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The Power of Kangwon Province
Time Out says
Less assertively 'new' than The Day a Pig Fell into the Well but more complex in structure and subtler in effect, Hong's second film tells two seemingly distinct stories (one after the other) and leaves the viewer to grapple with two disconcerting revelations: first, that the two protagonists are ex-lovers who have never got over each other, and second, that their stories happen not sequentially but within the same time frame. The first centres on Jisook, a young woman from Seoul who takes a trip to Kangwon with two girlfriends and meets a nice-but-married cop with whom she stays in touch. The second centres on Cho, a between-jobs teacher with a wife and kid; he, too, takes a short break in Kangwon with an old schoolfriend, who already has tenure in a university teaching post. The twist of lemon is that the two stories are also virtual mirror images of each other, as if both were variations on some larger meta-narrative. Virtuoso film-making, but not in the least high flown; Hong's targets are the ways people trap themselves in routines of all kinds, and the ways people hide truths from themselves and each other behind desultory small talk.