Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Night and Day (KOREAN)

(Bam Gua Nat)

Film Review by Kam Williams


Headline: Korean Ex-Pat Finds Lust, Then Love, on the Run in Paris


                When Sung-nam Kim (Yeong-ho Kim) learns that the local police want to arrest him for possession of Marijuana, he decides to flee Seoul for asylum in France. There, he takes refuge among an enclave of Koreans living in the bohemian section of Paris known as Montmartre. However, despite befriending other expatriates from his homeland, the transition proves to be anything but smooth.

 This is because Sung-nam is settled and middle-aged, and has left behind both a devoted wife, Sung-in (Su-jeong Hwang), and a flourishing career as an artist. Now, instead of dividing his time between his spouse and his studio, he finds himself lonely and with nothing much to do except chain smoke and leer at females.

They say “When in Rome do as the Romans do,” so Sung-nam figures when in France, why not do like the French? And he begins to behave like the typical protagonist in a Parisian romantic romp, as Night and Day is a movie marked by such staples of the genre as talk, coupling, smoking, uncoupling, more talk, re-coupling, more smoking, uncoupling, etcetera.

In this case, Sung-nam acts like a bachelor, and starts chasing anything in a skirt. First, there’s Min-sun (Yu-jin Kim), an ex-girlfriend he bumps into on the street. They haven’t seen each other in ten years, but she quickly reminds Sung-nam of the half-dozen abortions she had because of him. Since then, she’s married a mentally-abusive European, so all it takes is a few drinks to get her eager for an adulterous affair.

They rent a hotel room where Sung-nam suddenly has misgivings about cheating on his spouse, and he summons up the courage to resist the tempting seductress in a terry cloth towel by reading the Bible. In fact, this flick is filled with interludes during which he’s seen on the phone and crying on the proverbial shoulder with Sung-in, who is patient and supportive only because she’s being lied to and has no idea of all the shenanigans her hubby is actually up to.

Sung-nam subsequently indulgences himself in a string of dalliances with women less than half his age, and the liaisons aren’t problematic until he and an impressionable, young art student fall head-over-heels for each other. After they mate without protection, the vulnerable Yu-jeong (Eun-hye Park) whispers sweet nothings in his ear like, “I think of no one but you” and “If I can’t have you, I’ll go nuts.” 

He promises to get a divorce, but the plot nonetheless thickens when both his mistress and his wife miss their periods. Turns out Sung-in got pregnant just before he skipped town. The tension mounts when he opts to return to Korea with Yu-jeong in tow, and it’s pretty obvious something’s gotta give.

Written and directed by Sang-soo Hang, Night and Day, offers an intriguing look at a hedonist in the midst of a midlife crisis, a creep whose denial slowly catches up to him. Which woman will Sung-nam pick in the end, the loyal, unsuspecting spouse or the equally-naïve nymphet? A choice tough to predict, when the options are as different as night and day.


Excellent (4 stars)


In Korean, French and English with subtitles.

Running time: 144 minutes

Studio: Anthology Film Archives

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