Sixties era cinema icon returns to the big screen

  • Published : Apr 14, 2010 - 17:23
  • Updated : Apr 14, 2010 - 17:23

“Poetry” just might turn out to be novelist-turned-filmmaker Lee Chang-dong’s swan song to an aging Korean silver screen icon.

After a 15-year hiatus from the local movie scene, Yoon Jung-hee, star of more than 300 films throughout her career in the ’60s and early ’70s, is back.

She is the sole headliner of Lee’s latest yarn about a woman’s coincidental foray into the world of poetry writing.

Both the film’s star and writer-director were on hand at the press conference yesterday to announce the upcoming release of the film at the CGV Apgujeong in southern Seoul.

For his fifth feature film, Lee, the vaunted bard of such contemporary social parables as “Green Fish,” and “Peppermint Candy,” said he had Yoon in mind even before penning the script for the film.
Yoon Jung-hee (right) and Lee Chang-dong (Pine House Films)

“When I was envisioning this film, the first person that I thought of was Yoon,” Lee said.

“That’s why I contacted her and approached her with an offer. Because I wrote the character with her specifically in mind, the character just sort of grew naturally from there.”

Yoon decided to take the plunge back into acting because the film was captained by a filmmaker she had always admired.

“It was through my trust in his abilities that I came to get involved in this film,” she said.

“I’ve always had the desire to show people different aspects of my acting and (Lee) provided me with every opportunity to do just that.”

In the film, Yoon plays Mija, a woman headed towards her twilight years as a sixty-something widower who happens upon an epiphany of sorts after stumbling into a poetry workshop.

Yoon revealed she had much to be concerned about because of her portrayal of such a radically different character from the ones she has played throughout her career.

“One of the questions I asked myself was how I could get this eccentric character of Mija to be likeable to the audience,” she said. “So I decided, instead of struggling over the choice of playing it dramatically or as naturally as possible, I would leave it to (Lee) to guide me through which style would be the best.”

Before Lee met the 66-year-old veteran, he had his reservations about whether such a legendary screen icon would be open to suggestions and specific directions on her acting.

“Because she had done more than 300 films, I thought to myself that she probably has an acting style by now that will be difficult to compromise with,” he said.

“I worried about potential clashes with her during the shoot, but she performed her scenes with a willingness to discuss and this is something that’s difficult to find even in younger actors.”

“Poetry” has been submitted to the Cannes Film Festival for a possible entry into the upcoming May competition and, according to early buzz, is Korea’s strongest contender.

The film opens nationwide May 13.

By Song Woong-ki (kws@heraldcorp.com)