Film Review: Woman on the Beach (2006)

Film Review: Woman on the Beach (2006)Title: Woman on the Beach (Haebyeonui Yeoin/해변의 여인)
Released: August 31, 2006 (South Korea) | 2020 (Streaming)
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length: 2 hours, 7 minutes
Links: IMDB | Wikipedia
My Rating: one-half-stars

Stymied by writer's block while crafting his latest script, director Kim Jung-rae persuades his friend Won Chang-wook to drive him to a beach resort — where he promptly becomes involved with Chang-wook's girlfriend. Abandoning her and taking up with another woman, Jung-rae winds up creating enough drama to inspire his writing.

I don’t want to say I’m judging a book by its cover (or rather, a director by its films), but so far I’m two for two in not enjoying films I’ve seen from director Hong Sang-soo, and I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to check out another film from him. It’s a shame, really — although IMDb plots are only a few sentences, usually they do a great job at summarizing a film’s plot and don’t leave anything to be desired. However, so far these descriptions of Hong Sang-soo’s films sound quite intriguing, only to leave me disappointed. Doing a little digging, it seems his films often involve a man involved in an affair, and the male protagonist is, often enough, a director as well. I wonder if it’s a sort of projection?

In this particular film, we have Kim Seung-woo playing Kim Jung-rae, a movie director who needs inspiration in his next movie script. He invites his somewhat naïve friend Won Chang-wook (Tae-woo Kim) along with, who brings along his girlfriend (or so he claims), Kim Mun-suk (Hyun-Jung Go).

Make no mistake: even though the film’s poster looks more like one that matches a romantic drama, it is far but such a film. While it does involve a love triangle with broken hearts, characters sleeping with one another, and finding out you’re not loved as much as you thought, the film does not have much of a romantic vibe to it. Rather, it is more of dealing with the emotional ups and downs that come with a love triangle and affair, between enjoying it and hiding parts of it from certain people. I suppose it’s possible that maybe Hong Sang-soo’s films are merely a little too complex for me. I’m sure they do have deeper meanings, one I would have to pay more attention to the subtleties to pick up and analyze. If so, it’s passing right by me without the slightest acknowledgment as I watched it. The film feels too matter of fact and directionless. At least in comparison to Hong’s 2014 film Hill of Freedom it didn’t have a low budget feel to it. In fact, Grasshopper Film was streaming a new 4K restoration completed by the Korean Film Archive from the original 35mm negative. I’m still not a fan of Hong’s zoom-in shots, but it at least felt more natural and a little less prevalent than it did in Hill of Freedom. At least the cinematography was enjoyable, as I always enjoy seeing various scenery of whichever country a film was shot in. Past this, however, Woman on the Beach felt like nothing more than a film where a man feels entitled to any woman he lays his eyes on, woven under the guise of going out for dinner together, having a few drinks, and deciding to spend the night together. However, at the end of the day, we’re all fragile human beings looking for love and acceptance.

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