This weekend marks the 24th annual Virginia Film Festival, held at the cinemas around downtown Charlottesville and throughout the screens on UVa grounds. Virginia Film Festival began with a mission to promote film making in Virginia, as well as working with the resources of the University to expand students’ minds with prominent films and discussions. Every year, the film festival has grown with more guest speakers for a Q&A after the film as well as more diverse selection of films. This year, famous guest speakers, like director Oliver Stone and actress Mia Wasikowska will be at the film festival.
Exploring the international film options – which are very difficult to find around Charlottesville – would be definitely taking advantage of the film festival. The first night, the festival held a prominent Korean director, Hong SangSoo’s recently feature-length film, The Day He Arrives.
The black and white movie takes place in the capital city of Korea, Seoul. The main character is a film director named Yoo SungJoon, who does not make movies anymore. He visits Seoul from a rural side of the country, where he teaches at a provincial college. Although he initially promises himself that he is only going to meet his friend, YoungHo, he encounters his ex-girlfriend and his ex-girlfriend-look-alike. For the next three days at Seoul, his days and nights are filled with random encounters, drinking, eating good food, and making love with women who all fit his “ideal type”.
Although the plot is simple and mundane, the awkward dialogues bluntly confront a dark side in all of our daily lives. Thus, the dialogues may seem lackluster. However, the dialogues have particular effects that make the audience laugh at the bluntness, yet later agree with the main characters, and eventually be disgusted by our innate cyclic desires and thoughts. Overall, unlike modern films that try to connect with the audiences, The Day He Arrives distances the audiences through a strange set of dialogues and strange repetition of daily activities, from drinking to pursuing same type of girls every night. However, the strangeness and awkwardly blunt dialogues allow the audiences to look at dark desires in the society from an objective third person perspective.
The director of the film, Hong SangSoo, is a highly praised director because of his balanced use of odd selection of cinematography as well as the mundane and dark storyline. Although the entire film is shot in black and white, the color restriction is used to highlight the smoke from the cigarette or bright light that signifies a particular bar; which only adds to the repetitive nature of our daily activities. In addition, the black and white feature also distances the audience from our usual conception of time, so that the audiences get confused with the defined day and night and be lost in many days have been passed by.
Virginia Film Festival describes the film, “The Day He Arrives is infused with the flavor and playfulness of the French New Wave.” Since majority of his films are about the same subject in the same light, no wonder why Director Hong’s films are highly praised in Cannes International Film Festival. So, if anyone is interested in odd French New Wave films, or very artistic filmmakers like Afred Hitchcock, then The Day He Arrives may be a good exploration of a contemporary Korean film.