If it’s time for this blog to wake from its summer hibernation it can only mean that festival season will soon be upon us. Ahead of the London Korean Film Festival kicking off in November they held a teaser screening of Zhang Lü’s Ode to the Goose earlier this week and I dutifully tagged along for a dose of Korean cinema and in the hope of a glimpse of LKFF stalwart Tony Rayns.
The viewer arrives late to Ode to the Goose as the film starts where traditionally the second act would be found. So begins two hours of subtle humour, careful character-driven plotting, and a frisky approach to structure that always left me one step behind. With a pace closer to Hong Sang-soo than Park Chan-wook, and a film that shows its title card after more than an hour has passed, Lü demands your patience and attention.
In the coastal town of Gunsan Yoon-young (Park Hae-il) has taken Song-hyun (Moon So-ri) away for a trip of ambiguous intent. Looking for a place to spend the night they are directed towards a guesthouse that requires “luck” to gain admittance. Luck must be on their side as they are allowed to stay; the guesthouse’s only residents beside the nameless innkeeper (Jung Jin-young) and his recluse autistic daughter (Park So-dam).
With little to do to fill their time Yoon-young and Song-hyun struggle to define their relationship, either for themselves or the audience, all the while tentatively taking romantic steps towards to the pair of introverts who are their hosts. As events unfold plenty of soju and makgeolli, lines are crossed, and timelines become confused.
With Ode to the Goose Zhang Lü has created a puzzle box of a film; one that requires dexterity and concentration to solve. This doesn’t make the film a chore to watch however, far from it. Lü is playful enough to make the film both ambitious in structure and good fun to watch. While he plays with themes of memory, identity, and relationships he utilises the charms of his leading duo keep everything grounded, relatable, and enjoyable.
Consider my interest in this year’s London Korean Film Festival successfully piqued.
The programme for this year’s festival will be launched on September 16th at Regent Street Cinema alongside a screening of Kokdu: A Story of Guardian Angels. Tickets are available for just £7 so we have no excuse not to go.