On the Beach At Night Alone
(Hong Sang-soo)

Kim Min-hee in a scene from Hong Sang-soo's  On the Beach At Night Alone  {Photo: THE CINEMA GUILD}

Kim Min-hee in a scene from Hong Sang-soo's On the Beach At Night Alone {Photo: THE CINEMA GUILD}

On the Beach At Night Alone screens at the AMC River East 21 on Tuesday, October 24 at 5:45PM and Wednesday, October 25 at 5:45PM. For additional ticketing information, refer to the Chicago International Film Festival website here

On the Beach At Night Alone, the first Hong Sang-soo film to screen in Chicago since 2015’s Right Now, Wrong Then, is a radical departure from my previous experiences with the South Korean auteur. His previous films have more or less been playful exercises of existential catharsis, drawing comparisons to Éric Rohmer while frequently employing subtle if not especially pronounced bits of surrealism. His use of diptych narratives has served him especially well, culminating in rich masterworks such as The Day He Arrives and the aforementioned Right Now, Wrong Then. But On the Beach At Night Alone finds Hong in a colder, more detached mode. It’s not as much an exploration of existential anxiety but rather a penance. Its diptych narrative is punctuated by a dark, abrupt presence that evokes something more sinister.  And Hong’s surreal plunges here are not necessarily narrative devices but tonal ones. It’s the first time I’ve felt genuine horror in his film, where a looming specter following Kim Min-hee brings about an apprehension and fear that’s been foreign to my previous experiences with Hong. It’s a lonelier film. Hong’s characters frequently have their moments of solitude but never has that solitude felt so directly tied to self-exile and desolation. What’s abundantly clear is that On the Beach At Night Alone serves as Hong’s personal exorcising of demons, a calculated study of his publicized relationship with his lead actress. And like so many personal films from accomplished filmmakers, it’s among his most vital work.