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“Cute” Yeh Ji-won

Posted November. 10, 2004 23:15,   


Yeh Ji-won, 32, rocked the world last year by climbing over the wall of National Assembly, which does not allow movie-taking in its area, while she was filming the movie, “First Article in the Constitution of Republic of Korea,” where she played a red-light district woman who enters an election. She’s ready to rock the world once again.

She plays “Soon-i” in Director Kim Soo-hyun’s movie “Cute,” a movie with surreal or even magical touches, which is opening on November 26 in theaters. In the movie, Sooni accepts all the love she receives from a father and his three different sons from different mothers. She takes on a very risky love road with the four men: a quick-service delivery man first son, “963,” played by Kim Suk-hoon, a tow truck driver second son, “Dog nose,” played by Seon Woo, a gang member last son, “What,” played by Chung Jae-young, and finally a male shaman father, “Chang Su-ro,” played by Chang Sun-woo in this movie, with Seoul’s Hwanghak-dong apartments right before demolition as background scenery.

I met Yeh Ji-won on a rainy night of November 5.

―Your face looks very small seen in reality.

“You think so? (laugh) It looks a bit bigger on the screen. Since my face is one-dimensional, it is even so when close-up, when the face becomes as big as the whole screen.”

―Sooni says, “I hope every man likes me.” Do you agree?

“In fact, that’s how all women feel. But the moment you tell it outwardly, you’re “out” of society. There are some women around me who make a clean breasts out of this very skillfully (laugh) and I think it is one of their abilities, too.

―One woman is in love with four men in one family. This is unrealistic.

“There are more dramatic things in life than in movies..”

―Isn’t this immoral?

“No. It is because they are not tamed by society. They never had to live up to other people, never had a formal job, and never had to compromise with society. But there is no “bad guy.” This movie looks tremendously different when you feel it from inside from when you look at it from one step away. I think the difference between morality and immorality is like that too.

―Is Sooni the “mother of all nature?” She accepts and cures all men who are hurt. As soon as “What” asks, “Um, can I touch your breasts?” she takes off her shirt.

“Sooni likes the four men as males, but she really loves their souls. To Sooni, sex is a kind of “offering,” you could say. It fills up the empty side of men. You cannot make moral judgments with normal standards on that.”

―You give men a peculiar kind of fantasy in your movies, just as in this movie as well as in your last movie, “Discovery of Life.” Like you would love me, but love other men just the same,

“I like it if I give them that kind of fantasy (laugh). But this time, I gained weight on purpose and shot scenes intentionally when I was all bloated in the face. I wasn’t picky about food before shooting, or going to saunas, or doing facials. I wanted to look like a wild woman, a kind that doesn’t exist in this world.

―We get that kind of feelings from your dance-trained legs.

“I have muscles in my legs, so it sometimes looks thin, sometimes ugly. But I wanted to look like a woman who’s like a wild horse running around in a field. Just like Gelsomina, beautiful but foolish, in the movie “La Starada.” In reality, women like these legs (holding up chopsticks).

―In sex scenes, actresses usually give off “self-centeredness,” but you look like you’re really loving the other person involved.

“Yes. You’re right. My moods vary on ‘people.’ If I am in a good movie, in a good environment, and around good people, I naturally feel like I’m in love. I think I’m loved that much, too. Sometimes depression hits me after movies. It’s like, ah, how am I supposed to fill this (emptiness after love’s gone)? So I get still so excited about encounters. But this can be a weak point sometimes. I get so excited when I like something so much, but it’s the other way sometimes. It’s because I’m simple. So I much resemble Sooni in that sense. I go blind sometimes.”

―Don’t you think your popularity falls short of your acting ability?

“Must be my fate. I will continue to do physically challenging but mentally fulfilling works. Sooni says in this movie, ‘It’s fine anyway. Everybody likes me, and nobody is curious about me.’ That’s how I feel too. As many people get enthusiastic about certain actors and actresses, sometimes they care too much about their past and turn their back away from them because of small things.”

Seung-Jae Lee sjda@donga.com