SFIFF – Hahaha

Hahaha, which means, “Summer Summer Summer” in Korean (where the film hails from), won director Sang-Soo Hong the Un Certain Regard award at the Cannes Film Festival. In previous years, the prestigious award has gone to films like Dogtooth, and Tulpan.  Understandably, I expected much more than a mild comedy about a group of young people that get drunk and have sex.  A lot.  This does seem, after all, to be a bit of business as usual for twenty somethings.  I’ll give Sang-soo Hong the quirky way he told the story.  The film initially begins as two friends meet to discuss recent trips they both went on.  As the stories are told, the audience gets to see exactly what happened, and how.  Immediately, we find out that these two friends spent much time with the same people, but don’t know it.  However, we’re never really shown the two friends except through black and white still images played along side the audio.  It reminded me of grade school slideshow projections, the ones where you changed slides at the ding of the bell.

It turns out one of these two men is Jo Munkyung, a fledgling filmmaker, and his friend Bang Jungshik is a film critic. The two drink heavily, while discussing other times they committed infidelity and drank heavily.  This structuring is interesting, and keeps the film fresh.  At the end of each vignette, the characters raise their glasses in one toast after another.  It’s charming, in a bachelor-in-college sort of way.  Ultimately, Hong gives up the higher purpose he intended for his film, which I believe was to examine the pain behind the smiles (in a more existential way), and trades it in morally weak characters across the board.  This never lets the film rise to be anything more than mildly amusing comedy.  It seems as if Hong is taking cues from Woody Allen’s most recent, and weak films, like You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. There’s not much more than meets the eye here.

★★☆☆

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