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“Woman on the Beach”

“Woman on the Beach” (photo)

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Joong-rae, an established (though not very well-off) director, corrals his weak-willed friend Chang-wook into taking him to the seaside for a few days so that he can work on his overdue script. Chang-wook agrees on the condition that he be allowed to bring his girlfriend along. The three set off in the morning in the friend’s car, listening to music written and performed by the girl, Moon-sook, who’s a composer and clearly a big fan of Joong-rae’s work. They have stilted getting-to-know-you conversations. They find a place to stay. And then, as they dawdle outside, Joong-rae tells Chang-wook that he likes him because he’s so trusting: “It’s hard for a married man to bring his girlfriend out with him so openly.” “I’m not his girlfriend,” retorts Moon-sook. “You have to have sex for that.”

“This is fun,” says Joong-rae.

And so begins “Woman on the Beach,” another of Hong Sang-soo’s adept, acid-laced explorations of relationships, the gender divide and Korean masculinity. The audience is only given a vague sense of what Joong-rae’s films are like, arty and sensitive enough that most of the women in the film are googly eyed upon meeting him. Moon-sook herself is harboring a crush, though after the three have spent an evening together drinking she observes that he’s not like his films: “Sorry, but you’re actually just another Korean man.” This doesn’t stop her from opening up to him as the night goes on, as they run and leave Chang-wook behind, walking the beach at night and ultimately trysting in an unlocked, empty hotel room. The next morning he’s distant, and she’s ready to let him off the hook, if also a little hurt. She and Chang-wook return to Seoul, and Joong-rae stays, calls her to apologize, and in passing picks up another woman staying at a nearby hotel.

Hong’s characterizations are hard to take — they would be cruel if they weren’t so fully realized, and if he weren’t such a connoisseur of the acts of social sadism that can pepper our interactions with others. Joong-rae is a grand disaster of a man, the full extent of which the audience realizes alongside Moon-sook. He’s insecure and needy, defensive and manipulative, prone to strident rages and, in the most cutting detail of all, to using the ensuing emotional chaos as fodder for his film. Process is never pretty. Moon-sook is charming and charmingly direct, though at one point she reveals that she’s older than she appears; she acts and looks like a winsome girl. In fact, all of the characters seem in different degrees to be blustering children, until they suddenly reveal inscrutable back-stories littered with the wreckage of past relationships, romantic and otherwise.

“Woman on the Beach” is, if it’s not clear from the above, a comedy, and it is very funny, though threaded through with a sense of despair at the apparent futility of human connection. Shot almost entirely on the beach and in the buildings facing it, the film has a chilly air to it that’s partially the director’s world view, and partially just inherent to the setting: There are few things sadder than an empty, windswept resort town once the season has ended.


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…


A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.