Bottom Line: A good theme marred by awful exaggerations.

Deauville Asian Film Festival

DEAUVILLE, France -- The theme for "Beautiful" is straightforward: Beauty is evil, especially if it is in a woman, but director Juhn Jaihong peppers his narrative with exaggerations that suit a less discerning audience. Festival viewers might find it unintelligent.

Helmed and scripted by Kim Ki-duk's former assistant director, the movie revolves around Korea's obsession with physical perfection. In one of the early scenes, we see Mi-yeon (Lee Min), who is planning her second nose job, asking her best friend, Kim Eunyoung (Cha Soo-yeon), if she feels threatened by her own natural beauty. With everybody asking Eunyoung if she is an actress, and often troubled by undesirable male attention that even comes from Mi-yeon's boyfriend, Min-ho (Kim Bum-joon), she finds herself in a fix. She is often blamed for her good looks and made to feel guilty.

Eunyoung has another secret admirer, Eun-chul (Lee Chun-hee), who sneaks into her flat, rapes her, leaves behind his ID saying he loves her and surrenders to the police. In a strange twist, Eunyoung is accused by the cops of leading on Eun-chul. Desperate, she tries to look ugly, first by gorging and later by starving, landing in the hospital where even the doctor acts fresh!

The picture is strong on Kim Ki-duk's usual reflection of Korean traits. The passion for physical perfection is one, but strangely the lead actress is not extraordinary to look at. And finally, there is little sympathy for her character. We see her sink into madness, but not before a whole lot of unbelievably contrived situations have passed across the screen.

Performances are uniform and technical credits good.

Sponge Entertainment/Blue Smile
Sales agent: Sponge, Seoul
Director: Juhn Jaihong
Screenwriter: Kim Ki-duk
Producer: Song Myung-Chul
Executive producers: Kim Ki-duk, Cho Sung-gyu
Director of photography: Kim Gi-tae
Music: Roh Hyung-woo
Editors: Juhn Jaihong, Han Young-kyu
Kim Eunyoung: Cha Soo-yeon
Eun-chul: Lee Chun-hee
Mi-yeon: Lee Min
Min-ho: Kim Bum-joon
Running time 88 minutes
No MPAA rating