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Ko - production in Busan
  • Critics Embrace Hong’s Intimate 22nd Work GRASS in Berlin
  • by Pierce Conran /  Feb 26, 2018
  • KIM Min-hee Draws Plaudits after Forum Premiere

    Hong Sangsoo’s 22nd film Grass had its world premiere in the Forum section of the 68th Berlin International Film Festival on February 16. As with his other work, critics have embraced his latest introspective and dialogue-heavy comedy-drama. Drawing particular attention is the lead performance of Hong’s muse KIM Min-hee, working here with the director for the fourth time in a row and sixth time overall.

    In the svelte 66-minute title, KIM plays a patron of a Seoul cafe who observes her fellow customers as they wile away their days, drawing inspiration from their conversations for her writing. KIM features alongside several other frequent Hong acolytes in the black and white feature, including SEO Young-hwa, KIM Sae-byuk, AHN Jae-hong, JUNG Jin-young and KEY Joo-bong.

    Variety calls Grass a ‘thimbleful of purest, concentrated Hong-brand soju’, explaining that with his latest the filmmaker is ‘at his least cluttered and most ascetic, with the spartan backstreet coffee shop location serving as a gallery space and the mercurial, silvery strands of connection between the patrons comprising the artifacts on display’. 

    The Hollywood Reporter compares Hong to Woody Allen, writing that ‘his characters and their boozy, neurotic, often humorous discussions about love and death that irresistibly recall a Korean version of Woody Allen; the same modern light touch in search of psychological depth and big themes are evident even in a slight film like the one-location, 66-minute Grass’. 

    KIM, who began her collaborations with Hong on his 2015 film Right Now, Wrong Then and earned the Silver Bear for Best Actress for On the Beach at Night Alone (2017) in Berlinale last year, is once again impressing viewers with a disarmingly complex lead performance. Screen explains that ‘unsurprisingly, KIM Min-hee stands out among the cast’. 

    Echoing the sentiment of several critics, Screen writes that ‘while a more abstract, ruminative Hong feature is likely to intrigue existing fans, it’s ultimately destined to play best on the festival circuit’.
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