NOVELIST’S FILM, THE (So-seol-ga-ui Yeong-hwa)

(director/writer: Hong Sang-soo; cinematographer: Hong Sang-soo; editor: Hong Sang-soo; music:Hong Sang-soo; cast: Lee Hye-Young(Junhee), Kim Min-Hee (Kilsoo), Park Mi-so (Hyunwoo), ChoYunhee (Yangjoo), Seo Young-Hwa (Sewon), Kwon Haehyo (Hyojin), Ha Seongguk (Gyeongwoo), Ki Joobong (Mansoo), Lee Eunmi (Jaewon), Kim Siha (Child); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer; Hong Sang-soo: Jeonwonsa Film; 2022-S. Korea-in Korean with English subtitles-B/W)

I found it gentle, sincere and inspiring.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A small scale comedy of manners that’s shot in B/W by the prolific South Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo (“Hahaha”/”The Woman Who Ran”), who in his 27th feature is writer-director, cinematographer, editor, producer and musical composer.

The respected almost 70-year-old writer Junhee (Lee Hye-Young), going through a period of a writer’s block, visits the bookstore of her old colleague (Seo Young-hwa) and playfully jokes about her weight gain, and while sitting down for coffee with her and her young worker, Hyun-woo (Park Mi-so), takes notice when she mentions that she has a second job in speech therapy and knows sign language. The writer wonders to herself how her prose would go over visually in film.

Junhee will later by chance meet her film director friend, Park Hyo-jin (Kwon Hae-hyo), only to gently rib him for never filming one of her books. He in turn chides her that her books have dim commercial prospects. For a brief moment she wonders if she can take her talent to the field of filmmaking.

While visiting a city park Junhee meets the famous actress Kilsoo (Kim Min-Hee) and after exchanging greetings they make a connection. The actress thereby introduces the writer to her husband’s nephews, an aspiring filmmaker named Gyeong-woo (Ha Seong-guk), and the writer tells them she would gladly write a short story for them to film and suggests it would be a small-scale observational film loosely based on images and jokingly says it would be like a Hong Sang-soo film.

The aimless film with no discernible plot and a director who is wildly searching to come up with a story that has some substance, has a blast pulling images out of the air to make its prose part into poetry, like something that has so far eluded the writer’s grasp. It’s up to the viewer to judge if Hong Sang-soo comes up with enough here to succeed in making a film that’s both enjoyable and meaningful. In any case, I found it gentle, sincere and inspiring.

It played at the Berlin Film Festival competition.

The Novelist’s Film

REVIEWED ON 2/21/2022  GRADE: B+