Distribution for foreign films is a funny thing. Kim Ki-duk's Time barely played in Korea - isn't this the one where he wasn't even going to bother releasing it in Korea at all? - and right now it's just scheduled for about eight shows in ten days at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. And yet, it will probably get a whole lot more exposure in the United States than 200 Pounds Beauty, which I saw at Fantasia, and was a gigantic hit in its native land, making a star out of Kim Ah-jung.
And I'll bet 200 Pounds Beauty barely registers here. Romantic comedies are way down the ladder in terms of what foreign-language films get theatrical play here, well below art-house films like Time. Maybe that's justice of a sort, since Time is a much better movie than Beauty.
Time (Shi Gan)
* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 29 July 2007 in Jay's Living Room (Fantasia 2007 Screener)
The opening moments of Time are some of the more stomach-churning shots I've seen in a movie in a while, but it's not a gore movie. They're shots of cosmetic surgery, and my reaction was just a knee-jerk response to stock medical footage, what filmmaker Kim Ki-duk does afterward is perhaps even creepier.
First, he introduces us to Ji-woo (Ha Jung-woo) and Seh-hee (Park Ji-yeon), who have been together for two years. Their relationship is starting to fray; Ji-woo occasionally turns his head to look at other girls and Seh-hee reacts with near-hysterical jealousy. They seem to make up after one outburst in a coffee shop, but soon afterward Seh-hee visits a plastic surgeon and suddenly disappears from Ji-woo's life. He's miserable, even as his friends try to cheer him up and introduce him to other girls. After six months, though, he hits it off with the new waitress at the coffee shop he and Seh-hee used to go to. He and See-hee (Seong Hyeon-a) have some weirdness going on, though - he accidentally uses Seh-hee's name, and she's got no pictures of herself as a child.
The twist here is obvious, and it's to Kim's credit that he doesn't treat it as something to be revealed: even if he doesn't initially spell it out, we catch on to Seh-hee and See-hee being one and the same very quick. For most of the movie, Kim avoids obvious melodrama, using low-key scenes of Ji-woo and See-hee dating to give us a chance to ponder the idea of what it might be worth to repeat the early, good years of a relationship, or to have a fresh start. But as much as we see See-hee and Ji-woo enjoying themselves, we're also aware of how they're visiting the same sculpture park Ji-woo and Seh-hee did, even taking photos that are eerily similar to the first times they visited the place.
Updated Day Seven's post with are reviews of Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Solid State Society and Big Bang Love.