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Actresses: Fake documentary or reality filmmaking?

I previously posted about the new movie Actresses, which stars six famous movie stars playing six famous movie stars: each portrays a version of her real self, but the question is, how much of that is “acted” and how much stems from reality?

I found the initial reports really interesting, and much has been said of the supposed tensions between its two leads, Go Hyun-jung and Choi Ji-woo. No doubt the innuendos and possible exaggerations of real catfights are titillating for the public, who hardly ever get to see the real people beneath the smoothly polished images. (Korean entertainers are so carefully managed that it’s rare — and therefore big gossip — whenever one deviates from the carefully constructed narratives that have been built for them. And yet, it occurs to me that even if they’d all gotten along swimmingly, it would be a pretty shrewd promotional tactic to play up the fake-versus-real conflict to incite interest.)

The six are, in order of the photo above: Choi Ji-woo (Winter Sonata, A Star’s Lover), Kim Min-hee (I Like It Hot, Goodbye Solo), Lee Mi-sook (Untold Scandal, An Affair), Go Hyun-jung (Queen Seon-deok, Sandglass), Yoon Yeo-jung (The World They Live In, What’s Up Fox), and Kim Ok-bin (Thirst, Over the Rainbow).

New format crosses the boundary between movies and documentaries

At their first meeting, Go Hyun-jung is not pleased with Choi Ji-woo. Choi acts thoughtlessly toward her sunbae, and doesn’t want to share her dressing room. It’s entirely unacceptable, the way she carries herself so haughtily because she’s a Hallyu star. Finally, Go tosses out one sharp remark: “You’re two-faced — how great that your selfish half is a star.”

Choi Ji-woo won’t tolerate that, and strikes back: “Your bad disposition is why you got kicked out of your chaebol marriage.” The tension of the volatile moment can be felt onscreen. The shaking camera, coarse screen, and dark lighting enhance the intensity.

How much is truth, how much is sincere? That’s the question that comes to mind first when watching the movie Actresses.

Although it is clothed as a conventional documentary, if you were to define this film, it’s really a fake documentary. However, one cannot draw the conclusion that it’s completely false, either. The movie uses the actors’ basic selves as its background and frequently traverses the line between dramatic narrative and documentary. The events onscreen are true, but at the same time, they’re also false. The result is extremely engaging and fresh.


Choi Ji-woo and Go Hyun-jung

The film is constructed around a fashion magazine shoot that gathers six actresses spanning age ranges from their twenties through sixties, each a representative figure of her generation. They freely reveal their individual personalities, lifestyles, and values. Yoon Yeo-jung speaks frankly about her divorce, saying, “I got dumped by that ugly guy.” Go Hyun-jung exposes her inferiority complex with the statement, “I want to surpass Lee Young-ae and [Kim] Hye-soo unni.” One defends herself, “Is divorce a crime?” (Go Hyun-jung), while another lets tears fall with “Divorce is still a happy word” (Lee Mi-sook). Kim Ok-bin shows respect for her elders by calling out, “Sunbae-nim, sunbae-nim,” but in actuality she cannot tell Yoon Yeo-jung apart from Yeo Woon-kye.

Yeo Woon-kye is the actress who passed away last year, who was in dramas Bad Family, My Name Is Kim Sam-soon, and Dae Jang Geum. The actress in this film, Yoon Yeo-jung, was in The World They Live In, Pure 19, and What’s Up Fox.

The actresses try to restrain themselves in order to appear attractive in front of each other, eyeing each other to make sure their flaws and anxieties aren’t exposed. They erase the thick makeup that we are used to seeing them in, and their bare faces fill the screen. Although it’s a bit perplexing to think that the actresses are normal women too, it’s pretty entertaining to steal glimpses at their lives.

Director Lee Jae-yong says, “We established a synopsis for the movie, but most of the acting was entrusted to the actors. It’s not a classical piece where specified instruments follow exact instructions; the film is more like jazz for those who enjoy improvisation.”

Lee Mi-sook says at film’s end: “Actors must keep up appearances.” Considering that actresses must save face, this “documentary,” which is either realistic-for-a-fake or seemingly-fake-but-real, is heading toward audiences. The film opens December 10.

And a second piece:

Have you seen how we live?

Sometimes, there is a movie where the planning overpowers all else. On December 24, 2008, the fashion magazine Vogue conducted a photo shoot under the theme “Actresses who are more beautiful than jewels” that brought together six actresses aged from their twenties through sixties. The mere fact that they were Yoon Yeo-jung, Lee Mi-sook, Go Hyun-jung, Choi Ji-woo, Kim Min-hee, and Kim Ok-bin gave it a dramatic effect, creating a movie that cannot be overlooked.

“Beautiful and strong-spirited women are coming soon” reads like promotional copy, but the film reveals their candid, strong sides as these women show the reverse of their gentle, amiable images with which we have become familiar on television and movie screens. Yoon Yeo-jung feels uncertain that she wasn’t the first choice for her part of the shoot, while Go Hyun-jung casts off the image of Mi-shil by provoking a childish dispute with Choi Ji-woo. Choi, unlike in her roles, does not just take the attack meekly. Kim Ok-bin feels overwhelmed by the mental battle between these great veterans and searches for a place to hide, while the wait for the actual jewels needed for the shoot grows longer, filling the set with discontent and unease. The beautifully planned shoot turns into a “Christmas nightmare.”

Note: The film was shot before Go Hyun-jung made such a strong impression in Queen Seon-deok as the canny, ambitious Mi-shil character. Audiences, however, will most likely have Mi-shil’s strong impression in mind when seeing the film.

“Getting to know these interesting actresses was so fun that it was a shame to witness it alone,” according to director Lee Jae-yong, who says that watching their unfiltered talk unfold in the movie was incredibly entertaining. It makes one think of would happen if all six ladies appeared together on Murupak Dosa, where Yoon Yeo-jung, Lee Mi-sook, and Go Hyun-jung give cool smiles as their fast-flying conversation progresses, like one peppered with an excess of joking.

Murupak Dosa is a variety program hosted by comedian Kang Ho-dong, where stars come on and are interviewed in an intimate setting, one-on-one with the host. The title refers to a type of spiritual guide (Kang dresses up as one), and the guests typically sit back in a traditional stance on one’s knees. Hence “murupak” (kneeling) and “dosa” (spiritual guide).

For a while, Choi Ji-woo’s image has lost its liveliness, having been turned into a static stuffed animal representing “Hallyu star” and “Ji-woo-hime.” She strips away the prejudices of herself as a famous actress and shows a side more lovable than in any of her movies. Compared to her sunbaes, Kim Min-hee and Kim Ok-bin are given lesser focus, but they balance out the drama and do their parts.

Neither 100% fiction nor 100% documentary, Actresses uses director Lee Jae-yong’s script as its base, supplemented by dialogue and opinions that come out of each actress’s personal experiences. In the conflict of the latter half and the scenes where everyone confides their true thoughts with each other, it becomes particularly difficult to distinguish between reality and the movie. Go Hyun-jung’s retort “Have you seen how I live?” is particularly striking, giving the impression that these are words that all actresses would like to ask the world. The moment we watch 23-year-old Kim Ok-bin and 63-year-old Yoon Yeo-jung smoking together resounds with a curious echo. Thus Actresses makes us feel close yet far to these actresses whom we love yet also hate, and may be the first film to draw out not truth nor admiration, but understanding.



Via Hankook Ilbo, 10 Asia

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Is Lee Jae Yong also the director of the movie Untold Scandal?

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neither real nor fake..hmmm....
sounds interesting!

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Yeah I am first! the movie is definitely interesting, especially with the really really game. One thing that I am not sure is what kind of emotion was the director wanted the audience to experience? Intrigue? or touched ? or like JB said understanding?

I doubt that this movie will provoke any of my emotions beside maybe feeling confused? I also wonder whether our perceptions about all these actresses change after seeing this movie? for example, I have always see Choi Ji Woo as someone who is meek, just like in her characters in the dramas. Will I see differently after seeing the movie because she made insensitive remark to Go Hyun Jung and acted like a primadonna? The same goes with Go Hyun Jung who appeared to be jealous and petty toward CJW. Makes you wonder how much is scripted and how much is their own true feelings toward their co-stars. what comes down to is the audience will take what they want to believe. From image management perspective, is it a good thing or a bad thing for these actresses to do this movie? like JB said in Korean culture, maintaining pure, innocent public image is so crucial.

There are too many questions to ask and too little answers. hahaha...but will DEFINITELY WATCH.

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this sounds really interesting. While I only like Go Hyun Jung, but this movie is going to be in my must watch list.

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What a funny photo! I love how Go Hyun Jung's face in the back is so small and just peeking out! It does sound like a cool film! Hope to be able to watch it!

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I'm not gonna lie.....completely interested in watching this.....more so than any kmovie in a long time!

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Go Hyun Jung looks beautiful there.

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I've always been a fan of Go Hyun-jung, so this looks fascinating. I can't wait to see it! ^_^

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interesting movie because of its execution. Like Blair Witch Project minus the scary parts..

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omg choi jiwoo really stands out! she is so gorgeous!

the idea of this movie sounds AMAZING but i hope it's edited well and still entertaining! as in... hopefully there's a plot?

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Funny! Coz it took me quite sometime to determine who Yoon Yeo-jung is and who Yeo Woon-kye is.
Looking forward really to this movie!

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The plot seems a lot like Maïwenn Le Besco french film "Le Bal des Actrices" (Actress' Bal)...

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"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth" -- Oscar Wilde

"I love me some me" -- Chad Ochocinco

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definitely interested about this movie. the concept is very unique and fresh. plus, having 6 top actresses wouldn't hurt either.

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I love it already... thanks for this piece JB!

Seriously... how much the actresses reveal or seems to reveal is thought provoking! I thought it was quite a daring move to talk about their marriages(GHJ, LMS,YYJ) and persona (Jiwoo-hime) and them sharing a moment smoking, I do like that scene when I saw the trailer...

However noticing that 3 of the 6 actresses are divorced... so statistically... it show that divorce rate around the world is anything but rising in most countries...
And touching on GHJ divorce with the chaebol like totally unexpected...But divorce is no longer a taboo but more of a revelation for these ladies which is a good thing.You go ladies!

"Have you seen how we live?" Yeah I wanna see!!!

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"And touching on GHJ divorce with the chaebol like totally unexpected…"

The rumors flying around her divorce was brutal, brutal stuff. Mental breakdown at psychiatric hospital. Crashed into car gifted by her husband. Cloistered inside. She isn't allowed to see her own children (who are Samsung chaebol) until they become adults.

"for example, I have always see Choi Ji Woo as someone who is meek, just like in her characters in the dramas."

Mmm Choi Ji Woo's tabloid reputation is a little Machiavellian (i.e. slept her way to the top.) That's what made Star's Lover so much fun to watch, because if you know about that gossip, it's a good ironic and droll take on that perception.

Go Hyung Jung sort of admitted her inferiority complex in an interview last year, stating how she always finished behind Shim Eun Ha. It's not only that she didn't act for 10 years -- she almost completely skipped out on the typical lifespan of an actress as lead on TV.

Lee Mi Sook was married for 20 years, and when they divorced, their children were almost fully grown. The divorce was amicable, suggesting that they had remained married for the kids.

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I agree, that's totally a copy paste of french actress/director Maïwenn "Le bal des Actrices".

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@16 belleza... thanks for the info... but GHJ not able to see her children until they are adults?! That's cruel for a mommy! I did read in some interview last year about her and I recall her heartwarming message for her ex-hubby, along the line of what could've been and etc... it was touching... now I hope I didn't remember wrongly that it was by another actress.... hmmm...

Yeah LMS children are adult by the time she divorce and it was amicable and I remember a film fest or some awards, her son accompany her... And her son is really tall!

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this movie quite interesting, at the same time much fun with the 6 actresses. go forwarding backfighting GHJ and CJW

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We had the exact same movie idea in France in 2007... Is it a remake? Sound really close to me ^^ It was called "le bal des actrices".
Actors (and actresses) seem to have a huge ego. No wonder there is tension :)

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why does it sound like Reality TV?

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Now, CJW even says she want to potray a prostitute!!

I PROTEST!! A big No! No! ^_________^

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The Untold Scandal is a copycat and now the Actress is also a copycat version of
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDukZdkoy6o&feature=fvw

Haha...he kind of know how to sell it using jazz as an analogy.

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@ belleza

How you can quote Chad Ochocinco (nee Johnson) and tie it in with a movie about 6 actresses being bitchy with each other is a work of art in itself. Movie not my cup of tea, but I like all the actresses in it, and their respective works.

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Wow...I wish I could watch this! I wonder if there'll be subtitles for this film...hhhrrmmm....

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"The Untold Scandal is a copycat and now the Actress is also a copycat version"

Rather besides the point. Dangerous Liaisons has been adapted and remade again and again because it's a delicious snark on sexual privilege. This is being remade as a Korean film, because the histrionics of diva actresses and would-be divas are a source of perpetual fascination and vicarious purpose for . . . well everybody and especially drama lovers/beans. (And there is no such thing as a great actress without a healthy sense of self.) Especially fascinating here is that Actress focuses on two still A-list actresses -- which is to say that they're still in the summer of their celebrity -- and everybody else more or less is a lil bit left and right of that, providing discourse through on their past and future.

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really want to see it!

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@26 Belleza: It is indeed besides the point. Wonder how reliable is your source in regards to CJW sleeping her way to the top?

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I absolutely cannot wait to watch this movie! The concept is absolutely unique. Six "divas", one photoshoot. You can already feel the tension!lol The fact that it's also like a 'documentary' makes it sound so much more interesting.

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무릎팍도사 is one the few variety shows I'll watch, depending on who the guest of the week is. Yoon Yeo Jung is on this week and it's a good episode. I had totally forgotten she was once married to Jo Young Nam!

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"Wonder how reliable is your source in regards to CJW sleeping her way to the top?"

Shrug. Never said she did, but majority of actors/actresses are fodder for gossip. Some of the rumors about Lee Byung Hung are actually kind of sick and hope are not true, and it's said that Lee Young Ae has made staff cry. How much, if any of it, is true. I like watching Song Seung Heon and Bae Yong Joon, but I also suspect both manage their celebrities more like would-be chaebols (if not yakuza) than actors.

A movie like this isn't about the purity of their star image, but about the gossip behind the image and how much of it is actually validated and contrasted by their celebrity. In addition, especially in Korean culture where gesture/image is everything, this is especially fascinating for viewers.

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Well, as you said rumours on LBH kind of sick, LYA made her staff cries, SSH and BYJ managed their celebrities more than would be chaebols is very different from what you claimed you never did said that "CJW slept her way to the top" as in your posting @16.

"Mmm Choi Ji Woo’s tabloid reputation is a little Machiavellian (i.e. slept her way to the top.) That’s what made Star’s Lover so much fun to watch, because if you know about that gossip, it’s a good ironic and droll take on that perception."

Please be reminded that this is not a place to spread rumours and I would appreciate it if you would be more careful of what you cannot independently verified on the authenticity. Thank you.

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@AgentDarwin,

Fair enough. My point is that this type of project riffs on the viewer's awareness of the tabloid junk as well as their public image. I actually like Choi Ji Woo a lot (and think she's due to playing something well opposite her melodrama roles) and am curious how that will pan out.

@Porcelain,

"GHJ not able to see her children until they are adults?!"

Yeah, last year, she was Golden Fishery and talked about it as well as the rumors surrounding what it was like to stay within the Samsung household. Suspect a little that she wanted to make peace with the Samsung family (GHJ is a spokesmodel for Samsung's rival company.)

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@belleza, are you a Korean or do you understand Korean? you seem to be on top of all K-entertainment gossips. hehehe (not in a bad way). where do you read your news?

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Haha, wish I was more with it on K-pop gossip.

GHJ's situation is famous because she married into the most powerful family in Korea right after being the female lead in the most famous show in the history of Korea. Even though she's done successful shows during her comeback, and her star status and payscale is true, true A-list. Queen Seon Duk is arguably GHJ's biggest triumph of her career, because it is HER show (even though Mishil was technically a rival or "support" character -- she kinda took the show over) in the way Sandglass could never be.

Case could be made that Choi Ji Woo is the most famous Korean actress in the world. Controversial point, given that Lee Young Ae is essentially the face of Korean TV to the world, but only in the sense of her being "Jang Geum." But CJW has done both TW and J-dramas and continuously cultivates her relationship with both sectors. Although she's at a career crossroads and she's probably more famous in China/Japan than Korea, she is still Hallyu's #1 Actress.

In that regard, FASCINATING to see these two divas give it a go, pretend or not.

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OMO! scary eyes back there! LOL

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What? CJW can act?? I would love to watch this!! and yeah, it's copied from the same french movie..but if CJW can act on it, why not...by the way, she's NOT an actress, she' s a famous KOREAN Celebrity..in the world??..hmmm..not true...probably all over asia and a couple of countries that have Winter Sonata aired on their TV sets....#1 Korean Actress??...it's more of #1 Over-rated Korean Actress!! PLEEAAAZZZZEEE!!!!

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Wow. Talk about powerhouse casting.

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That's a spin off from a recent french movie, Le bal des Actrices (as was said by a previous commenter). I think they should at least make a reference to their source of inspiration...

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Lol @ Kate09. Just saw Actresses. Late but WOO HOO! Loved it. Officially Huge GHJ fan but still like CJW lots....Don't know why CJW was the Itch GHJ needed to scratch but If that was FAKE, sign me up for the rematch. I thought Ms. Yoon stole the show once she relaxed, Ms. Lee is hilarious and classy, Min Hee was kind of out of it but polite, Ok-bin I hope is not still confused, that Ji-Woo ssh is less diva-ish and Ms. Go realizes she is gorgeous and NOT Inferior, thin faced or not. Bravo Ladies

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i've watched this movie. i really like how the conversation between the actresses seems so natural. doesn't seem like they were reciting the dialogue. that makes me questioning myself. i was like, hey, is this scripted? if it is, why the dialogue is so natural? if this isn't scripted, how do they keep the story and the conversation on track? i was so confused at first, but now i think i get why it was natural. love this movie.

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Having watched all 62 episodes of the drama Great Queen Seondeok I was looking for other films in which Ko Hyun Jung acted and came across The Actresses. I loved the film. Hyun Jung is a very talented actress. She has no reason to feel inferior to anybody.

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[…] Actresses: fake documentary or reality filmmaking? […]

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