Saturday, December 05, 2009

'Actresses' Is Sassy Mix of Fact, Fiction

"There are three types of people: men, women and actresses,'' and "The Actresses'' brings together not one but six heroines.

The third of E J-yong's creations to be invited to the Berlin International Film Festival, "The Actresses'' tactfully endorses the movie's opening remark as it peeks into the glamorous ― and not-so-glamorous ― lives of screen beauties.

The unscripted, semi-improvisational film combines reality and fantasy, and the result is something sassy, perky and tastefully droll, though some of the in-jokes may get lost in translation for non-Korean viewers.

"But you've got to understand! They're actresses, they cannot wait!'' a staff member panics, as the jewelry that the actresses are supposed to wear in a Vogue magazine spread gets stuck in a snow storm en route from Japan.

It's Christmas Eve, and magazine crew members nervously drum fingers. They must deal with actresses who find themselves in an unprecedented situation: sharing the limelight with other household names.

Veteran actress Youn Yuh-jung, known for her endearing roles and less-than-perfect complexion, is irritated that she isn't fashionably late like the others, and cannot help feeling like a last-minute replacement for the glamour shoot.

Lee Mi-suk, though still considered a sex symbol at middle-age, speaks of her wish to retain her identity as a woman ― "Everyone ages but it's painful how actresses age under the public eye and are scrutinized for it,'' she says.

Hypersensitive hallyu "princess'' Choi Ji-woon meanwhile, in a spur of obsessive compulsion, scrubs her makeup desk before settling down. And of course her arrival is never complete without a retinue of Japanese fans and a personal masseuse.

Koh Hyun-jung, a 1990s icon who recently returned to screens after a high profile divorce, cannot hide her jealousy toward Choi. Being the hot-tempered and brutally honest tomboy she is rumored to be, Koh starts picking a fight with Choi. The two are seen bickering and squealing like schoolgirls and Choi leaves the set in a huff ― "This is totally like 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'!'' says the Vogue editor, who also stars as herself in the movie.

The youngest actresses ― twiggy former model Kim Min-hee and the more curvaceous Kim Ok-vin ― find it hard not to compare each other, especially when a male staff member says that men prefer curvy women.

E said he simply provided the basis for conflict and the leading ladies took it from there, improvising parts scene-by-scene.

The six ladies, varying in age from 20s to 60s, clearly assume exaggerated personas that reflect some degree of popular belief. And issues that are raised, such as the touchy politics of dress size, are rather expected.

But apart from capitalizing on the reputation of the cast, it also relies on "classic'' forms of "entertainment,'' such as cat fights and juicy gossip, to draw in viewers ― and it works surprisingly well as one is kept wondering whether the situation is real or not.

And it could not have been complete without the fine attention to minute detail and crafty editing E is known for.

The film will be featured in the Berlinale's non-competitive Panorama section, which screens 18 works that are considered to have both artistic and commercial merits. It hits local theaters Dec. 10. Distributed by Showbox/Mediaplex.

credit to: Lee Hyo-won (

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