The film might not change, but watching a single daily screening of Hong Sangsoo’s The Day He Arrives for seven days at the San Francisco Film Society Cinema in the New People building in Japantown, I can’t help but change during each viewing. Be it changes in my mood, my physical state, or whether I have to adjust my vantage point since my seat preference, even with so few folks in the theatre, (only four or five today), might need to be adjusted in order not to sit in front of another patron, I will experience the film differently each time.
For example, I’d been focusing on clothes during the latter few screenings. This was partly prompted by a conversation I had with a co-worker whom I encouraged to see the film, since he’d be a philosopher if it paid better and Hong’s films seem to be of the philosophical bent. But we didn’t get that deep into the philosophy of the film, although he recommended I look into how Nietzsche and Hume and Kant might be applicable regarding Seong-jun’s little bit about questioning what we narrate as cause and effect. Instead, my co-worker was curious about the location shooting, how the bars and restaurants, and the repeat use of them and absence of other folks in the few establishments used, appeared to represent a tight film budget, which is true. My co-worker motivated me to see other signs of budget constraints, such as the blink-and-you-miss-them credits, and particularly the fact that all the characters are basically wearing the same clothes throughout the film. (As a result of playing two characters, Kim Bok-yung appears to be the only one who gets to don two outfits.) Now, the film takes place in winter time, and people often wear the same heavy coats in the winter time. As a result, they will look like they are wearing the same clothes. Also, Yeo-jeon might be wearing an outfit, the similar white blouse, black skirt, black stockings, as her work ‘uniform’ at the bar. And Seong-jun’s excuse could be because he’s traveling, so he may have brought no other clothes. But there’s really no excuse for Young-ho, who wears the same sweater and dress shirt underneath every day. And that actress Seong-jun keeps running into on three different days, she can wear the same jacket and leggings, but the same shirt too? Perhaps Hong was thinking he could get away with this as a black and white film, or this just further underscores his theme of repetition, but this is something you notice when you see the film seven days in a row. (Also noticed from successive viewings, along with Boram’s habit of flipping her hair each time she enters the bar Novel, Young-ho also turns around to face the group just before entering and then makes sure everyone finally heads to the table before him.) This also hints at the shooting schedule, that perhaps the actress character did all her scenes in one day. If I ever get the chance to meet Hong again, I hope to remember to ask him.
But now my screenings of The Day He Arrives are done. I return to the regularly scheduled program of pedaling home from work to read with a cup of coffee rather than riding my bike to a film screening with (most often) the same beverage. (Today I had a micro-root-beer since we are having these rare warm days in San Francisco.) If they bring another Hong film, I’ll try to commit to a week of screenings again, but it is a bit weird that such a sedentary activity could be so exhausting. San Francisco is a city rich in cinema, but we can’t take our theatres for granted, because there’s still the possibility that they might not be around for us to be enveloped by the light reflected back from a movie screen. And although he’s been a prolific film director lately, (at least one film a year), I still have to cherish Hong Sangsoo’s films when I get a chance to devote a week to them. Unlike his main characters, I’m not quick to leave Hong’s films after a viewing has been consummated.