Well, all right: the headline isn’t 100% ironclad. Your mileage may vary on where the best of Hong Sangsoo’s recent work—let’s say the last five films instead of the last five years; the latter encompasses, oh, nine features—but The Novelist’s Film (basically) confirmed my suspicion he’s (more or less) our greatest director. At least it’s 92 minutes as they should be spent: a handful of perfectly measured scenes, an amazingly honest window into the artist’s process, a couple good gags, and as most movies strive for one good ending (only to fail), The Novelist’s Film boasts two perfect finales.
Ahead of an October 28 opening at Lincoln Center, Cinema Guild have released a trailer to note their release. As Rory O’Connor said in his review, “Whichever side one lands on (you shall find no mutiny here), it will always be hard to resist the calm, casual charms of a work like The Novelist’s Film: a story about the creative process, shot in soft black-and-white, and a mid-range addition that won the Grand Jury Silver Bear at the Berlinale—his most prestigious award to date.”
Find preview and poster below:
Junhee (Lee Hyeyoung, last seen in Hong’s In Front of Your Face) is a novelist who’s grown disenchanted with her own writing. On a trip to see an old friend, she runs into a film director who was set to adapt one of her novels before the project fell through. One chance encounter leads to another and soon she finds herself having lunch with Kilsoo (Kim Minhee), a well-known actress also questioning her role as an artist. It’s then that Junhee has an epiphany: she will make a film starring Kilsoo. It won’t be like other films. It will be the novelist’s film.
For his 27th feature, Hong holds a mirror up to his own artistic process and asks what exactly it is we’re looking for from a work of art. As his characters discuss their lives and work and the ways they intertwine, Hong sets down a sort of manifesto for his own inimitable oeuvre before exploding it (or perhaps fully realizing it) in a moving final flourish. With sparkling performances from Lee, Kim and an incredible cast of Hong regulars, The Novelist’s Film is a summation of Hong’s career-long artistic project, even as it signals bold new directions.