Hotel by the River 강변 호텔 (Gangbyeon hotel) (2018) - South Korea
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
Chances are that director Hong Sang-soo, continues his auteur journey in “Hotel by the River”. Shot in black and white once again, Hong manages to eludes the norms of Korean society and provide a soul barring look at the core of humanity and the ultimate feeling of melancholy and moodiness that is often overshadowed by interactive character dialogues. By all means this is a sad film rather than uplifting as the main character of the story is obviously suffering internally and his will to live is often departed.
Veteran Ki Joo-bong plays the aging poet whose stay at the hotel is often combined with a moody look out the window and winter snow. It’s often unfortunate as Ki’s eyes are rather telling and the sparks are gone. His conversations with his two sons are emotional and the underlying distance between the relationship is most definitely seen and heart felt. What is most surprising is his outpouring of emotions and praise to two lovely strangers women struggling with their own problems. The two women are played by Hong’s long time muse Kim Min-hee and her best friend played by Song Seon-mi. Kim is outstanding once again as the observer, only this time she is still recovering from a recent break up.
All in all, “Hotel by the River” continues Hong’s life journey of films that depict the ups and downs with realistic effect. Meanwhile, we witness the usual interactions between characters at a cafe, hotel room and restaurant setting. If Hong is trying to go for a soul barring exercise, then by the end of the film, Hong makes sure we feel the pain, the daft of life itself.
I rated it 8/10