It's pretty much granted that South Korean director Hong Sang-soo has become quite the arthouse darling in recent years, with his lighter than air, low-budget flâneries about love and life produced at lightning speed. Pretty much an acquired taste with their loose narratives and approximative aesthetics (the viewer's tolerance of fast zooms plays an important part in the appreciation of the work), Mr. Hong's films nevertheless do possess a sly charm of their own, one that has seemingly been coming more often to the fore with more recent productions, culminating in the door-opening presence of bonafide star Isabelle Huppert on the previous In Another Country.

     Another French star appears in the opening scenes of Nobody's Daughter Haewon: Jane Birkin, effectively playing herself in a passing cameo that underlines the writer/director's tongue-in-cheek approach to narrative. Haewon (Jung Eun-chae), the film's "heroine", has absolutely no idea who Ms. Birkin is until she realises her daughter is Charlotte Gainsbourg - and Mr. Hong uses this as a symbol of the character he is presenting, an acting student who seems to float carefree through life in a strongly regimented society. Haewon has no idea what it is she is aiming for, but she does know what she wants and gravitates toward her desire for happiness, gleefully refusing to play the part everyone expects her to take. Shot in the usual leisurely, awkward manner we have come to expect from the director, Nobody's Daughter Haewon is only apparently light and fluffy, with this most idiossyncratic director hiding astutely his own search for reason and rhyme behind that throwaway appearance.

Cast: Jung Eun-chae, Lee Sun-kyun, Kim Ja-ok, Yu Jun-sang, Kim Eui-sung, Ye Ji-won, Jane Birkin
Director and writer: Hong Sang-soo
Cinematography: Kim Young-koo, Park Hong-yeol  (colour)
Music: Jeong Yong-jin
Editors: Hahm Sung-won, Son Yeon-ji
Producer: Kim Kyoung-hee (Jeonwonsa Film Company)
South Korea, 2012, 90 minutes

Screened: Berlin Film Festival 2013 official competition advance press screening, Berlinale Palast, Berlin, February 15th 2013


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