Hong Sang-soo‘s vision may be deteriorating, but he intends on squeezing as much work out of his remaining years of sight as he possibly can. Today brings the first trailer for his next film Walk Up, another slice of quotidian life shot in digital black and white as quiet scenes of everyday doings open up to reveal deep wellsprings of choked emotion. It’s business as usual for Hong, and that’s welcome news to his limited yet passionately dedicated fandom.
The drama gradually works its way through the various floors of a mixed-use apartment building, from the office in the basement, up through the restaurant on the ground floor, a cooking class space, a private residence, and an artist’s studio on the top. On a quiet, sunny afternoon, a filmmaker named Byungsoo (Kwon Haehyo) explores the various units as his daughter runs out to pick up more soju, finding a funhouse of regret, frustration, aspiration, and introspection.
Little White Lies’ own Weiting Liu covered Walk Up at last year’s New York Film Festival, praising the “chiaroscuro of light and shadow” that “captures the ambiguity of friendship and romance.” In her admiring review — pull-quoted in the very trailer embedded below — she wrote, “Hong takes a minimalistic, expressionistic approach to maneuvering space and time within the building. Combined with precise cinematography that accentuates its architectural varieties, his seamless edits piece together Byungsoo’s scattered life as a struggling artist and serial dater. The result is a grayscale scroll unfolding upwards on screen – and Byungsoo failing upwards in his personal and professional life.”
As one of the most pathologically prolific figures on the global arthouse circuit, Hong’s got multiple irons in the fire at any given time, Walk Up being just one. Since its world premiere at last year’s Berlinale, his roman à clef The Novelist’s Film has yet to see a proper theatrical run beyond scant engagements here and there, and no widely accessible video or streaming release to speak of; at this year’s Berlinale, he unveiled his latest work In Water, an entire film Hong chose to shoot slightly out of focus to mimic his fading eyesight.
While those outside of Hong’s following may bristle at his work as insular or repetitive, his extensive and consistent filmography also allows his faithful to finely track the various developments in his personal life through their onscreen analogues. (At the risk of signing myself up for public-enemy status from two fandoms, he’s a bit like Taylor Swift in this respect.) As the “Hong Sang-soo Multiverse” season at Lincoln Center last spring previously posited, all of the master’s films continue to develop a cohesive, lucid narrative of an artist endlessly wrestling with himself. We’re just lucky to have ringside seats.
Walk Up opens in the US on 24 March. A date for the UK has yet to be set.
Published 1 Mar 2023
By Weiting Liu
A filmmaker and his estranged daughter visit an old friend in Hong Sang-soo's latest riff on the connection between art and romance.
A young actor works on his relationships with his father and girlfriend in the Korean master’s newest feature.
By Matt Turner
Hong Sang-soo interrogates the function of art in his seemingly self-reflective latest feature.