Hong Sang-soo’s Turning Gate—a comic rendezvous built on narrative gestures that mirror the South Korean director’s fascination with reincarnation—is perhaps the best undistributed film of the last five years. Though its aesthetic surprises and metaphysical romantic pitfalls recall both Turning Gate and Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Woman Is the Future of Man nonetheless lacks the warmth of its predecessors. This facetiously titled curio tells the story of two perpetually drunk best buds, art teacher Mun-ho (Yoo Jitae) and failed filmmaker Hyeon-gon (Kim Taewoo), and their relationship to a woman they both had sex with. Throughout the film, Hyeon-gon grapples with the implications of having dumped Seon-hwa (Seong Hyeon-a, whose dual performance is Sang-soo’s Buñuelian shout-out). Equally dramatic, Jitae’s pouty man-child comes to discover that women shave their legs, meekly asks for blowjobs, and has sex with a recently raped Seon-hwa under the impression that his love sperm will salve her pain. Save for a comic bit involving Munho and Hunjoon’s separate attempts to woo a waitress using their respective professions, Hong’s snail-paced film traffics in cloyingly naïve gender stereotypes. The constantly falling snow beautifully heightens the memory deprivation of the already temporally challenged mise-en-scène, but the narrative remains hungry for action. I suppose one could make the case that Mun-ho is the South to Hyeon-gon’s North, but because the judgmental Woman Is the Future of Man feels less culturally-specific than Hong’s previous films, the inert, mostly nondescript story scarcely registers as an evocation of a country’s fractured soul.
- New Yorker Films
- 88 min
- Hong Sang-soo
- Hong Sang-soo
- Yu Ji-tai, Kim Tae-woo, Seong Hyeon-a, Kim Ho-jeong
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