South Korean director Hong Sang-soo has become such a darling on the festival circuit that, thanks to titles like Woman on the Beach, it was probably inevitable that he'd make a movie with Isabelle Huppert. In fact, she was president of the Cannes jury in 2009, when Hong's Like You Know It All played the fest. And while both parties fully deserve their art-house credibility, international cross-pollination seldom succeeds. Though she doesn't speak Korean, Huppert is fluent in English, so Hong has most of his native cast speak English too. The story he's written isn't exactly a star vehicle, but it is a vehicle nonetheless: Huppert appears in three short scenarios (a foreigner visits a beachside community) assuming three different identities (each called Anne) and has various dealings with the other actors, whose roles expand or diminish in each vignette.
You could call In Another Country an anthology film without the variety: same sets, same sand, same faces, same Huppert wandering along the shore. The mood is light, with jealous couples, stolen kisses, and gentle, drunken misunderstandings. Men and women never connect, and Huppert's Anne remains ever the outsider.
Another Country immediately announces itself as a kind of divertimento, as a young woman puts pen to paper to write the three tales we watch; but if she's Hong's stand-in, there's not much authorial stamp to the project. Each episode feels like a sketch, not a fully formed idea. Hong brings an appropriately breezy touch to such light material, but it seems a waste of Huppert's talent. When she finally connects with a handsome lifeguard (Yu Jun-sang), who lives in a tent by the beach, Hong keeps his camera discreetly outside. Even the sex is inconclusive.