NYFF perennial Hong Sang-soo’s latest may be his wittiest—and his most deeply felt—work to date. Toggling between the present and the past, reality and fiction, and divided into four chapters (and different points of view), Oki’s Movie recounts the amorous and artistic adventures of talented young director Jin-gu (Lee Sun-kyun), his middle-aged cinema instructor, Professor Song (Moon Sung-keun), and Oki (Jung Yumi), the woman who loves them both.
As “Pomp and Circumstance” wryly plays throughout, the protagonists nobly fumble their way through romance and work, culminating in Jin-gu’s disastrous post-screening Q&A. Hong’s eleventh feature is a comedy with tremendous emotional heft, concluding with a heartbreaking précis on the vagaries of the heart and the terrors of aging.
“The Academic Hack” wrote:
by Michael Sicinski
Let me say something about Hong Sang-soo. If you’re going to keep making the same film over and over, 1) make it a good movie, and 2) get better at it. So while some critic acquaintances rolled their eyes at Oki’s Movie on the basis of plot alone, I am happy to cheerlead for it, as it’s one of his very best films in years, probably since Tale of Cinema. As with Tale and several other recent Hongs, Oki relies on a film-within-a-film structure, in which we see a young film professor, Jin-gu (Lee Seon-gyoon), tell his wife that he may have to do some drinking tonight, because he has a Q&A for his film. In the meantime, he gets drunk and embarrasses himself at an unanticipated faculty meeting. (Nobody does male embarrassment in the movies quite like Hong, and in this case it’s all about Jin-gu’s idiotic desire to “clear the air” of some rumor that no one in his right mind would ever mention publicly.) This sequence, A Day For Incantation, is shown to be the thesis film for a young male student also called Jin-gu (Lee again), made for the class of Professor Song (Moon Sung-keun), an older man doubting his commitment to teaching. Both men are enamored with another film student, Oki (Jung Yumi), whose own film, Oki’s Movie, is the final of the four multiple-perspective mini-films within Hong’s master text. This final part is the most self-reflexive, and the one that cedes the most laser-sharp gender analysis to the female character, who compares and contrasts the younger and older men with a wisdom neither one possesses. But speaking from a purely personal place, both the funniest and most moving scene in Hong’s film comes when Song, holding class for only two students (Oki and Jin-gu) in a snowstorm, fields random questions about love, life, and art, becoming a self-deprecating father figure just as he’s decided to leave teaching behind. It’s a rare glimpse of the humanity that actually exists within the Humanities. And, how the more we learn, the more we really recognize that we don’t know — that it isn’t just a cheap Zen blow-off but a mark of the worn shoe leather of time logged on planet earth. As a kind of academic in-joke, Hong punctuates each segment with “Pomp and Circumstance,” Elgar’s march virtually mocking the proceedings. When it comes to the school of life, try as we might, we never graduate.