Director: Kim Ki-Duk

Call it a two year itch. Worried that her photographer boyfriend with a wandering eye Ji-woo (played by Ha Jung-woo) is getting tired of her “same boring face,” the irrational and obsessive Seh-hee (Park Ji-yeon) makes the drastic decision to disappear from his life and undergo extensive plastic surgery. Against his better judgment, a plastic surgeon agrees to operate and Seh-hee tells him that her goal is not to become prettier but to be transformed into a completely new person. Six months later, Seh-hee reemerges as See-hee (now played by Seong Hyeon-a) and proceeds to seduce her boyfriend all over again as someone else but after she’s secured him, she realizes that she can’t figure out what is worse—him pining for her old self like Lancelot or the idea that he could move on without her and find bliss with whom he believes is someone else. Having studied the fine arts in Paris, South Korean born director Kim Ki-Duk (whom audiences may remember from Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring) crafts a twisted, disturbing yet riveting, dark drama described by Matt Zoller Seitz of The New York Times in reference to its critical reception “as a comedy about the hollowness of relationships in a global consumerist culture,” that will no doubt be one of the most discussed and debated works among audience members at the 2007 Scottsdale International Film Festival. In South Korea, as reported in Derek Elley’s review of the film in Variety, “a recent estimate reckoned 50% of women in their 20s have gone under the knife, and a growing number of men, too, to achieve the goal of ul-jiang, a perfect face.” Although the gruesome opening images of plastic surgery that play during the opening credits make one assume that Time is striving to be an in-depth look at the alarming increase in popularity of plastic surgery in the country, the film itself quickly transforms (much like our main character) into something entirely different—a surreal study of love and time with an inventive backdrop and creative art direction that add layers to the drama. The controversial director’s haunting film and its imagery pay thematic and visual homage to the work of Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and the spirit of the two Davids (Lynch and Cronenberg) however it’s not a retread of any of the men’s works. Completely original, Time is Ki-Duk’s most fascinating and maddening puzzle and one that uses a number of his filmmaking trademarks as pointed out in The Village Voice by Mike D’Angelo who shares that, “Kim’s ‘characters’ tend to be abstract, symbolic ciphers—indeed most of them hardly even speak. Without credible human behavior to fall back on, Kim’s films rise or fall on the strength of their own ideas....” While with Time, the idea that young lovers dabble in reconstructive surgery to liven up a relationship changed by time is hard for many with which to identify, it’s a rare film that I’d venture to say you may never ordinarily see, at least not one that takes such a peculiar, incisive, and satiric approach to the idea of plastic surgery that has become something of a punch line in American tabloid magazines and television shows. In addition to using surgery as a device, critic James Berardinelli was quick to illuminate the many philosophical questions raised by the work in his review which listed several discussable topics that go along with the psychological and physiological shift that may occur after a person changes their face.