×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Beautiful

Typical yarn of an obsessive love that destroys the very object of that love and shot through with a critique of South Korea’s fascination with physical perfection.

With:
With: Cha Su-yeon, Lee Chun-heui, Choi Myeong-su, Kim Min-su, Lee Min, Kim Beom-jun.

Exec produced and from an original story by Kim Ki-duk, “Beautiful” looks every bit like the work of the South Korean maverick, even if helming and screenplay credits go to Juhn Jai-hong, his former assistant director. Typical yarn of an obsessive love that destroys the very object of that love — and shot through with a critique of South Korea’s fascination with physical perfection — film plays like the flipside of Kim’s cosmetic-surgery drama, “Time,” with the heroine this time trying to make herself unattractive to male eyes. Fest career looks warm and niche business in Kim-friendly territories likewise.

With people always asking her if she’s an actress, Kim Eun-yeong (Cha Su-yeon) feels burdened by her natural beauty. Even her best friend, catty Mi-yeon (Lee Min), who’s about to get her second nose job, expresses surprise that Eun-yeong is still single. And Mi-yeon’s b.f., Min-ho (Kim Beom-jun), starts pestering her with flowers and phone calls, asking for a date.

However, Eun-yeong has another, much more secret admirer, Eun-cheol (Lee Chun-heui), who one day breaks into her apartment and rapes her. Claiming he still loves her, he leaves behind his I.D. and phone number, and turns himself into the cops. In an ironic twist at the police station, the traumatized Eun-yeong finds herself practically cast as the guilty party by a lowlife detective (Choi Myeong-su), who practically accuses her of leading Eun-cheol on with her beauty.

At the end of her tether, and inspired by a overweight girl in a park, Eun-yeong tries to rid herself of her “handicap,” first gorging on fatty foods and, after she ends up in hospital (where even a dosctor comes on to her), exercising and starving herself till she passes out. Still desperate to rid herself of the “beautiful” tag, Eunyeong’s behavior turns even more eccentric — all the time watched by a neighborhood cop (Kim Min-su) who has started to fall for her, big time.

Pic is marbled throughout with typical Kim Kim-duk trademarks, all reflecting his interest in the obsessive Korean soul: Eun-yeong looking at herself naked in a mirror, every character in some way possessed by behavioral extremes, and physical beauty seen as a commodity that can be bought, borrowed or sold. Ending, which finally transgresses all social norms, carries a wickedly peverse coda.

Juhn’s direction is perhaps a tad slicker than Kim’s norm, and he has some straightforward fun in the middle going with Eun-yeong’s eating and dieting binges. But there’s the same observational coolness to the pic that informs all of Kim’s work, evoking little sympathy for the central character as the script charts her descent into madness.

The biggest irony of the movie is that Eun-yeong is not actually especially beautiful by contempo South Korean standards, merely pretty. Cha, who debuted in last year’s ghostly romance, “For Eternal Hearts,” as a weird teen, is again well cast as the spacey lead, and other thesps hit the mark within the limitations of their schematic roles.

Technical credits are smooth at all levels.

Beautiful

South Korea

Production: A Kim Ki-duk Film, Sponge Entertainment production, in association with Blue Smile. (International sales: Sponge, Seoul.) Produced by Song Myeong-cheol. Executive producers, Kim Ki-duk, Cho Sung-gyu. Directed by Juhn Jai-hong. Screenplay, Juhn; story, Kim Ki-duk.

Crew: Camera (color), Kim Gi-tae; editors, Juhn, Han Yeong-gyu; music, Noh Hyeong-woo; art director, Lee Byeong-jun; costumes, Ma Yeon-heui; sound (Dolby Digital), Seo Yeong-jun, Im Dae-ji; assistant director, Park Hong-su. Reviewed at CinemaxX Potsdamer Platz 2, Berlin, Jan. 24, 2008. (In Berlin Film Festival — Panorama.) Running time: 88 MIN.

With: With: Cha Su-yeon, Lee Chun-heui, Choi Myeong-su, Kim Min-su, Lee Min, Kim Beom-jun.

More Film

  • Adam Driver appears in The Report

    Amazon’s ‘The Report’ Gets U.K. Theatrical Release Ahead of Streaming Launch

    Amazon Studio’s “The Report” will be released theatrically in the U.K. three weeks before it lands on the Prime Video streaming service. The Scott Z. Burns film tells the story of Daniel J. Jones, a U.S. Senate staffer who worked to reveal that truth about an “enhanced interrogation” program run by the CIA in the [...]

  • Elton John performing at Earls Court,

    Elton John Has a Message for Struggling LGBTQ Youth: 'Be Proud of Who You Are'

    Elton John isn’t at a loss for words when asked if he has a message for young LGBTQ people who are struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. In an exclusive interview with Variety at last month’s Cannes Film Festival, just hours before the world premiere of his long-in-the-works biopic “Rocketman,” John spoke candidly about the [...]

  • Salma Hayek Owen Wilson Bliss

    Salma Hayek, Owen Wilson to Star in Amazon's Sci-Fi Drama 'Bliss'

    Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson have signed on to star in Amazon’s science-fiction drama “Bliss,” with Mike Cahill directing from his own script. Wilson portrays a recently divorced man whose life is falling apart when he meets Hayek’s character, a woman who lives on the streets and is convinced that the polluted, broken world around [...]

  • Donald Glover Beyonce

    Beyoncé and Donald Glover Harmonize in 'Can You Feel the Love Tonight' Ad Preview

    Anyone who’s longed to hear Beyoncé and Donald Glover harmonizing got just enough to further whet the appetite in a first snippet of their version of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” that’s included in a new commercial for Disney’s upcoming “Lion King” remake. The TV spot lasts just 30 seconds, hardly time at all [...]

  • Pride Allies

    The Hollywood Allies Who Helped Protect, Advance the LGBTQ Community This Year

    Strong and proud as it is, the LGBTQ community’s fight for equality needs allies — from loving and accepting families to galvanized colleagues and corporations to the movie star you’ve never met calling for boycotts of a homophobic nation-state. Several of those queer supporters in Hollywood and music used the megaphones of social media, public [...]

  • 'Easy A' Spinoff in the Works

    'Easy A' Spinoff in the Works From Original Screenwriter (EXCLUSIVE)

    Nearly a decade after the success of “Easy A,” a spinoff of the coming-of-age comedy is in the works. Sources tell Variety that Screen Gems has appointed Bert Royal, who penned the first script, to write and direct the upcoming movie. Insiders stress that the film is still in early development, as Royal is still [...]

  • Screen writer Beau WillimonMary Queen of

    Beau Willimon Running Unopposed for Re-Election as President of Writers Guild East

    Beau Willimon, the playwright and showrunner who launched Netflix’s “House of Cards,” is running unopposed for re-election to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America East. Willimon also ran unopposed in 2017 to succeed Michael Winship. The WGA East announced a total of 24 candidates Thursday for its top officer posts [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content