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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Bitch on the Beach"

2017/03/04 | 933 views | Permalink

Ga-yeong (played by Jeong Ka-young, who is also the director) is a quirky film-obsessed girl who tries to win back her ex-boyfriend Jeong-hoon (played by Kim-Choi Yong-joon) by spending extended periods of time alternating between complicated stories about nothing and offering herself up for sex. Incidentally, no one actually goes to the beach in "Bitch On the Beach". The entire black-and-white film plays out in a moderately impressive apartment save for one brief scene which exists for a single purpose. To establish that to anyone without Jeong-hoon's nostalgia-tinted glasses, Ga-yeong is really quite annoying.

Really, Ga-yeong is genuinely weird and unlikable. The childishness of her full motivations underscores the apparently adult subject matter of her one-sided conversations with Jeong-hoon. I never really wanted her to succeed in seducing Jeong-hoon, although that's more a matter of personal taste than anything else. I can see how the right sort of man could be attracted to Ga-yeong.

And that man, unfortunately, is Jeong-hoon, whose impressive shirtless physique notwithstanding possesses surprisingly little willpower. He really is content to just let Ga-yeong annoy him into submission with her constant requests for sex. Which in its own bizarre little way is a surprisingly poignant statement on feminism. Reverse the gender roles and you basically have a Hong Sang-soo film just, you know, nerdier because each new generation of film directors is nerdier than the last.

That's a fairly sad statement on modern creative cultural output, although director Jeong Ka-young definitely owns up to that idea. I rather suspect she didn't actually have a script at all, and that most of her weird rants are just produced entirely off the cuff in a stream-of-consciousness style. I mean seriously, the dialog is straight up hard to follow a lot of the time, not just because of the arbitrary way Ga-yeong rambles but also because she talks so fast. It's as if Ga-ryeong is terrified that if she shuts up for just one minute Jeong-hoon will attempt to kick her out of his (parents') apartment.

The reason Jeong-hoon does not do so is, odd though it may sound, a matter of comfort. Ga-yeong's attention is flattering. She is by no means a homely woman. And when Ga-yeong makes big statements of grand ambition, no matter how ridiculous they sound, she actually makes them sound kind of believable. By the end, when Jeong-hoon is firmly convinced that he was blessed to have her screw around with his table (an act that greatly annoyed him at the time), we too believe that Jeong-hoon has learned to stop worrying and love Ga-yeong.

Of course, as is the case with most art house styled films, your patience may wear thin after several pathetic alcohol-fueled dates where nothing seems to happen except that Ga-yeong and Jeong-hoon continue to firmly annoy each other. Still, at times "Bitch On the Beach" feels like an exercise of sublime brilliance in its exposure of such utterly pathetic lives. Romanticism, in the end, is all that hopelessly cynical romantics really have.

Review by William Schwartz

"Bitch On the Beach" is directed by Jeong Ka-young and features Jeong Ka-young, Kim-Choi Yong-joon and Lee Ha-yun.

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