Monday, July 5, 2010

NYAFF 2010: "Actresses"

* Actresses (dir. E J-Yong, 2009, Korea). The premise: six of Korea's leading actresses, playing themselves, in a loosely scripted fake Vogue holiday cover shoot, sounds precisely like my kind of plot, were I ever to film a Korean docu-style dramedy. Going into this dazzling, divalicious affair, I knew only the younger two actresses, the Kims: modelesque Min-Hee (esp. for Kwon Chil-In's Hellcats) and super-cutie Ok-Vin (who came of age quickly and sexily in Park Chan-Wook's Thirst, and she was discovered by E for his Dasepo Naughty Girls). So I had in mind casting Im Soo Jung, Bae Doona and two race queens (ideally Hwang Mi Hee and Ryu Ji-Hye, my goodness!!) — but I totally got E's premise of the generations of actresses, from the grande dame Youn Yuh-Jun to the relative baby Ok-Vin. Plus, he's known for casting and directing incredibly beautiful women, so I knew I'd be all right navigating this, even w/o knowing the elder four's respective backgrounds (gossip included). Yuh-Jun comes off equally anxious, regal and entirely wise, the only one of the six who really "gets it", i.e. the acting world (in Korea especially). Lee Mi-Suk is terribly gorgeous, her hair streaked with gray, and sharp-witted and -tongued, succumbing only to her elder, Yuh-Juh. Ko Hyun-Jung (who apparently carries the bulk of the scandal) is both caustic, primarily to her generational rival Choi Ji-Woo, and incredibly insecure. Ji-Woo, w/ her strong Japanese following, is the biggest diva, yet sobering. Min-Hee is mostly silly and a bit vapid (one of the elders, I think Yuh-Juh, questions what sort of drugs she's on). Ok-Vin, while my favorite and endlessly adorable, is flailing in deep water amid her elder peers, attempting to be respectful while continuously screwing up and acting nervous and awkward. The abuzz scene pre-shoot, the racks of clothing, the hot lights coming from the makeup and hair area, the fluster over delayed jewelry, the egos hurled back and forth, the preening and effusive compliments and booming music and clicking shutters — all this reminded me of the fantastic whirlpool of a fashion shoot. It truly is another world, and if you've never been on one (and I've never stayed for an entire shoot, either), you may wonder: how do they do it? By "they", I mean not only the actresses but the artists, the editors, the photographer, the assistants, the interns. But it happens, the individual portraits, amid flare-ups esp. b/w Hyun-Jung (drinking continuously) and Ji-Woo, who threatens to leave set. But the women make up, in a way, over a meal while waiting for the cover shoot, Dom Perignon pouring the entire time. Insecurities come to the forefront and it's Yuh-Juh who dispenses the best advice, that they as actresses really do need one another, b/c the Korean public and the greater world won't back down on the gossip-mongering and the spiteful words and the preferential treatment, and they toast and, just before the credits role, come together for the cover shot.