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  TIME

The 13th film by South Korea’s demented Kim Ki-duk is this typically nutzoid riff on plastic surgery and schizophrenia. Those familiar with any of the director’s previous films will know what to expect: an unrestrained and misogynistic gruefest with an unerringly stylish, poetic edge.

The Package
     Kim Ki-duk is one of the world’s most defiantly idiosyncratic filmmakers, and one of the most prolific: he’s turned out no less than 13 features in a 10 year period. From his best-known work THE ISLE to the repellent BAD GUY, the outrageous war parable ADDRESS UNKNOWN, the highly experimental REAL FICTION and the comparatively restrained SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER…AND SPRING, Kim’s films are marked by a rare cinematic mastery, an evident love of grossness and degradation, and an uncompromising commitment to his own wholly distinct vision. The result is an ouvre unique (and uniquely demented) in international cinema.
     TIME (SHI GAN), from 2006, is the 13th of Kim Ki-duk’s films. Since then he’s completed another two features, with several more reportedly on the way.

The Story
     The attractive Seh-hee lives with Ji-woo, her boyfriend of two years. Seh-hee becomes extremely jealous of other women, fearing that Ji-woo no longer finds her attractive. Eventually she decides she can take it no longer and walks out, leaving Ji-woo devastated.
     Unbeknownst to him, Seh-hee has checked herself into a plastic surgery institute. She figures that facial reconstruction will repair her fractured relationship with Ji-woo, and months later reappears in his life sporting a different face. The two commence a new relationship, at least until Seh-hee grows jealous--Ji-woo is, after all, cheating on her.
     Ji-woo is slipped a note from his long-lost girlfriend requesting a meeting in a café. Ji-woo hastens to the café, only to find Seh-hee wearing a photo of her old face over her new one!
     This would seem to be the beginning of the end for Seh-hee and Ji-woo, but he’s not finished. In order to curry favor with his jilted lover, Ji-woo heads to the plastic surgery clinic to get his own face transformed. When Seh-hee learns of this her tenuous mental state deteriorates completely, and she comes to believe every man she sees is actually her surgically altered boyfriend. 

The Direction
     What distinguishes Kim Ki-duk’s films from other psycho thrillers is the very real sense of insanity that powers them. Put another way, this writer-director is undeniably gifted, but just as undeniably NUTS.
     TIME is a thoughtful and assured spellbinder packed with bizarre touches. These include an exhibition of surreal sculptures located on a beach the protagonists frequent, highlighted by a giant splayed hand whose fingers form the steps of a staircase. Kim also contributes a fascinating variant on traditional movie masks (like those seen in THE FACE OF ANOTHER, SECONDS and BRUISER) in the photo the heroine wears over her reconfigured face. Kim is also, in keeping with his standard mantra, uncompromising in pushing his ideas to their most psychotic extremes; the film overall is so whacked-out that the hallucinogenic final third, in which we’re given an uncomfortably close-up view of the heroine’s deteriorating psyche, doesn’t feel at all out of place.
     If I might hazard a complaint, I think the proceedings are overly dialogue heavy. Kim Ki-duk is at his best with pure imagery unencumbered by words (his best films largely dispense with dialogue altogether), and the talky TIME gives ample evidence that dialogue is simply not Kim’s forte.
 

Vital Statistics

TIME (SHI GAN)
Happinet Pictures

Director/Producer/Screenplay/Editor: Kim Ki-duk
Cinematography: Sung Jong-moo
Cast: Sung Hyan-ah, Ha Jung-woo, Ji-heon Kim, Kiki Sugino

     

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