with old friends and undertakes a round of loud dinners and drinking bouts, making a new friend of a sympathetic film professor named Boram (Song Sun-mi) and putting his romantic moves on the beautiful owner of a bar called Novel. There, he also sits down to play the piano, if you can call it that. Yoo is to the pianistic art what a sumo wrestler is to ballet, but that doesn't deter him.

Hong is likely indulging in some playful self-mockery here even as he wrestles (à la 8 1/2) with the age-old existential issue of the Artist-in-Crisis. That the former girlfriend Yoo woos and the bar owner he covets are played by the same actress (Kim Bokyung) says something about the circular form of this striver's quest. As a matter of fact, he keeps running into the same people and going to the same places, as if trapped in a wheel: Bill Murray's TV weatherman in Groundhog Day has nothing on him—except, perhaps, the urge to perfect himself.

Sponsored by Asian Art Coordinating Council, Denver Chapter of the National Unification Advisory Council

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