If ever you’ve glanced into lit-up dwelling rooms whereas driving down a suburban road at nightfall, or glimpsed a neighbor’s house over their shoulder once you drop off a bundle, and located your self idly questioning not simply what the inhabitants’ lives are like, however what possibly your life could be like in case you occupied these unique home areas — properly, has mischievous Korean miniaturist Hong Sangsoo made a film for you. “Stroll Up,” the competition darling’s newest benignly sozzled, black-and-white delight, daydreams round that concept, its mild profundity smuggled in beneath cowl of multilevel playfulness. The film is a play on time, on imaginative shoestring filmmaking, and on Hong’s personal persona. It’s even a play on phrases, with its three tales sprouting out from one another over three separate storeys of the identical Seoul walk-up. 

“It’s been a very long time. How lengthy has it been?” The primary alternate delivers a little bit puff of amusement for denizens of the Hong Hive (an unique membership for which “Stroll Up” may very well be the primary title shortly to usher in a brand new recruit or two). Not solely is a strained reunion between long-separated mates a staple starting for the filmmaker, however there’s a little bit irony in the truth that for us, it hasn’t been lengthy in any respect. Hong’s final film “The Novelist’s Movie,” performed in Berlin earlier this yr, whereas the one earlier than, “In Entrance of Your Face,” was in Cannes in 2021. Each star Lee Hyeyoung, a stunning, elegant actor whose dormant film profession has been rejuvenated by her Hong joints, and who right here performs Ms. Kim, the previous acquaintance whom filmmaker Byungsoo (frequent Hong avatar Kwon Haehyo) has come to go to. 

Byungsoo has introduced alongside his daughter Jeonsu (Park Miso) to seek the advice of inside designer Ms. Kim about Jeonsu’s notion to check in the identical area. Nobody right here is especially shut, so the primary of the movie’s many tableside chats will get off to a stilted begin. Quickly, although, the wine begins to movement, Ms. Kim begins to flirt and crisply edited, cool-toned scenes that appear to run on from one another seamlessly, prove to not be occurring after we suppose, and possibly not occurring in any respect. Earlier than we understand it, we’re sliding round across the chicanes of one among Hong’s most cleverly constructed Möbius-strip narratives. 

Ms. Kim owns this constructing, and rents out the higher residences, by which she takes Byungsoo and Jeonsu blithely, assuring them that “nobody locks their doorways right here.” However later, after the primary of the movie’s imperceptible folds in time, when Byungsoo is launched to, then promptly dwelling with, Sunhee (Tune Sunmi) who runs the restaurant on the second ground, the landlady/tenant relationship now not appears so cordial. And by the point Byungsoo is occupying the balcony flat on the highest ground, being mothered with wild ginseng and fancy cigarettes by one other girlfriend, Jiyoung (Cho Yunhee), interactions with Ms. Kim are downright frosty.

Inasmuch as Hong would ever write one, Ms. Kim turns into the villain of the piece. Endlessly in the identical outfit, perpetually along with her kitten heels clicking unsteadily up and down the concrete steps of the constructing, she goes from enigmatic, commanding profession girl to prying landlady with boundary points and a keenness for alcohol that, even in usually squiffy Hongland, appears extreme. 

Hardly ever is skilled, romantic, familial, inventive and existential angst (and that is maybe Hong at his most early-Woody Allen) delivered with such a lightweight coronary heart. It matches the gently plucked strings of the rating and the sunshine, recent monochrome favored by Hong (once more his personal cinematographer, editor, author, composer, producer and sound man; he in all probability made the sandwiches too), which tends towards the whiter and mid-tone-pale-grayer finish of the spectrum.

Inside these feathery, merely composed pictures, interconnecting motifs recur: tiny repetitions with minor variations that hyperlink every of Byungsoo’s alternate realities. His immaculately maintained basic Mini Cooper echoes in Sunhee’s trendy model of the identical automobile. The identical art-versus-commerce frustrations thread by a number of anecdotes. Somebody or different is all the time “shifting to Jeju Island.” And the stacked-up tales imply that Byungsoo could be each the man complaining a few leak within the roof and the man upstairs complaining that his bathe received’t drain.

Current sharply in such a naturalistic register that they scarcely appear scripted in any respect, all of the movie’s interactions are nonetheless so cleverly designed that regardless of being blurry with alcohol or attraction or self-analysis, all of them spotlight the humorous, unhappy truism that nobody human can ever actually know what it’s wish to be one other. By the point the film closes again on itself just like the clasp on a attraction bracelet, we’re invited to marvel how a lot of what we’ve seen ever occurred, or will happen, and the way a lot was simply Hong, by Byungsoo, making an attempt on completely different lives for dimension, searching for a brand new flight of fancy up each flight of stairs, earlier than discovering they’ll all the time lead again down once more. Perhaps that’s the movie’s level, insofar as a circle can ever have some extent: Wherever you go, in your thoughts or on the earth, you’re going to run into your self finally. “Stroll Up” wittily, tipsily insists that it doesn’t imply the journey wasn’t value taking. 

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