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Originally published Thursday, January 31, 2013 at 3:01 PM

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‘In Another Country’: French actress saves Korean comedy/drama – 3 times

A movie review of “In Another Country,” Korean director Hong Sang-soo’s slight comedy/drama that showcases the great French actress Isabelle Huppert playing three different characters in a triptych of stories.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 2.5 stars

“In Another Country,” with Isabelle Huppert, Yoo Jun-sang, Moon So-ri, Jung Yoo-mi, Kwon Hae-hyo. Written and directed by Hong Sang-soo. 89 minutes. Not rated; suitable for general audiences. In English, French and Korean, with English subtitles. Grand Illusion.

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If you’ve seen any of Korean director Hong Sang-soon’s previous films (“Woman on the Beach,” for example, which played at the Grand Illusion in 2008), you’ll immediately recognize “In Another Country” as Hong’s handiwork. His trademark themes, visual style and multipart story structure have become so familiar that some critics have charged him with stagnant repetition.

“In Another Country” doesn’t deserve that kind of flippant dismissal. While it’s not as rewarding as “Woman,” it curiously unfolds as a triptych involving three different French women named Anne, each visiting a Korean seaside village and intermingling with the same or similar characters.

To fill those roles, Hong scored a casting coup: He called upon French film legend Isabelle Huppert to play all three Annes. When the film’s structural novelty begins to wear off, we’ve still got Huppert’s subtle performances to marvel at.

So you’ve got three Annes (a single filmmaker; the cheating wife of a businessman; a recent divorcee still stinging from her ex’s infidelities) in three discreet yet subtly interconnected story lines. They involve supporting characters appearing in each story line as variants of themselves — with one exception: Each Anne encounters an awkwardly smitten lifeguard (Yoo Jun-sang) who’s woven into all three story lines.

I can’t say for sure if it all hangs together (or even if this synopsis is totally accurate) because by the time its third story kicked in, “In Another Country” lost me. Hong’s small, insular, character-based films have frequently been compared to the work of French director Eric Rohmer, and to some extent that honor applies here. But while it’s always fascinating to watch Huppert (who turns 60 in March) as she rises to an acting challenge, I kept wishing this actually was a Rohmer film, which probably would’ve been half as clever but far more engaging.

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