Un Certain Regard Directed by HONG Sangsoo Cast YU Junsang, SONG Sunmi, KIM Sangjoong, KIM Bokyung
By Jean Noh
One of the most anticipated Korean films of the year is director HONG Sangsoo’s latest work The Day He Arrives . Characteristic of the auteur’s dramas, the film follows a regional college professor and occasional filmmaker on a trip to Seoul, and proceeds to show versions of what could have been a day or perhaps several different days. The Day He Arrives has been invited to this year’s Cannes film festival’s Un Certain Regard section where last year, HONG’s film Hahaha was the Closing Film and won the top prize.
As with most of his other idiosyncratic works, the film has a very Korean setting for almost subtle character interaction that makes for interesting viewing as well. The Day He Arrives takes place mostly in the Bukchon district of Seoul, which is known for its traditional Korean-style houses and artistic atmosphere which is filled with cafés, galleries and a public library. Near this district is the traditional antiques and gallery neighborhood of Insa-dong. The film’s Korean title BukchonBanghyang roughly translates to ‘in the direction of Bukchon’ or ‘Bukchon-bound’.
In the lead role of Seongjun, the film stars YU Junsang, who first started working with HONG on the 2008 film Like You Know It All and most notably also starred in HONG’s Hahaha .
With the face of an ultimately selfcentered man who easily smiles to please others and get his way, Seongjun arrives in Seoul to see an old friend of his, Youngho (KIM Sangjoong). While he waits to see him, he wanders around Bukchon, running into an actress he used to know and having a short conversation with the eager woman. he walks down to Insa-dong and has a drink by himself when he is invited to join a trio of film students who recognize him as a film director. They are kind and respectful, but eventually he ditches them in a paranoid fashion and heads to an old flame’s apartment.
The next day, or maybe another – we can’t be sure – Seongjun is still wandering around Bukchon and again he runs into the actress he used to know. They talk again and part. Seongjun finally meets up with his friend Youngho, who has a previous engagement to see Boram (SONG Sunmi), an attractive professor whom he insists is just a good friend he cares about a lot. They go to a bar called Novel. he is obviously very interested in Seongjun. The owner of the bar looks very much like Seongjun’s old flame Kyungjin (KIM Bokyung), and he plays the piano for her.
And then the next day, or perhaps another day altogether, Seongjun goes to Jungdok Library with Young-ho. he tells the story of how he once followed a girl home from there for the first time. In the evening, the two meet with a former actor who has returned from doing business in Vietnam.There is tension between the former actor and the former director, but it is dispelled for the time being and Boram joins them. The four of them go to “a bar called Novel,” as Seongjun once again narrates in a voiceover. After a few drinks, he kisses the bar owner.
It now seems like Seongjun may have been in Seoul with his friend Youngho for a few days now, or just one day so far. he might have learned something from the meeting with his old flame, or it might be that he has to meet again with this woman who looks like the old flame. As if he had only the one day, Seongjun is left to face the day in spite of everything.