4 Best Movies to Watch by Ahn Jae-hong

Staff & contributors

There’s an intriguing meta appeal to this drama, the plot of which is a thinly veiled reference to the scandal that erupted around South Korean director Hong Sang-soo and star Kim Min-hee’s extramarital affair. Here, Kim plays an actress who flees to Germany amidst a media storm swirling around a similar relationship and then returns home to skirt prying questions from friends and — maybe — confront her now-distant lover.

But beyond its references to salacious real life, On the Beach at Night Alone is also a fascinating conversational movie, one that explores with gentleness all the messy feelings that Kim is having in her physical and professional exile (offers of acting roles having dried up because of the scandal). That tone isn’t permanent, though, because the film reaches a violently emotional crescendo with two extremely raw and strange outbursts at dinner parties — a strangeness echoed by the lightning bolts of surreality that break up what is otherwise a naturalistic film (and filmography, for Hong). This might make an unconventional entry point if you’ve never seen a Hong film before (he’s averaged two films a year since 2017, so there are plenty of other options), but it’s an illuminating introduction for newcomers all the same, and a fascinating evolution for confirmed fans.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahn Jae-hong, Gong Min-jeung, Han Ja-i, Jung Jae-young, Kang Tae-u, Kim Min-hee, Kwon Hae-hyo, Moon Sung-keun, Seo Young-hwa, Song Sun-mi

Director: Hong Sang-soo

Miso may be living day to day on her meager earnings as a cleaner, but she is decidedly content. She insists that all she needs to get by are cigarettes, whiskey, and time with her boyfriend, so when a spike in rent and prices invites her to reassess her priorities, she doesn’t budge. Instead of forgoing these luxuries, she gives up her tiny place and couch surfs with her old bandmates. What follows is a reunion of sorts, where darkly humorous epiphanies are had on both ends about adulthood, responsibilities, and what it really means to be happy in an increasingly indifferent, profit-oriented world.  

Microhabitat treads on very grave themes, and the images it conjures can be unsettling. But it is also surprisingly light on its feet, displaying sharp satire and sweet empathy for its unyielding protagonist. Miso is portrayed with a smartness and softness that evades rational judgment, and this endearment makes the story, especially the ending, all the more painfulul, poignant, and impactful.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ahn Jae-hong, An Jae-hong, Cho Soo-hyang, Choi Deok-moon, Esom, Hwang Mi-young, Jang Sung-kyu, Kang Jin-ah, Kim Hee-won, Kim Jae-hwa, Kim Jae-rok, Kim Kuk-hee, Kim Yae-eun, Lee Seong-wook, Lee Sung-wook, Lee Yo-sup, Lee Yong-nyeo, Park Ji-young, Woo Moon-gi

Director: Jeon Go-woon

Rating: Not Rated

, 2019

If you like movies without plot, you'll love Korean master Hong Sang-soo's work in Grass. Sang-soo likes to write the script for his characters and not the other way around: he hires actors, then writes a script that would fit them every morning of the shoot.

The result is a personal movie that feels improvised and experimental, despite being quite simple: it's about a small café and a woman who observes the interactions of the guests.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Ahn Jae-hong, B-Real, Damian Marley, Gi Ju-bong, Gong Min-jeung, Han Jae-yi, Han Jai, Jin-young Jung, Ju-bong Gi, Jung Jin-young, Kang Tae-woo, Ki Joo-bong, Kim Min-hee, Kim Myeong-su, Kim Myung-soo, Kim Sae-byuk, Lee Yoo-young, Lee You-young, Seo Young-hua, Seo Young-hwa, Shin Seok-ho, Snoop Dogg, Steven Hager

Director: Fab 5 Freddy, Hong Sang-soo

Rating: N/A