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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2009
To watch this movie, one really has to be patient. It moves slowly and if not for the occasional moments of humor it would have been a real drag. This film has an idea of what it is to catch a right moment when two people can connect and be intimate. Surely one would think that these are adults that can handle any situation but these thirty somethings are worse than teenagers. The outward impression of them is never matching with what is going on inside of them. Deep inside they are either too damaged, or too childlish to handle their own emotions and decisions. One almost feels like wanting to smack them so they can snap out of it. In any case the appearances are never what the reality is. And that is what movie is all about. Couple is not really a couple. Well meaning stranger is not always a well meaning stranger seeking to strike a new friendship. And seemingly dog loving couple is anything but...
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2009
Woman on the Beach
dir. Hong Sang-soo, 2006

Washed up at low tide 4*

I'm giving this one the same 4* review as a couple of other reviewers, but view it less favorably. From the tone of their reviews, I'm surprised they didn't award enthusiastic 5*s.

"Woman on the Beach" continues the male-female relationship theme of 2004's "Woman is the Future of Man," but is, for me, more successful. The males, if anything, are even more pathetic and wimpy jerks, but the women, though still pushovers, show signs of inner strength and are more in charge of their lives.

Once again two buddies vie for the attention of one woman. Film director Kim Jongrae (oddly, film maker Hong's films seem to involve filmmakers, like rock songs about musicians' lives on the road ;-) is stuck writing a script, and insists his buddy Changwook (who, the dvd cover informs us, is his production designer) accmpany him on a getaway to try to get the creative juices flowing. Changwook agrees, but only if he brings his girlfriend. So, in spite of a threatened "sandstorm" [??], the two buddies, somewhere approaching middle age, take off for the seaside resort town of Shinduri, with the pretty, younger Moonsook, and tension builds as the two vie for her attention ... or is it she playing one against the other?

Shinduri, oddly, is nearly deserted, perhaps because of the hotel rooms which are unexpectedly expensive? or the sandstorm, which never shows? or the surly restaurant waiters, which leads Jongrae to an explosive outburst? Anyway, the threesome totter about looking for a cheap room, getting drunk and pontificating a lot, and doing no writing. Jongrae and Moonsook form a connection, seemingly one with some depth beyond the simply carnal, and it's obvious that each has a troubled background. But Jongrae cannot even commit to a continuing relationship until he has sorted out his demons, and the group returns to Seoul.

Two days later Jongrae is back in Shinduri (or never left?), has a deep emotional experience on the beach and tries to reach Moonsook, to no avail. So when he meets a woman who reminds him of her .... it gets complicated. The rest of the film, and the resolution, is surprising but in its way encouraging.

What will really make you love or hate this film is not the plot but Hong's style, a concatenation of seemingly unrelated incidents which can be jarring or can seem like real life. Maybe which depends on what the people you know do in their lives. The story line of the dog Dori, who they first meet being walked on the beach, keeps popping up with some surprising but relevant twists. But the incident of the (mildly) sinister motorcyclist goes nowhere, serves only, perhaps, to expose aspects of Jongrae's and Moonsook's character. Or just to fill time. This style can be confusing, and seems like it would reward a second viewing. In the case of "Woman is the Future of Man" I just didn't care enough about the characters or plot to make that investment. But "Woman on the Beach" is intriguing enough, the flawed characters and their relations interesting enough, that I probably will pick this DVD up again soon. I don't expect it to become one of my favorite films, revealing layers and subtleties, but it does seem worth another go just to straighten out what's going on.

A word on the subtitles: it's nice that relevant traffic and commercial signs are interpreted (as they too often aren't), but unfortunately the subtitles are small and often nearly invisible against light background. Sigh. There does exist better technology.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2009
Needing a quiet, relaxing environment in which to complete the script for his latest film, well-known director Kim Jung-rae heads to a largely deserted seaside resort with his friend, Won Chang-wook, and Won's beautiful girlfriend, Kim Mun-suk. Tensions quickly develop when Kim and Mun-suk become romantically involved with one another, leaving the erstwhile Won as essentially odd-man-out. Yet, terrified of making any kind of long term commitment, Kim backs away from Mun-suk at a crucial moment, causing a serious rupture in their relationship. It`s only after a second woman comes into the picture that Mun-suk returns to the beach town, further complicating Kim's already complicated life - though providing possible fodder for the script he`s having such a hard time completing.

Slow-moving, episodic and hypnotic, the Korean drama "Woman on the Beach" is wonderfully perceptive about human nature and the multi-faceted and complex ways in which people relate to one another. It's virtually impossible to pigeonhole any of the characters since they often act and react in ways that surprise and intrigue us. Director Sang-soo Hong relies largely on extended conversations to tell his story, an approach which allows the drama to unfold in a thoroughly naturalistic fashion, without having to resort to melodrama or contrivance to get its points across. To that end, the movie is filled with numerous seemingly irrelevant, off-the-cuff moments (including the final scene) that add immeasurably to the verisimilitude of the piece. As a result, every moment in the film feels unscripted and real, an illusion greatly enhanced by the excellent performances of Seung-woo Kim, Hyun-jung Go, Seon-mi Song and Tae-woo Kim.

Finally, the shuttered hotels and sparsely populated beaches and boardwalks provide an eerily appropriate backdrop for this tale of an individual so haunted by the demons and ghosts of his own past that he finds it difficult to live in the present.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Writer and director Hong Sang-soo has created an insightful comedy of romantic relationships in "Woman on the Beach", an equal opportunity mockery of the neuroses, pretensions, and desires of men, women, and even filmmakers. Kim Jung-rae (Kim Seung-woo) is a South Korean film director from Seoul. He's having trouble finishing his latest script, so he imposes upon friend and fellow writer Won Chang-wook (Kim Tae-woo) to accompany him to the seaside resort town of Shinduri, where he hopes to be inspired. Feeling put-upon, Chang-wook insists on bringing his girlfriend Kim Moon-sook (Go Hyun-jung) along. Director Kim is immediately taken with her and takes every opportunity to come between the couple. Moon-sook seems to prefer the director to her more down-to-earth companion, as well.

"Woman on the Beach" always plays it straight: Moon-sook's sassiness, director Kim's bumbling attempts at flattery, his pretentious film, his self-conscious intolerance, Chang-wook's posturing. The first half of the film pits one savvy and manipulative woman against two male egos who fight over her, probably because they have nothing better to do. It's hilarious. This trio speaks bluntly, and they always do and say the unexpected. The second half of the film didn't work as well for me, because the tone is difficult to express in subtitles. Once there is nothing to keep Director Kim and Moon-sook apart, their neuroses take over, of course. Without being able to understand how the actors are expressing themselves, it looks like either straight drama or parody. It is undoubtedly intended to be parody, and the situations are still funny, but the dialogue isn't effective in subtitles. I enjoyed the smart, straight-faced satire, though, and I'm sure "Woman on the Beach" is even better if you understand Korean.

The DVD (New Yorker 2008): "Making-of" (16 min) is behind-the-scenes footage, including some brief interviews with director and cast. "Interview: Cinematographer Kim Hyung-Koo" (6 min) interviews the DP about the director's style, long takes, the static camera, and the beach location. "Interview: Music Director Jeong Yong-jin" (7 min) interviews the film's composer about working with director Hong Sang-soo, the tone of the music for this film, and the progression of his music through various films. There is a theatrical trailer (2 min). The film and bonus features are in Korean with optional English subtitles.
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on June 2, 2013
I think Korea makes some of the best raw and high concept movies. This movie did a great job exploring how we become attracted to the same types of romantic partners.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2010
Please read the other reviews... I found them more interesting than watching the movie. The only reason I gave it 2 stars versus one is because the filmmaker does make interesting points about life and idiotic relationships. He does touch on real human weaknesses and expose them, and maybe that was why it was painful for me to watch some of it? I really disliked the main male protagonist... the Director. Yes, he was damaged, but why inflict it on other damaged souls? I feel he was using the women to cure his writers block. I wished the women would've turned around and run from him.. immediately... and kept their dignity. The ending was also unexpected... unpredictable... abrupt, but gave me some hope. OK, so you can get stuck in life, but with a little help you can get out. Maybe this film is a cautionary tale?
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on November 23, 2013
one of my favorites of all time. this movie brings back memories and well as continuing to tickle me as I watch it again and again
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2010
I was quite content when I found out films such as this existed.

This is one of my favorites. It's full of delightful nuances and fine character portraits. The actors deserve Oscars for being human and real. Funny as f*pp too. Hong Sangsoo did well here.

To quote the New York Times writer, "I URGE YOU TO SEE IT."
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