Friday, July 5, 2019

Ambivalent but Diligent

Hotel by the River (2018) - Hong
Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 11.16.08 AM
Didn't like it at all. Unusually sentimental for Hong standard, Hotel by the River is overlong and middling affair. It concerns an aging poet (Ki Joo-bong), recognizing his own mortality, summons his estranged two grown up sons to make amends. It's winter. He is staying at a hotel by Han River for free indefinitely, by the grace of its owner/admirer, whom he met at a bar by chance.

There is a side story about a woman (Kim Min-hee) recovering from a bad breakup with a married man, staying in the same hotel, visited by her older, kind friend (Song Seon-mi). They have run-ins with the poet and his sons.

As usual in Hong's movies, resentment and regret come to light when drinking- daddy abandonment issues, sibling rivalry, painful words are uttered, feelings are hurt and so on and so forth. On women's side, it's all "good men are hard to find."

There are a lot of nodding off in Hotel by the River: on the couches in the hotel coffee shop and hotel rooms. It's nice to see Kim and Song lying down in the same bed, face to face, sleeping in their cozy sweaters. The poet disappears for a length of time and reappears as if he is there but not there. Compare to Hong's other films, Hotel's volume is cranked down significantly. Wintry landscape helps with that too. It's pleasant.

The poet's younger son is a film director with a little bit of repute. Song's character explains his films to Kim, "a little bit ambivalent, but he is diligent." "Sounds boring", she replies. I can say the same thing about this film.

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