Woman Is the Future of Man (2004)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Mar 3, 2006 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 87 min.  |   Countries - France, South Korea  |  
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Fans of Hong Sang-soo's prickly, gorgeously attenuated romantic comedies will find plenty to like in the ironically titled Woman Is the Future of Man. Two bone-headed men unsatisfied with their lives attempt to rekindle whatever fleeting passions they experienced with an unfortunate woman, Seon-hwa (Seong Hyeon-ah). Mun-ho (Yu Ji-tae of Old Boy) is unhappily married, and his career as a college professor doesn't seem to live up to his amusingly visualized fantasies, in which his students idolize him and break into hysterics at the barest attempt at wit. Heon-jun (Kim Tae-woo) is a struggling filmmaker just returned from America. He may be a bit more sensitive in his approach to women (flashbacks indicate that his tryst with Seon-hwa may actually have meant something to both of them), but he's emotionally remote. The two share a similar pathetic mindset, which Hong highlights in successive scenes in a restaurant in which each man uses his position in a lame effort to woo their waitress while the other is in the men's room. While the film seems to be building toward some kind of resolution between the three characters, the male characters' shared immaturity and selfishness assure that such reconciliation can never occur; the two men seek different things. Heon-jun may want absolution after abandoning Seon-hwa, while Mun-ho's motives seem shadier and unhealthily connected to his brittle friendship with Heon-jun. Through their shared obsession with a past love that they've clearly idealized, their uncertainty about the future is brought to the fore. As the woman stuck between these two louts, Seon-hwa embodies the false promise of the film's title. Woman Is the Future of Man is not as satisfying as Hong's previous feature, Turning Gate, but it cements Hong's status as an artist with a uniquely dystopic vision of gender relations.