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[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Table"

2016/11/19

Every time two people go to a cafe to have a chat, there is always that one element that's all too easy to forget- "The Table", on which they put their coffee. It is from the vantage point of "The Table" that we are treated to four vignettes where Jung Yu-mi, Jung Eun-chae, Han Ye-ri, and Im Soo-jung are left awkwardly negotiating what they want in life from boyfriends past and present who know surprisingly little about their women.

Director Kim Jong-kwan presents "The Table" in similarly basic archetypal terms. There's the ethically challenged woman, and the mildy famous one with nostalgia for a past life that can not be recovered. Another flirts with the idea of adventure while sulking over it in execution, while the last is running a good-natured scam. Their only commonality in life is that their various schemes all involve stopping at the cafe.

But it's never completely clear which character fits into which role until the conversation in question has progressed a fair deal. It's the essential ironic underlining in the whole idea of "getting to know someone" over coffee in the first place. These conversations terminate at under twenty minutes apiece because either the leading lady figures out and gets what she wants, or alternatively, decides that the whole experience was a complete waste of time. Another essential subtext is how the women are always calling the shots and determing the outcome even if the man thinks he's in control.

This is funny because in fact the men tend to dominate the conversations here, attempting to lead the women on to the place he thinks she wants to go, with limited accuracy. In one instance the man isn't even present at all, yet his spirit looms heavily as the opposing woman makes a paranoid albeit probably justified effort to protect him from herself. Even the lies in "The Table" aren't really lies so much as they are tests of emotional expression- complicated theories by which love, of a sort, can be arrived at.

That's the sympathetic interpretation of "The Table" anyway. An alternate version should probably be offered- that the film really is just four random vignettes of women talking to and about partners at a coffee table, and absent a greater plot, what we're left with as viewers is a voyeuristic glimpse into their daily lives that is amusing precisely because it all seems so scandalous yet mature. Much as coffee as it is in life.

In short, "The Table" really is just brief conversations and lovingly rendered still shots of a cafe. Still, in the end there is a definite appeal to that kind of longing for simplicity, the hope that through a coffee shop friend, there's hope for a genuinely strong emotional connection somewhere. While "The Table" might be technically pointless it offers a lot to think about considering the short runtime.

Review by William Schwartz

"The Table" is directed by Kim Jong-kwan and features Im Soo-jung, Jung Yu-mi, Jung Eun-chae and Han Ye-ri.

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