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NYFF: “Woman on the Beach.”

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"This is fun."
Joong-rae, an established (though not so well-off) director, corralls 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 can 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 is 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 another of Hong Sang-soo‘s adept, acid-laced explorations of relationships, the gender divide and Korean masculinity. We only get a vague sense of what Joong-rae’s films are like, arty and sensitive enough that the women in the film are googly eyed upon meeting him. Moon-sook 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 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 pepper our interactions with others. Joong-rae is an epic disaster, the extent of which we realize alongside Moon-sook. He’s insecure and needy, defensive and manipulative, prone to strident rages and, in the truest 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, if also threaded 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.

Screens September 30 and October 1 at Alice Tully Hall.

+ "Woman on the Beach" (NYFF)

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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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.

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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

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