“In Another Country”: The Many Faces of Isabelle Huppert

The comedy of misunderstanding is afoot in Hong Sang-soo's misty beachfront divertissement, an improbably endearing three-way Isabelle Huppert vehicle. Framed as notes toward a film (scribbled on a legal pad and then twice revised), the actual film gamely riffs on its variable notion of Huppert as a Frenchwoman visiting Korea for a seaside stopover and becoming gently embroiled within the amusements of cultural and sexual tension. Being Huppert, she's up for it; even in the possibly improvised — and possibly misfired — moments. And even two layers deep into non-native language, she can't seem to strike a false note. Each of Hong's leisurely, impish vignettes involves encounters with a friendly neighbor (Jung Yumi), a film director (Kwon Hyehyo) and his pregnant wife (Moon Sori), and a flirty lifeguard (Yu Junsang), with desperate defaults to broken-English pleasantries and without resolution. Not quite letting us get a grip on the characters or their situations actually works to the film's advantage: By inviting inquisitiveness, Hong's recurrent motifs also affirm the pure aesthetic pleasures of pattern recognition. All three of these Hupperts go for a walk in search of a lighthouse, and intermittent illumination is available, if only in a knowingly silly game of minor neurotic upheavals.

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