PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

'Oki's Movie' at Maysles Cinema

You might say that the start of Hong Sang-soo's movie sets up some familiar themes, like loss and disappointment, betrayal and desire, memory and forgetting.

Oki's Movie (Ok-hui-ui yeonghwa)

Director: Hong Sang-soo
Cast: Lee Sun-kyun, Jung Yumi, Moon Sung-keun
Rated: NR
Studio: Jeonwonsa Film
Year: 2010
US date: 2012-04-16 (Maysles Cinema)
Starting with a theme will make it all veer to one point. We don’t appreciate films for their themes.

-- Jingu (Lee Sun-kyun)

Jingu (Lee Sun-kyun) and his wife (Baek Jungrim) are looking for their car as Oki's Movie (Ok-hui-ui yeonghwa) begins. It's the sort of search any number of couples in the city might undertake, not panicked, not even frustrated, but still, not finding the car right away either. They know it must be nearby. As they walk, she wonders why he's smoking a cigarette. "I thought you were quitting," she says, then, "Don't make promises you can't keep." She looks at him critically, then slowly turns away. "Forget it, she finishes, "Do whatever you want." And with that, she's striding away down the street as Jingu trots along behind her, his voiceover telling you what you can see anyway: "My wife isn't the same these days."

You might say that the start of Hong Sang-soo's movie -- actually the first of four short movies within the movie, and opens for a week's run at Maysles Cinema on 16 April -- sets up some familiar themes, like loss and disappointment, betrayal and desire, memory and forgetting. Jingu is a filmmaker, and so has an interest in such themes, but it's not clear how aware he might be of his construction and participation in his own story. He's also a teacher, whose instructions to students are at once cryptic, profound, and obvious. "If you don’t fix it, the narrative won't support itself," he tells Oki (Jung Yumi), "Your sincerity needs its own form, the form will take you to the truth. Telling it as it is wont' get you there."

Jingu's self-image shapes such instructions, of course. He talks about truth and can't imagine it, or maybe he believes he has access to it, because it's his. He chides a young photographer in the park not to "shoot someone who's sleeping" (that is, him, fretful and perhaps dozing on a bench), then goes on to use her camera to try to seduce (capture) her. This scene indicates the hypocrisy of the artist, if not what he makes. As it happens, Jingu's self-image gets a brief boost when he believes he's going to receive a prize for one of his films. Congratulated by colleagues and admired by students, Jingu spends a good chunk of Oki's Movie feigning humility and anticipating veneration. The truth is that neither of these themes quite applies to Jingu; his self-delusions inform his art as well as his relationships.

The truth Jingu says he pursues -- or encourages his students to pursue -- remains elusive. When he arrives intoxicated at a screening of one of his films and begins to take questions, he's confronted by a young woman who charges him with breaking her best friend's heart, when he ended an affair with her. Jingu claims he can't remember the young woman or the affair ("I'm married," he says, as if this disproves the contention straight up), as the movie suggests a connection between recollection and intention, or even truth and fiction.

Jingu's version of what's happening to him is not quite like versions recounted by others, which appear in a couple of the other films in Oki's Movie. Each of the four movies in Oki's Movie is introduced by a set of credits on leaderish blue and its own title, as well as the anthemic "Pomp and Circumstance," at once ostentatious and ridiculous. That the ambition might outstrip the art is one possibility. That the ambition might shape the art is another.

One of the movies is built around Jingu's own professor, Song (Moon Sung-keun), who's not entirely happy growing old, being admired, or teaching. When questioned by his students -- "Is it okay to want an easy life it" -- he answers in negatives. An easy life "doesn’t really exist," he intones, and he can't say what he "wants" because it changes day to day.

Song and Jingu's stories, such as they are, find no easy answers in the fourth film, which is "made" and narrated by Oki. She describes it as a sort of anthropological project, as she means to set her affairs with a "younger man" (Jingu) and an "older man" (Song) next to one another to see similarities. The film shows her in similar circumstances, and in love, with each man -- visiting a pavilion, walking a woodsy path, out in the snow -- but neither scenario leads to understanding, or even much in the way of pleasure. That her final frame shows her face, distressed as she walks off screen, intimates the irresolution of her movie, the one shaped by the others.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.