Story: Filmmaker Jin-gu (Lee Seon-gyun) reflects about his life. His teacher at the university, movie director Song (Moon Seong-geun), shall
help him finding some answers. Furthermore, there is an unpleasent rumor about Song which Jin-gu would like to dispose of once and for all.
During an interview in front of some students Jin-gu himself is approached concerning a rumor spreading about him that he had an affair with a student
a few years ago, although he had already been married. However, things aren't as easy as they seem. Jin-gu remembers his time back when he was still
a film student. He fell in love with the girl Oki (Jeong Yu-mi), a fellow student. Although she doesn't answer his approaches, she gives in
eventually and the two become a couple. The reason for Oki wanting some space at first is simply, though. She has an affair with a professor at
the university who also knows Jin-gu. The relationship between the three characters is complicated, but Jin-gu's love makes him continue to fight
Review: The reviews on "Oki's Movie" have turned out surprisingly negative. Reason for that might be that more and more critics can't
remain silent about the fact that director Hong Sang-soo is picking up the same topic over and over again with only some minor variations. Slowly
his reflecting and at times ironic way in which he puts himself into the movie as the protagonist again and again also doesn't win over the goodwill
of the audience anymore. In other words: Hong finally needs to tell something new and until he comes up with something he shouldn't shoot any more
movies. However, I can't share this opinion about his work yet. If I had seen his movies chronological I maybe would have had the same opinion as
a lot of critics, but I can't pretend to have already seen all of Hong's former works and be especially critical when it comes to reviewing his
movies. That would simply be dishonest. Apart from that "Oki's Movie" will deliver exactly what Hong Sang-soo's fans are actually looking for.
Director Hong's movie is multilayered and plays extremely with the narration. That's not really something new since he as always been making movies about himself and his life, resp. the people he met, but this time, concerning the deeply interlaced structure of the story, he takes his way of making movies to extremes. The film is split into four stories which all put the same three protagonists into the focus with the only difference that every time someone else of them is the actual carrier of the story. Whether they are in fact the same characters all the way through, isn't that easy to say, though. Maybe they are variations of certain individuals, maybe they are just depicted the way other characters see and perceive them, it's not that easy to pinpoint. But that's exactly what the director is playing with. In the last story Oki is even directly opposing one of the protagonists to the other, but will this really lead to a worthwhile enlightenment for the viewer?
The answer to that is easy to imagine: If you don't give some thoughts to what you see yourself you will only take very little with you from this movie. But there are many parts that are outright encouraging you to come up with your own ideas. Jin-gu is accused to have had an affair with a student, but actually it's professor Song who did that. Are they in some sort of way just the same individual or is this only a reiteration, something that characterizes Hong's repititive work as some sort of headline?
At least at the beginning the drama stands out with a special vividness and fresh humor that is created by the dialogues in a subtle fashion. The characters stand out because of their weaknesses and it's interesting to watch the complex relationship develop. Sadly, the dynamic that lies in the pictures themselves gets lost more and more towards the end and the characters as a whole become more and more opaque and colorless.
To find sympathetic characters in Hong's movies is difficult since he is portraying humans in their natural complexity. Or to quote the director: Someone will like one of his characters, another one will like a different one or just no one at all. However, it remains fascinating to watch Hong's characters how they are simply living their lifes. For Hong the human being itself stands in the spotlight, thus this time he makes Jin-gu, as a substitute for himself, explain in front of some students that a film shouldn't just be trimmed to fit a certain subject because otherwise the movie would just be reduced to a certain aspect and restricted in its artistic license. Once again Hong stresses that he actually didn't have any certain intention when he shot the movie. With such words the director certainly makes it difficult for the viewer to grasp his work. At the same time he unnecessarily gives critics like me ammunition. Hong can't really be aiming at putting the dilettantish, self-absorbed indie-filmmakers in the center, who are pretending to insert highly intellectual and meta-level overlapping subjects into their movies, which, however, are at best touched upon in order to leave the actual brain work to the viewer, can he? Does this make Hong one of those self-absorbed filmmakers? Sometimes you get the feeling in "Oki's Movie" that Hong somehow becomes entangled in his own story. And that's a pity.
"Oki's Movie" has been called nothing more like a finger exercise for the director. With its running time of merely 80 minutes there is really some sort of frustration building up in the viewer - you can't argue that. There would have been a lot more possible, but Hong Sang-soo in fact doesn't manage to expand the extent of his work's already familiar message. At one point during a Q & A lesson he even makes professor Song answer some popular philosophical questions and that's also where it becomes the most apparent that the director wasn't as fit in this drama than normally. To condemn the director and his newest work as a complete misfired shot as many critics have done is way too much over the line, though. "Oki's Movie" can still convey a good amount of honest life drama and with that is once more superior to many tearjerkers. Moreover, the playful handling with the narration levels gives rise to some worthwhile thoughts. Hong might be a bit off his game, but we can easily forgive him that every now and then, can't we?