November 19, 2008

Wide Awake: You Are Not Getting Very, Very Sleepy

In the 1990s, French performance artist Orlan caused a sensation by having plastic surgery done while she was awake reading the philosophy of Lacan. Unquestionably, writer-director Lee Kyoo-man and his cowriter Lee Hyeon-jin see the interface of consciousness and surgery as something less erudite and more traumatizing. The young child who anesthesia paralyzes without numbing during open-heart surgery grows up to be a homicidal psychopath who enjoys getting intentionally stung by bees and murdering the hospital staff as well as their offspring. But which man is the addled adult version of the crazed child? Is it the dashing doctor (Kim Myeong-min) or the pert anesthesiologist (Jeong Yu-seok)? Is it the nebbishy hypnotist (Kim Tae-woo) or the mysterious drifter with a steamy shower scene (built-for-pleasure Yu Jun-sang)? Despite what you might first think, it's certainly not that pesky crank-caller. Wide Awake is one of those movies that doesn't keep you guessing so much as it keeps slyly misleading you. Shout "He did it!" once and you'll shout it a dozen times -- albeit less victoriously. What you'll be screaming during what looks like footage from actual surgeries is more like, "Whoa! That looks too real!"

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