Beautiful (Arumdabda) (2008) • South Korea

I am a Kim Ki-duk fan. This film is based on an original story and co-produced by Kim. I'm not psychic but I'm pretty sure that when Kim was shooting Shi gan (Time), a film about a woman who gets extensive plastic surgery in order to become beautiful, he thought to himself: hmmm, how about a film where a beautiful woman is so bothered by her good looks she tries to make herself ugly. Gosh I'm clever. Let's do it. But he gave it up to somebody else to write the screenplay and direct it.

The film begins with scene after annoying scene of a woman being disrespected because she is beautiful. That's not fun to watch. Little girls want her autograph, hair stylists want to do her hair for free, and of course every man in Korea acts like a complete tool. She is raped and the scene in the police station afterward is about as repugnant as one could imagine in a plot like this. One cop says things to her like "I can see where the rapist is coming from, with a body like that who wouldn't want to score it." Another cop, a young patrolman, treats her with respect and tries to help her. His intentions are good so he'll keep an eye on her and be ready at a moment's notice to rescue her from whatever pops up.

He stalks her in scene after annoying scene as she stuffs her face unattractively with junk food trying to make herself fat. She eats too much and throws up and ends up in the hospital. Then she tries to starve herself into looking gaunt. When she passes out in the park, the young patrolman runs out from behind a tree with a plate of dumplings. "This time it's going to cost you" he says. She gets up from the puddle of puke she's been working on and gives him the evil eye. "Only kidding", he says. Ha ha ha. Then she puts on makeup to look like a "bar girl." These are the steps on the ladder of despair she climbs.

I kept waiting for some signature Kim Ki-duk extreme move to happen, like she takes a blowtorch to her face or something. Of course, the nice young patrolman turns out to be suspect. He buys a coffee pot just like the one he saw in her apartment, and you know what that means. The rapist starts appearing everywhere she goes (in a very ineffectual male J-Horror-Goth-Chick sort of way) and it drives her crazy. But not crazy enough to do something really Kim Ki-duky. Nah. She kills, she dies, and they continue to disrespect her. I think. I dunno, they turned out the lights.

Sorry Kim Ki-duk fans, this is a stupid, implausibly written and acted, big zero. Su-yeon Cha is pretty but she couldn't bring any creditability to such an empty script.


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