Grass ★★★

Another festival, another film by Hong Sang-soo. It’s always been hard to talk about the South Korean auteur without talking about the Fassbinder-like frequency with which he churns out new work, and it’s only becoming harder now that he’s really started to pick up the pace; good luck finding a single review of Hong’s recent features that doesn’t start by referencing his prolificacy. But as much as we encourage you to spare a thought for the poor critics who are forced to write 1,000 words about this guy every time he decides to pick up a camera, that phenomenon may be less indicative of lazy journalism than it seems. “Grass” — Hong’s first movie of 2018, and his fourth in the last 12 months — goes so far as to suggest that his prolificacy might be a crucial part of his cinema, as well as an indispensably helpful lens through which to look at each new joint of his body of work.

It’s always been evident that every Hong Sang-soo movie questions its own reality (at least since 1998’s “The Power of Kangwon Province,” in which scenes repeat and time splinters away from itself), but the last few years have made it increasingly clear that every new Hong Sang-soo movie also questions the reality of the ones that came before it. It’s a natural side-effect of a cinema in which what happens tends to be less important than what already happened, in which what already happened tends to be less important than what could have happened, and in which all of these real or imagined temporalities tend to be less important than the cavities that form in between them. That’s true of Hong’s individual films, and it’s also true of his filmography on the whole, each new film building on the previous ones like the round of a canon.

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