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  •  READER COMMENTS

    Reader comments on Woman Is the Future of Man

    Subject: Woman is the Future of Man
    Date: Mar 29, 2005
    Sender: KrisPrevious

    It would help if the author had seen any of Hong Sang-soo's previous features. "Woman is the Future of Man" probably isn't the best place to start (I'd say check out the import DVDs of "The Turning Gate" or "The Power of Kangwon Province" instead), which is why it was misunderstood and slammed by so many critics at Cannes. But over the course of a short career Hong has consistently explored the lives of the modern Korean middle-class in an unblinking, inimitable style. The fact that the sex in this film is "boring" is the point. Hong plays around with the same theme as Antonioni did in his early films - that of sex being used as a way to fill empty existences, and the increased dissatisfaction that results. The idea is to completely deglamorize the act - in Hong's films sex is mechanical and awkward, and no one's particularly thrilled afterwards. The films feel rough-hewn (causing the Hollywood Reporter to call "Woman" "amateurish" and the critic for this site to pretty much say the same) for a reason. Hong doesn't want to make typical, easy films. His films have a strange rythm all of their own, and once you get accustomed to it it's easier to understand what the man's getting at thematically.

    The seemingly random, thrown-together structure of WFM is also similar to the director's early works. But if you look carefully you'll see that Hong's films are actually quite carefully constructed. Although I'm an admirer of the director's early works I didn't think "Woman" was all that great until I'd seen it a couple more times. It's meant, I think, to leave the viewer with a sense of deep sadness and waste, but that doesn't come across on first viewing. These characters are deeply rooted in despair. The men have nothing going for them except their macho, soulless pursuit of women. The woman, the only sympathetic character in the film, is a rape victim and repeatedly allows herself to be brutalilized by these two idiots. Hong's sympathies always seem to lie with the women: why would a beautiful, talented woman allow herself to be humiliated by insensitive bastards? Hong never delves openly into psychology (he is the anti-Bergman), but the subtle hints are always dropped through the characters' behavior. The women in Hong's films have a misdirected need for love and affection that they lavish on the wrong guys, coupled with an unhealthy need for self-sacrifice. The men attempt to dominate women in order to get over the feeling of impotence that dominates their failed lives.

    Hong's men tend to be brutes and/or losers and his women passive "victims" with a martyr complex. As a sort of joke, a stab at himself, Hong always makes one of the men, usually the worst, some kind of artist: filmmaker, actor, writer. Throughout the course of the films the characters make mistakes, regret them, then repeat in a vicious cycle. Very few of Hong's male characters are especially likeable or bright, and very few of his women very strong personalities. So why should we care about Hong's sad-sack losers and the women who suffer them? I think Hong's trying to, through the microcosm of certain personality types, hold a mirror to the society at large.

    Hong's films capture a strong, very particular sense of modern malaise, but they're also quite culturally specific. For anyone who's spent a great deal of time in Korea, you'll find that there are a great number of people who fit Hong's "types." Koreans are among the most depressed people on earth: the suicide rate is alarminingly high (the lovely star of Hong's film "A Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors" recently killed herself) and random, empty sex is not an uncommon thing. Dirty karaoke parlors, love hotels and "coffee girls" are ubiquitous. There's a high rate of married women cheating on their husbands. The lot of most Korean women isn't especially good, as the sole goal in life for most of em is to look good until they get married, at which point they're supposed to stay home, clean, cook and take care of the kid. There's also a sort of pervasive neurotic worry, as Korea's a tiny nation sandwiched between two superpowers, and stuck with an unstable lunatic brother up north.

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    » Woman is the Future of Man «   from Kris, Mar 29, 2005
    » Woman is the Future of Man «   from Kris, Mar 29, 2005