Kangweondoeui Him (1998)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Drama  |   Run Time - 109 min.  |   Countries - Korea, South   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Few filmmakers are as single-minded in their approach to their craft as Korean maverick Hong Sang-soo. Like all of his films, his second feature, The Power of Kangwon Province, is a gorgeously shot, elliptically edited, distended, and cynical look at the vicissitudes of modern romance, involving multiple narrative threads. Confused, feckless, and childish men get drunk and behave boorishly, and are rarely worthy of the conflicted women who nonetheless often give in to their sexual demands. Self-destructive patterns repeat themselves. Hong reached an early peak of cynicism here, as there's a murder, borne of sexual jealousy, that takes place offscreen and is alluded to in the main narrative with a darkly comic obliqueness. Ji-sook (Oh Yun-hong) at least tries to find some kind of direction, offering her prayers at the vacation spot's temple. Sang-kwon (Baek Jong-hak) may be ambitious in his career, but in his personal life, the married professor can't see past the next pretty young girl, even to that guy standing behind her who's apparently her boyfriend. At times, Hong's film seems depressingly cold, but Ji-sook, with her casual, "I'm always making mistakes," is the sad soul of the film, and a palpable sense of loss is conveyed with a surprisingly potent magic realist metaphor (involving Sang-kwon's homeless goldfish) at the film's close.