Showing the Complexity of the Simple – The Art-puzzle of Hong Sang-soo
Renowned South Korean film director, Hong Sang-soo, has shown deep interest in complex (or some might say: confusing) storytelling throughout his entire career. Since modernist art cinema has an affinity with unconventional narrative structures, it is not surprising that an auteur like Hong is attracted to complexity. What is interesting here is that Hong’s (often black and white) films are a kind of analogue answer to the challenges of digital culture, a modernist art cinema version of puzzle films and database narratives. The article analyses the very Hongian strategy of producing auteurist puzzle films by creating confusion on a perceptive and narrative level.
Firstly, the article summarises how Hong’s unique film making practice not only provides significant (economic, artistic) independence and freedom to the author, but at the same time proves to be a structure that delivers high complexity at a low production cost. Secondly, the article analyses the puzzling techniques used by Hong that work on a perceptual level, and often turn his films into high level memory tests; and how these structures play a part in the “perceptual reeducation” of viewers while also serving as commentaries on cinematic representation. And finally, the article concludes with an analysis of the narrative techniques used by Hong to tell extremely simple stories about the eternal topic of “men want women” in a complex, confusing and compelling way.
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