Night and Day, 2008

In a way, Night and Day continues the narrative bifurcation of Hong San-soo’s earlier work while converging towards Luis Buñuel’s late period films in conflating reality with sublimated desire. A married, middle-aged painter, Sun-nam (Kim Youngho), having impulsively run off to Paris in order to avoid a confrontation with police following a pot smoking incident, lands at a flop house run by Korean expatriate, Mr. Jang (Kee Joobong) who arranges to introduce him to École des Beaux Arts student, Hyunju (Seo Minjeong) and her roommate, Yu-geong (Park Eunhye). Disoriented by the unfamiliarity of a new city and lacking the motivation (and wherewithal) to reignite his foundering art, Sun-nam fritters his time away wandering the streets, running into a former girlfriend, Ming-sun (Kim Youjin) who tries to re-connect with him by bringing up episodes from their past. Seemingly bound by a sense of newfound morality culled from a Bible that he has begun to read and carries around town in a plastic bag, Sun-nam strives to remain faithful to his distant wife, but soon finds his faith waning, falling under the spell of the city. While evoking the perceptiveness of an Eric Rohmer comedy, Night and Day also suggests a loose kinship with Chantal Akerman’s identically titled (and, not coincidentally, most Rohmerian) film, creating an interchangeable pattern of nights and days as a metaphor for dislocation, romantic uncertainty, and malleable identity: an ambiguity that is perhaps best reflected in Sun-nam’s awkward encounters with a North Korean student, where the competition not only reflects a national consciousness over who is Korean, but is also a reminder of his glaring incongruity in a community of young people.

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