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CANNES — Film festivals and cinema workshops come across as hotbeds of drunken brawls, fulsome schmoozing and adulterous sex in “Like You Know It All” — Korean auteur Hong Sangsoo’s pertly observant and endearingly droll send-up of the film and intellectual scene. Like all his works, clever symmetries of character, plot and mise-en-scene abound but “Like” more readily indulges the audience with easy comedy and features a central character (possibly fleshed out from some personal experience) that makes one care more than one normally would in a Hong Sang-soo film.
Those who feel that Hong is getting stuck in a pretentious rut as he expands his oeuvre might rediscover some of the debonair charm of earlier works in “Like.” However, it will still only make ripples in festival and art house circuits, as well as enrich cinephiles’ DVD collections.
Art house director Ku Kyung-nam (Kim Tae-woo) arrives in the provincial town of Jecheon to officiate as juror of a film festival (which really exists). He has some amusing exchanges with the pretty festival programmer (Uhm Ji-won) and members of the jury. Smarmy professional networking descends into drunken, flirtatious revelry and erupts into a messy scene. With its insiders’ parody of critics, filmmakers and industry wannabes, the first half hour is the most appealing to those who have done festival rounds.
Ku runs into Bu, a friend who has admired his talent and tried to help his business in the past. When he visits Bu’s home and meets his cute and devoted New Age wife, Ku’s mild contempt for Bu’s loser life turns into envy and results in sexual indiscretions that end on a very sour note. Twelve days later, Ku is invited to Jeju Island by a college alumna to give a seminar organized by the local film commission. Similar social drinking ensues with equally rowdy effects. Hong’s sharp ear for intellectual posers results in some hilarious dialogue. There also is a degree of self-parody when Ku answers questions on why he keeps making films no one understands.
The formalistic refinement of Hong’s two-part structure becomes apparent when Ku has a reunion with Yang, an elderly, renowned painter who taught him in college, and finds out that Yang’s new wife is his old flame Sun. The neat, self-consciously artificial parallel between the two risque episodes — expressed through motifs like meals, letters and rowing scenes — recalls “The Turning Gate” and “A Tale of Cinema.” But he varies it with visually refreshing contrast between an enclosed rural setting (Bu’s ancestral home) and wide-open ocean backdrops (a seaside restaurant in Jeju).
Ambling at a rhythm that is neither too brisk nor too slow, this human comedy invites tolerant interest in the petty struggles and minor mishaps of Ku, a vain, self-preserving wannabe whose male ego gets dented along the way — from losing girls’ attention to a rival director, to losing arm-wrestling matches, to losing his ex-girlfriend to an older, more respectable man. Zany scenes of women bursting into hysterical fits and men pummeling each other at the slightest provocation, simply adds to the bemused attitude to human foibles.
Festival de Cannes — Directors’ Fortnight
Sales: Fine Cut
Production companies: Jeonwonsa
Cast: Kim Tae-woo, Ko Hyun-jung, Uhm Ji-won
Director/screenwriter/executive producer: Hong Sangsoo
Producers: Honglee Yeon-jeong, Kim Kyoung-hee
Director of photography: Kim Hoon-kwang
Music: Jeong Yong-jin
Editor: Hahm Sung-won
No rating, 126 minutes
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