A scene from "In Another Country." (Handout )
Prolific filmmaker Hong Sang-soo's latest experiment in form, "In Another Country," is a beguiling set of variations on a theme, a gossamer-light étude composed for delight rather than dissection.
The movie comprises a triptych of vignettes, each about half an hour long and centering on a French woman, played by Isabelle Huppert, who's visiting a seaside town in South Korea.
The three scenarios are presented as the creations of a young screenwriter (Jung Yumi) who's at loose ends. Holed up with her mother in the beach town because of a debt-related family crisis, she writes scripts to calm her jangled nerves.
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One of the most daring and assured of film actresses, Huppert embraces the aloneness, foreignness and impudence of her characters, all named Anne.
The first is a successful film director visiting a Korean colleague (Kwon Hyehyo) and his pregnant wife (Moon Sori). The second is a married woman rendezvousing with her filmmaker boyfriend (Moon Sungkeun). Last is a divorcee who seeks the wisdom of a monk before getting drunk on soju.
All three Annes encounter a lifeguard, played by the terrifically droll Yu Junsang. Their exchanges in English are the movie's highlights, generating a delirious music of non-native inflection, awkward and flirtatious.
Casting an oblique light on moviemaking, not in its content but in the way it's constructed, "In Another Country" can also be viewed, like Abbas Kiarostami's "Certified Copy," as a non-European auteur's riff on Euro cinema.
The effect is buoyant as Hong slyly shuffles a collection of characters, totems and other story ingredients.
"In Another Country." No MPAA rating; in English and Korean with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. At Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino; Laemmle's Royal, West Los Angeles.