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(Movie Review) Fact and fiction merge as South Korea's leading ladies come together

All Headlines 09:35 December 01, 2009

(ATTN: photos available)
By Shin Hae-in

SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Yonhap) -- "Frankly said, actresses can't stand the idea of sharing the limelight. They have to be at the center of attention, be the most beautiful and popular person on the scene at all times," says Lee Mi-suk, who plays Lee Mi-suk in "The Actresses" -- or wait, is it the character Lee Mi-suk, played by actress Lee Mi-suk, who says the lines?

A semi-improvisational movie featuring six actresses each playing themselves, "The Actresses" has the audience constantly wondering just how much of the story is real.

Made without a script and filmed on a scene-by-scene basis with the actresses improvising their performances according to given situations, the movie walks a fine line between documentary and fiction, presenting a rare chance for people to steal a "legal peek" into the lives of top celebrities.

"Instead of creating something fictional, I thought it would be interesting to feature each actress' charm by letting the women do some real talking," director of the movie E J-yong explains.

Six actresses, their age varying from 20s to 60s, come together for a Vogue magazine photo shoot on Christmas Eve, each secretly discomforted by the idea of sharing the limelight and spending the whole day alongside one another.

Meeting for the first time, Korean Wave queen Choi Ji-woo and former beauty pageant winner Ko Hyun-jung raise their voice over a trivial matter and get into a childish fight which has Choi running off the set.

Model-turned-actress Kim Min-hee gets upset over a remark by a staff member that men don't find skinny women attractive while Kim Ok-vin, the heroine of "Thirst," is anxious she is too chubby to be an actress.

Veteran actress Youn Yuh-jung tries to show composure but can't help feeling like a free-rider in the glamorous photo shoot while Lee Mi-suk is blue over a recent divorce that made headlines without her intention.

"This is more like a Christmas nightmare," the editor of the photo shoot hisses to her colleague as the atmosphere dampens.

But with a bit of champagne, the actresses begin to reveal their inner thoughts and bond, exposing themselves more than they ever have in front of the camera.

"The Actresses," clearly appears less concerned with finish or coherence than with authentic, on-the-fly shooting of a moment.

While the overall story -- if there is one at all -- lacks the elements necessary for a full feature, the small talk among actresses delivers surprising amount of humor, emotion and warmth, proving that gathering all six into one screen is enough to "make a scene."

Director E, who was first inspired to make the film after going out for a drink with actresses Youn and Ko in 2007, said he focused on conveying the "reality" of the actresses' lives.

"I had set up certain boundaries, but many elements depended a lot on the skills and talents of the actresses themselves," he said. "I thought it would be a lot more genuine if the story was delivered through their lips, especially as the six women can be said to represent Korean actresses as a whole."

E, known for his refined style and cinematic talent of hitting the feminine nerves, has helmed several hit films including the critically acclaimed period drama "Untold Scandal."

"The Actresses" became the third of E's creations to be invited to the Berlin International Film Festival's Panorama section, which screens 18 films considered to have well-balanced art and commercialism.

Actress Ko said she and her colleagues talked from the "bottom of their hearts" while shooting the movie.

"I cannot even remember everything we talked about. One minute we were laughing and the other minute we were crying -- just like in real life."

With the six actresses agreeing to take part gratis, "The Actresses" took about 1.5 billion won (US$1.3 million) to make, a surprisingly low budget considering the prominence of the actresses and staff.

The movie will hit the local theaters Dec. 10.


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