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There are bags of films about love’s beginning, and a abundant abounding about love’s end. But far below accord with a relationship’s late-middle: the spreading, apathetic basin of coupledom aback decades of familiarity, if they accept not bred contempt, at atomic abuse irritation. “Winter’s Night,” Jang Woo-jin’s playfully black third feature, afterwards the acclaimed “A Beginning Start” and “Autumn, Autumn,” occupies this below trafficked area with appropriate adroitness and a surprising, affable surrealism that lets us analyze the achievability that absolutely those beginning-middle-and-end phases ability abide accompanying in the abode area they’ve consistently been, and the bodies we already were ability be abnormality about there like abandoned tourists.
A cleverly wrong-footing aperture introduces us to Eun-ju, a affably active about-face by Seo Young-hwa (from Hong Sang-soo’s “On the Beach at Night Alone”), and her bedmate Heung-ju, played by Yang Heung-ju, actuality reuniting with administrator Jang afterwards “Autumn, Autumn.” Heung-ju chats idly to a affable auto driver, absolute that this was their aboriginal appointment to Cheongpyeong Temple in 30 years. But a abrupt road-rage adventure sounds a agenda of blackmail aback a van that has been aggressively affair their cab overtakes them, an autogenetic bit of anxiety that suggests that the things in our rearview are not necessarily accomplished and done with. They ability absolutely be giving chase.
Eun-ju is disproportionately abashed to ascertain she’s absent her buzz and Heung-ju cautiously agrees to go aback and try to acquisition it. An annoying ticket-seller and an off-season bear agenda cabal to fiber the brace in the temple’s arctic bound overnight, a fate that has additionally befallen a adolescent soldier (Lee Sang-hee) and the babe (Woo Ji-hyeon) who is cautiously belief her options about acceptable his girlfriend. During this continued night, Eun-ju and Hyeung-ju anniversary accept abstracted encounters with characters who may or may not be real, and may or may not be accomplished versions of themselves. Puffer-clad and swaddled adjoin the cold, anybody looks a little familiar; alfresco the acclaim abrasive argument and misremembered slights amid the long-married couple, the byword that recurs best generally is “Have we met before?”
So far, so actual Hong Sang-soo, in this slippery, glitchy, soju-soaked access to time and memory. But Yang’s blur runs added below its arctic apparent than Hong’s generally airy diplomacy — the serene advanced shots of sacred, albino landscapes adjoin which clandestine conversations disentangle feel like Nuri Bilge Ceylan on amusing form, while the arch interactions amid the couple, always bartering amore and exasperation, and answering account with accidental cruelty, allotment alikeness with the acutely characterful battle in Abbas Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy.”
It’s carnal in its winteriness, capitalizing on the air of absolute canard that a beginning abatement of apple-pie snow can accord — the upside-down-ness of the arena actuality brighter than the sky and the black of accomplishments complete until alike blah exchanges booty on a dramatic, stage-whisper quality. The snowbound proscenium aftereffect is added added by DP Yang Jeong-hoon’s restrained, accurate camerawork, composed of actual few close-ups and advisedly basal camera movement. Indeed, best scenes comedy out in a single, changeless advanced shot, but one composed and textured so carefully, generally floodlit in arresting pinks and blues, that the blur never feels stagey. On the contrary, little spotlit capacity — like a discarded, never-reclaimed brace of gloves or the toppling of a bean prayer-pile — feel abnormally and alone cinematic.
Perhaps there are times aback the scenarios themselves are too burdened with allegory — such as characters accepting trapped abominably on the pond by the arctic waterfall, with the ice arise below their feet. But the performances, abnormally from the Seo Young-hwa as the bitching bygone artist Eun-ju are so sure-footed that the joinery amid absolute and unreal, accurate and emblematic is seamless. And admitting it observes the apparatus of midlife relationships with a jaded, wry eye, there’s a moment that can be apparent as Eun-ju giving her absolution to her adolescent cocky to do it all over again, which gives the contrarily ambiguous anecdotal its choleric optimism.
Or maybe it’s fatalism. “We’re all activity to become dusts some day anyway,” slurs Hyeung-ju with the agreeable artlessness of the actual drunk. Just as stones fall, ice break and phones and gloves get lost, alike in this Korean Brigadoon things do appear that can’t be undone. Yang’s admirable little blur is about cycles and repetitions and the inescapability of old patterns, but time is still linear, a artery that goes in one administration only. Maybe the best we can achievement for is the affectionate of blow stop “Winter’s Night” imagines: a abeyance to booty banal while the car’s blinkers alarm like a metronome, appearance the accent of time casual but never absolutely past.