Film Reviews
Photo courtesy of The Cinema Guild

In his film, “Walk Up,” South Korean director Hong Sangsoo remains true to his distinctive style. A handful of characters reconnect and share wine and food as they converse, talking and talking and talking with a static camera watching from medium long shot. As in real life, the casual exchanges reveal a world of psychological attitudes and cultural attributes.

Set in a quiet, multi-story, multipurpose building in Korea’s capital Seoul, with invitations, characters ascend to the second floor (a restaurant), the third level (a residence), and the rooftop garden, also housing an artist’s studio. For the film’s first half, long dialogue scenes (one a fifteen minute take) develop at the first floor table between Byung-soo, his daughter Jeong-su, and the building owner and past acquaintance, Ms. Kim. A celebrated, middle-aged director, Byung-soo has lost funding for his next project. His daughter seeks an internship for interior design with the experienced Ms. Kim, while she comes across as reticent though receptive. She’s more interested in the director occupying one of the walk-up apartments, hence the film title, “Walk Up.”

With cuts to what may be imaginary or real events, the narrative observes Byung-soo in subsequent relationships, one for each floor of the building: that with Ms. Kim deteriorating, that with floor two’s one table restaurant owner Sunhee becoming intimate, and the third with top floor resident artist Jiyoung developing. Fueled by copious amounts of wine and Soju, the encounters explore weighty topics: religion/atheism, fear, desire, health, the need for intimacy, commitment (or lack thereof of) to a career (especially art vs. commerce), pain and pleasure plus psychological profiles; for example, Ms. Kim is described as liking only people who are successful and who don’t contradict her.

In beautiful black and white, adding a documentary feel, “Walk Up” may unfold through fanciful imaginings, but writer/director/editor/cinematographer/sound designer Hong Sangsoo may collapse time or brilliantly immerse us in the way we access memories. He proposes a mind-bending, fascinating, episodic narrative. In Korean with English subtitles, “Walk Up” screens at Webster University’s Winifred Moore auditorium Friday, May 5 through Sunday, May 7 at 7:30 each of those evenings. For more information, you may visit the film series website.

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