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Original Title:
Jal aljido mothamyeonseo

South Korea 2008

Drama, Romance

Hong Sang-soo

Kim Tae-woo
Ko Hyun-jung
Uhm Ji-won
Moon Chang-gil
Kong Hyeong-jin
Jeong Yu-mi
Ha Jung-woo
Seo Young-hwa

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Like You Know It All

Story: Ku (Kim Tae-woo) is a director who shoots independent movies. They might earn him awards abroad and the respect of film critics, but success with the public doesn't seem to be anywhere near. Eventually, he is appointed to be a judge in a committee to review films on a film festival in Jecheon. But somehow the director manages to make no new friends. He deeply disappoints the manager of the festival, Kong (Uhm Ji-won), which results in their friendship shattering. Most of the time Ku spends drinking with people he barely knows and watching movies at the festival. However, after he hasn't only destroyed his friendship with Kong but with another friend as well, who he met again after several years, the director withdraws from public and goes to Jeju. There he is supposed to give a lecture in front of some students. After that he goes out drinking with the students and their professor and meets the painter No (Moon Chang-gil) who was his former teacher. The next day No invites Ku over to lunch so that he can meet his wife. Ku is surprised to see that No's wife is Ko-soon (Ko Hyun-jung), a woman who he wanted to marry himself several years ago. She brushed him off, but he has still feelings for her and it seems as if he is about to be doing a grave mistake.

Review: Hong Sang-soo is one of those filmmakers who always want to talk about the same things. At least that's how you could phrase it if you don't think much of his movies. In fact, it seems as if Hong's movies are one single piece of work that is made up of several episodes. This by far doesn't mean that one film is build on the other, it's more that every one of them picks up the same subjects and variates them slightly or actually depicts them from a little bit different point of view. Furthermore, the movies of the director all share the same atmosphere. Hong explores the complexity of the human emotions which sometimes can be slipping into the absurd but that's also what makes his movies feel so real. Who is actually understanding someone else? The moments in which you can't say as a viewer if you can really understand how a character in the movie acts are also those that make you think: "Yes, that's real life, those are real emotions."

Hong Sang-soo's movies make no sense, they actually don't want to convey any message and only a handful of viewers are in fact watching them. If anyone then it's the film critics and festival goers abroad who are appreciating his movies. This picture of himself Hong draws in an oftentimes very welcome self-deprecating way in the main protagonist Ku. He says that he takes little things that he wants to explore and shed more light on and arranges them into a movie. In fact, "Like You Know It All" helps a lot to understand the mind-set and emotional world of the director a bit better as he is dealing with the subject of movie-making in a very honest and self-critical fashion. And so it becomes apparent that we actually get to see the director himself in any movie by him. Hong Sang-soo is telling his own life story every time he makes a movie. Those who are watching Hong's movies for quite a while might ask themselves if the director isn't just stuck on a treadmill for some time already, but in "Like You Know It All" you will find enough new aspects that further complement the picture of the director as a human and an artist.

After Ku has told us a bit more about him and his motivation behind making movies in a seminar and in the course of the movie it becomes pretty clear for the audience that we don't need to expect any answers from Hong Sang-soo. He asks the questions, illuminates an individual in his natural surrounding and puts the complex relationships that connects each and every one of them with each another in the focus. After that it remains up to the viewer to make something out of it. The pleasant thing about Hong's movies, though, is that his characters can be emotionally involving. There is no wall of emotional coldness that is sort of alienating like in similar movies, no, instead the characters seem very likeable and this even though they are full of flaws and weakness of character. But that's just what makes them look so real and the viewer is eager to find out why these individuals are the way they are. As long as you don't expect any clear answer you can have great fun looking for it.

If you wonder why there is constant drinking in the movie and ask yourself if the life of a director really looks that way then you need to know that the life of a Korean is like that! In fact, Hong Sang-soo seems to be wanting to observe the life of an artist as well. Ku manages to offend people always at the wrong time and to do everything wrong he possibly could. While at that he ruins a few friendships, but we often ask ourselves what he did so wrong after all. Maybe at some points he speaks too much truth and that way hurts the people around him. Anyway, he is constantly accused to be a bad person and some people even don't want to see him ever again. For Ku this always comes very unforeseeable and he often tries to pour oil on troubled water but to no avail. Eventually this leads to him doubting himself and this although he seemingly is already on a search for himself.

In the character of Ku director Hong Sang-soo is looking for love and maybe also for a soulmate, or rather what the meaning of that word might be. The women in the movie are also very interesting, since some of them are surprisingly strong and especially concerning their sex life act like men. Why shouldn't they be allowed to do what men do, anyway? Furthermore, there are no scenes in "Like You Know It All" that are predictable. An affair doesn't have the same consequences here than in a typical drama, for that the characters are too out of the box and the relationships too complex and real. Even though the bisection of the movie, that is almost standard for Hong's movies, is still a little bit problematic we are always eager to see what might happen next, because it's impossible to imagine it. Especially appealing is the humor with which Hong oftentimes pokes fun at himself and the movie industry. Also, Ku is simply an interesting individual.
Through the almost formless presentation of the movie events have their very own pleasant dynamic. The good actors, concerning which the director didn't make any experiments and gave the roles to some faces he is already familiar with, can also carry the relationships very convincingly. Thus, Hong once again delivers an interesting work about a complicated life and the relationships we engage in it.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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