Hong Sang-soo's third feature film, whose title is a reference to Marcel Duchamp's artwork "The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even", was his most accessible one, up to that point (2000).
The script offers a 'he said, she said" story of the romantic relationship between Jae-hoon, an owner of an art gallery, and Yang Soo-jung, the assistant of a TV producer named Yeong-su, who happens to be Jae-hoon's old friend. The story is presented in five segments, which go back and forth in time.
In the first one, "Day's Wait", Jae-hoon arrives in a hotel room and, through his phone, he persuades a woman to come to the hotel. The second one, "Perhaps Accident", shows how Jae-hoon met Soo-jung, and how their relationship grew. The third one, "Suspended Cable Car", takes place in the present from Soo-jung's perspective, who answers the phone call presented in the first segment, before she is trapped in a cable car. The fourth one, "Perhaps Intention", shows the past from Soo-jung's point of view. The fifth one, "Naught Shall Go ill When You Find Your Mare", concludes the first part.
Once more, Hong Sang-soo puts his main subject in the background, instead focusing on playing with time, and through time, with his audience, through a distinct sense of irony that permeates the film. Furthermore, the two versions of the story are actually parallels instead of alternatives, and, occasionally, seem like the only function of their presentation's style is the aforementioned game.
Apart from that, the film is rather slow, although Hahm Sung-won's editing is quite good, as it avoids the confusion that could easily arise from the back and forths in time. Choi Yeong-taek's black-and-white cinematography is quite impressive, as it presents beautifully framed images of Seoul, mostly through static cameras.
The lack of any real comments on human relationship, and the excessive attention to every detail make the film somewhat hard to watch. However, the acting is on a very high level, and actually saves the film, at least in terms of entertainment. The late Lee Eun-joo is impressive as the quiet and seemingly introvert, but actually utterly determined Soo-jung, in a performance that netted her the Best New Actress Award at the 2001 Grand Bell Awards. Jung Bo-suk as Jae-hoon implements the sense of irony of the film with his character.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Available on DVD from Amazon
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via email@example.com.
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