By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
Three stories take place in “In Another Country,” one after the other. A prologue suggests that they are coming from the imagination of a young woman stuck in a layover in a coastal Korean town for a few days, although that connection may not be exactly right.
This South Korean movie, from director Hong Sang-soo, is very light on its feet. It doesn’t worry too much whether you find its parallel narratives contradictory or logical, or even whether they take place in the same universe. So we probably shouldn’t worry about it too much either.
Each story takes place in the same locations and all feature the same actress, French star Isabelle Huppert (also on screens at the moment in the Oscar-nominated “Amour”). Huppert doesn’t seem to fashion three distinct characters, exactly, so much as she plays variations on a similar theme.
In the first, she’s a French film director visiting someone she met at a film festival; apparently they had a very brief kiss, which would be hard to explain to her friend’s very pregnant wife (who’s suspicious about something going on).
The second story has Huppert escaping to the beachy town for a romantic liaison (with a different character), the third has her as a disappointed wife looking for meaning.
Certain incidents recur in each tale, like a woman with an umbrella who gives directions, which we see from slightly different angles in each version.
In particular, there’s a goofy lifeguard who wants to pick up the French traveler. As these exchanges repeat, they become oddly funny, like the way Huppert keeps asking the lifeguard whether he knows the way to a particular lighthouse, a small lighthouse, it is emphasized.
We never do make it to that lighthouse, but this teasing movie is clever to watch as it charts a course.
Hong’s film from last year, “The Day He Arrives,” plotted out a similarly parallel-universe sort of world.
I liked that movie better than this one; “In Another Country” feels a little more casual, and with much of the dialogue in English (the way the French and Korean characters can communicate with each other), sometimes, the actors look uncomfortable.
The vibe is pleasant, though, and it does make you think of how lives might be different if only one step were made in a different direction at any given point.
Hong’s overall tone makes you wonder if all those alternate- universe possibilities are such a big deal after all.
“In Another Country” (3 stars)
A breezy trio of stories about a French woman (Isabelle Huppert) coming to a small Korean beachside town. Huppert is a different character in each, and the movie teases us with the possibilities of alternate universes, all of which has a pleasant vibe. In Korean and English, with English subtitles.
Rated: Not rated, probably PG-13 for subject matter.
Showing: Grand Illusion.