NZIFF ’10: Hahaha

nziff ’10: Hahaha
Dir. Sang-soo Hong | South Korea | 2010 | 115 mins.

There’s been a series of films in the last decade made on the cheap by young people that examine life and love in simple, unadorned terms. The films, which are for the most part fairly poorly distributed in New Zealand, have been labelled “mumblecore.” Critics have attacked them for being “about nothing”—like Seinfeld, I guess—but it’s possible that the sub-genre is accessible only to people who fit roughly into the same age bracket as the characters and can thus identify with them and their apparently superficial, trivial problems. Though they’re hardly ‘important’ films, there’s a certain honesty and artistry to films like Aaron Katz’s Quiet City and Andrew Bujalski’s Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation, the two films which kick-started the movement.

Perhaps a film like Hahaha is what mumblecore pictures look like to people who don’t like or understand the genre. Perhaps it’s a language barrier—badly-translated subtitles, maybe—or a cultural barrier, but these characters appear to be so bland and narcissistic, their customs so perversely sheepish as to render this film some sort of cinematic sleeping pill: good if you want to catch forty winks but not much good if you’re looking to be anything other than bored out of your mind. The title, which has nothing to do with laughing out loud, translates as “Summer, Summer, Summer.” There’s nothing to suggest that the title is meant to be ironic, but the film is set mostly in a perpetually gray, rainy seaside town. The way the story is framed—as a series of flashback anecdotes shared between friends over drinks—is the only thing keeping it from slipping into total tedium.

Hahaha may be re-released at Rialto and similar cinemas in the near future.