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In Another Country | DVD Review

In Another Country DVDAfter a cool reception followed its 2012 premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo’s In Another Country toured the festival circuit, quietly receiving a US theatrical release last fall. With Kino Lorber’s DVD release, we are hoping that this delectable love letter to Isabelle Huppert finally gets the attention it so heartily deserves, though it may very well end up being one of those resuscitated classics championed decades after its initial release. Charming, sweet, and perhaps mistaken as being too simple, it represents a microcosm of Sang-soo’s fascinating filmography of repetition and recycling. Fans of the director may never champion this as his most accomplished work, but as a yet unparalleled homage to its lead actress, it’s reminiscent of a time when cinema was more acceptably prized as an exploratory and experimental medium. Unfortunately, it’s one of those delicate flowers of a film, the type crushed underfoot in the onslaught of a jam-packed film festival lineup, appreciated by those desperate for a dose of something lighter, dismissed by many as frivolous and meandering. At last, perhaps it’s a film that will eventually find time to bloom as it’s given a chance to aerate, and like a fine wine, be savored for the fantastic achievement that it really is.

The premise is fantastically simple, a framed exercise about a young girl named Won-ju (Jung Yoo-mi) who decides to write a screenplay to distract herself from an upsetting family situation. She constructs a tale divided into three distinct parts, all centered on the arrival of a French woman named Anne (all played by Isabelle Huppert) in the small village of Mohan. The three women (a director; an adulterer; a divorcee) are all heralded by their notable ward robe changes (a loose fitting purple shirt; red dress; black dress with white polka dots), while the supporting players from each segment are all re-assimilated in different roles in which she corresponds with them. Each woman is pursued by a man who is already married, a scenario that seems to drive her on search for a small lighthouse, bringing her to the beach and an overly insistent lifeguard (Yu Jun-Sang) who immediately falls for her charming demeanor. Each revolution features instances of realization, growth, and underneath its spontaneous mirth, a streak of melancholy heartache.

This color infused palette, from cinematographers Park Hong-yeol and Jee Yune-jeong, makes this Sang-soo’s most visually engaging film to date, utilizing abrupt zooms throughout its segments where people search for things they can’t find or can’t have. Each sequence features a similar set of variables, each playing out in coincidental fashion, as if a theater troupe were to repeat a play with cast members alternating the roles. Film directors and illicit desire feature as prominently as a search for self fulfillment, and the revolutions of Anne sees her as a woman drifting from film director, to an object of desire, to a being of self actualization. The culmination of her search finds her in the last segment being introduced to a monk by her friend Park Sook (the ever delightful Yoon Yeo-jeong), where Anne asks a series of questions, ranging from the ridiculous to the profound. She asks his thoughts on sex, to which he responds, “Something I will have trouble with until I die,” a fitting and observant echo that could have been uttered by any one of the characters here.

Hong Sang-soo’s In Another Country plays with the notion of misplaced objects, among many of its motifs, each time utilizing items like broken glass, umbrellas, a cell phone, and a contentious pen that are as predominant as its recycled actors. In fact, Anne herself, in each segment, is a misplaced object, which factors brilliantly into its final hopeful sequence where she rediscovers an umbrella and leaves behind a broken bottle, a remnant of her journey on a path to self discover that is found by the visiting foreigner from the first segment. The broken glass on the beach is first balked at, “What kind of a person would do this?” is inquired in the midst of trying to determine if the name of the beach has any sort of real significance. The answer is, probably any one of us, because we’re all human, all making mistakes, and all searching for answers or solutions to whatever issues life throws our way. In Another Country is neither as simple or as sweet as it initially appears to be, but what a lovely treasure of a film it is.

Disc Review:

It’s confounding as to why Kino decided to bypass a Blu-ray edition. Nevertheless, this transfer still manages to look vibrant and clear, receiving a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix for sound.


Unfortunately, the only bonus feature is the film’s theatrical trailer, a testament to the lack of enthusiasm that has accompanied the release of the film.

Final Thoughts:

While In Another Country may not have been the breakout film many had predicted it would be for Hong Sang-soo, it’s still his most widely viewed film to date. Whatever your thoughts on how the film compares to the director’s own celebrated filmography, the film is a beautiful, magical love letter to Isabelle Huppert. And while her fantastic performance may have garnered the film its most prestigious raves, Sang-soo’s subtle artifice is gleefully at work in every frame.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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