“Near the end of Alain Resnais’ masterpiece Muriel, a man sings a music hall chanson about time and memory that mournfully repeats the word déjà to emphasize the rue of those who “fear the future, regret the past.” He could be describing Hong Sang-soo’s aimless characters – “I have nowhere to go,” Seongjun says at the outset of The Day He Arrives – trapped in the past, their prospects tentative save for one sad certainty: routine will become the eternal return.” [...] In The Day He Arrives, a soju-fueled cross between Last Year at Marienbad and Groundhog Day, Yoo Seongjun, a lapsed director self-exiled to the provinces, roams the streets and bars of Seoul much as X wanders the hallways and gardens of Marienbad, through an endless repetition of settings, characters, and incidents, each reiteration calling previous accounts into question. “I don’t remember a thing,” the bar owner Ye-jeon insists after Seongjun apologizes for what something he has just done, her protestation recalling A’s many disavowals of the past in Marienbad. Whose version does one trust: his, hers, neither?”
- 1. James Quandt, “Déjà vu,” The Day He Arrives DVD, Cinema Guild (2013).