Review: TIME 시간 (2006) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Review: TIME 시간 (2006)


How perfect is perfect? That's a hot debate addressing by South Korean maverick director Kim Ki-Duk's latest film who takes on a creepy outcome behind the nation's local obsession towards cosmetic surgery which has lately becoming all the rage. Not only the fascinating subject matter itself proves to be commercially-viable, it's a surprise that Kim Ki-Duk's TIME is also the director's most accessible work to date. 

When Seh-Hee (Park Ji-Yun) is feeling very jealous of her handsome boyfriend, Ji-Woo (Ha Jung-Woo), who she thinks he enjoys flirting with a total stranger -- like the one with a cute waitress in a coffee shop, she figures Ji-Woo must have been tired of looking at her "same old face" all the time. Seh-Hee has also increasingly becomes so insecure and temperamental that her annoying behavior begins to frustrate Ji-Woo. Even when they make love, all the passion is lost. So one day Seh-Hee solves her physical problem by visiting Oh & Kim's Aesthetic Clinic, a cosmetic-surgery center to change her original face into someone else. The doctor (Kim Sung-Min) has urged her to think about such surgery a couple of times before making up her mind because there's no turning back. After feeding her some information, including warning her that such extensive surgery will take six months to completely heal, as well as showing her stomach-churning footage of the cosmetic surgery, Seh-Hee has no regret and decides to pursue what she wants in the first place. In the meantime, Ji-Woo feels curious about Seh-Hee's sudden disapperance. Not only her cellphone number has been out of service, her apartment is also empty. He tries to find her everywhere but can't seems to locate her whatsoever. Struck into deep depression because he really loves Seh-Hee after all, he tries to fill in his loneliness by seeing other women, only to end up with a strangely disappointing result. That includes a night where Ji-Woo checks in to a love hotel with a woman he just met for sex, ends up with a brick comes crashing through the window and a supposedly wonderful evening at a restaurant with an old friend abruptly ends when his date returns from the ladies' room, refuses him and goes home. Six months after Seh-Hee's disappearance, Ji-Woo notices a pretty new waitress (Seong Hyeon-Ah) at the coffee shop he frequents and starts to take a liking on her. When they meet again in a sculpture park he and Seh-Hee once frequented and take pictures, they end up spending the day together. Then Ji-Woo is surprised to learn the waitress's name goes by See-Hee, which almost rhymed with Seh-Hee. Ji-Woo tries his best to get to know her better, but See-Hee is so secluded about her past that she won't even let him see any old photographs of herself. Still he begins to fall for her, until that is, he finds a note written in a paper napkin with red marker stating "I love you", overlapping again and again, on his car windshield from Seh-Hee asking him to take her back. Conflict and confusion ensues, especially when See-Hee finds out about Seh-Hee is going to return to Ji-Woo's life and that she is not very happy about it. 

A deeply cynical, and at times drily funny look at exploration of image, identity, love and jealousy, Kim Ki-Duk keeps his film moving consistently to ensure the viewer anticipated what will happen in the following scene, while a number of tough but interesting questions rise about human relationships and especially what one is willing to go as far as he or she can to pursue someone in the name of true love. It's also interesting that Kim Ki-Duk doesn't have to result into his usual shock tactics to make a dramatic point, which in turn, also works subtly to his advantage. 

While it's a bit shame that the characters between Ji-Woo and Seh-Hee/See-Hee could have been used for more flesh-and-blood approach, instead of cold caricatures, it's only a minor disappointment all around. Complete with a devastating twist that will leave you deeply unsettling about the bleak morality behind all the circumstances of going under the knife, TIME is no doubt served as one of Kim Ki-Duk's best films to date. 

Thinking about having your next date with an attractive "stranger"? This film is more than enough to make you think twice.

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