The only way to get behind Korean helmer Kim Ki-duk, really, is to confess that his unsavory scenarios resonate with your personal experience. And who the hell wants to admit that? Thing is, I can't see how anybody could fail to identify with Time, Kim's cheerfully lunatic allegory about two young lovers who undergo radical plastic surgery in an attempt to rekindle their fading romance. "Sorry for always having the same boring face," Seh-hee (Park Ji-yeon) tells her boyfriend, Ji-woo (Ha Jung-woo), after he fails to get it up one night. She abruptly vanishes the next day, only to resurface six months later with an entirely new kisser and a very uncertain agenda. See-hee (Seong Hyeon-a), as she now calls herself, proceeds to seduce the heartbroken Ji-woo all over again, but can't decide whether she'd rather that he fall into her arms or remain faithful to the memory of her former self. Cosmetic surgery is endemic in South Korea, but Kim doesn't intend Time as some sort of exposé. And he didn't choose that title lightly; duration's corrosive effect on relationships has rarely been depicted with such candor. Simply put, Time is about the eternal war between infatuation and familiarity, and our irreconcilable need to find both in the same person. In other words, it's a parable about the root of human unhappiness.
The post-op Seong Hyeon-ah.
Runs at Grand Illusion, Fri., Aug. 24–Thurs., Aug. 30. Not rated. 97 minutes.