2010 l 115min
Directed by KIM Tae-yong
Starring TANG Wei, HYUN Bin
Released after 7 years on bond, Tang Wei takes her character on a journey home for two days to take part in her mother’s funeral. Along the way she meets a vain Korean gigolo played by Hyun Bin, who asks her for $30 for a bus ticket. Their initial meeting is clearly not their last, and despite the dreary-eyed Tang Wei’s resistance to his initial charms, she eventually gives in to another meeting. This pairing sees two people who are utterly alone in their current existence looking for some way to reach out and connect, though a series of inexplicable dialogue exchanges causes the relationship to fall completely flat. This is not for a lack of trying, though, as these two attractive actors are doing their best to compensate for the transitions between speaking English, Chinese, and Korean. I simply can’t fault Tang Wei for her character’s deadpan approach to all that is happening around her, and the writing does not allow the character to evolve beyond the first frames of the film.
It’s frustrating to see such gorgeous cinematography and production design go to waste on a narrative that is somewhat aimless in its intent. Everything comes full circle in the end, and we are no closer to understanding how Tang Wei’s character feels about the horrific events that have unfolded in her life. Her last fleeting opportunity to find her way back to a tender, loving relationship with Hyun Bin’s gigolo is thwarted by a rather odd conclusion to one of the lesser side plots involving a rich housewife and her “dangerously relentless” husband. Also, in what I see as a rather self-indulgent stylistic choice of writer/director KIM Tae-yong, the film takes a moment to observe a nondescript Caucasian couple in a witless bout of “lovers chatter” which then transitions into an extremely bewildering ballet piece. This scene is not only overwrought in its design and execution; it has absolutely nothing to do with the narrative, either symbolically or literally. I’m sorry to say that Late Autumn, overall, just failed to involve me in its performances and narrative as much as its outstanding cinematography and production design.