A fixture at Cannes and a disciple of Eric Rohmer, Hong Sang-soo is not only the most consistent of South Korean directors but, as I’ve said, the most Frenchified. He’s already set one of his 14 features, the 2008 “Night and Day” in Paris; “In Another Country” (newly out on DVD from Kino Lorber) brings France to the sleepy Korean resort town that seems to be Hong’s favorite setting, in the person of the great, apparently ageless Isabelle Huppert.
Now in his early 50s, Hong is nothing if not an auteur. There’s a sense in which his melancholy romantic farces have been repeating themselves since his first Korean hit, the wistful, drily humorous “Turning Gate” (2002). But why not? Compulsive repetition is the director’s recurring theme. “In Another Country” raises repetition to a structural principle by having Huppert play versions of the same character in three successive riffs on the same situation: A French woman visits a seaside town and confounds several local men, in every case including a dim but enthusiastic lifeguard.
Notable for their haphazard trysts and underplayed drunk scenes, Hong’s deadpan comedies are typically predicated on the misunderstandings between men and women; in this case, the drollery is compounded by additional misunderstandings arising from culture and language. (Much of the movie is in English.) The tri-part structure adds another dimension to the repetition as conversations and situations are reprised, after a fashion, in the different stories. “In Another Country” may be an exercise but it’s an extremely deft and (largely thanks to Huppert) a delightful one.