AN AFFAIR TO ENCUMBER?
Five years ago, the affair between actress Kristen Stewart and the then-married Rupert Sanders, who directed her in Snow White and the Huntsman, became tabloid manna, wrecking Sanders’s marriage and Stewart’s much talked-about relationship with her former boyfriend and Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson. Last year, a similar scandal involving movie makers made the front pages of tabloids in South Korea, this one also involving an actress and the married director of her latest film. The main difference between the two improprieties is that director Hong Sang-soo has constructed a movie about his — starring Kim Min-hee, the actress with whom he was allegedly involved during the making of a previous film. The new one On the Beach at Night Alone, was selected to compete at this year’s Berlin Film Festival — the Berlinale — and it sparked several articles by reporters and critics attending the festival about the director’s candor in coming to grips with his affair. Christopher Small, writing in the indie-and-classic film website MUBI, commented that “what was staggering … was the directness and fierceness with which Hong confronts the issue dead-on. … The film is bleak and angry, positing an alternate reality in which the pressures of the scandal lead to emotional destitution for both the director and his actress.” Screen Daily critic Jason Bechervaise, in his review of the movie, noted that “the striking similarities between this film — about an actress who has an affair with a married film director — and the intense local speculation surrounding Hong’s own private life distinguishes it from the renowned auteur’s other work.” But the gossip concerning their relationship could be regarded as a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it has brought the film enormous publicity in Korea and has caught the attention of art-film fans elsewhere. The tabloid coverage, commented the German arthouse site Kino-Zeit, has been “particularly unpleasant for the actress and partly also menacing for her career.” And Eric Kohn in IndieWire observed that “Hong uses the medium at his disposal less to set the record straight than to explain it in personal terms.” At a news conference following the press screening of On the Beach at Night Alone, both the actress and the actor — as well as the reporters in attendance — skirted the tabloid reports about the alleged affair. (The crashing-and-burning of Snow White and the Huntsman may have been in the back of their minds but was not mentioned.) However, at one point Hong remarked: “I didn’t try to tell an autobiographical story, but I did try to get close to what really happened.”