Hong Sangsoo’s Tale of Cinema is the year’s second feature (after Apichatpong Weerasethakul Tropical Malady) to abruptly shift narrative paths mid-course, beginning as the story of a morose boy named Sangwon (Lee Kiwoo) who convinces his girlfriend Yongsil (Uhm Jiwon) to join him in suicidal death, and ending as the tale of an aspiring filmmaker named Tongsu (Kim Sangyung) who – having seen the preceding action as a movie that, made by a former classmate, tells a story from his own youth – meets a woman (also Uhm Jiwon) who closely resembles the fictional heroine he’s just watched. Bifurcating his story allows Sangsoo to examine the means by which the movies inform (and reflect) our lives, symbiotically linking (in ways obvious, subtle and confounding) indecisive wannabe director Tongsu with desperate young lover Sangwon via an elegant mise-en-scene of stationary camera set-ups and deliberate zooms. Tale of Cinema spends no time within a movie theater and yet nonetheless conveys that sense of audience-character identification that one instinctively feels during a great film. In doing so, Sangsoo’s exploration of the contentious bonds between reality and illusion splendidly captures the elusive, entrancing sway that the finest movies hold over our lives.
(2005 New York Film Festival)