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Time Flows… I Just Didn’t Want to be Complacent

Posted February. 23, 2005 22:42,   


Ji-su, (32, photo), will appear on the big screen for the first time since her debut 13 years ago. The movie is “The Charming Girl,” directed by Lee Yoon-ki, scheduled to open on March 10. In the movie, Kim Ji-su plays Jung-hye, who works at the post office with some painful childhood memories. Jung-hye meets a man, played by Hwang Jeong-min, who is as ordinary as she is, and starts to open up the doors to her heart.

Kim, whom we met before noon on February 23, looked haggard. She looked depressed. She was startled to hear the unsettling news of the suicide of the actress Lee Eun-ju, who belonged to the same agency, during the private show of the movie for the press, and left the theater right away. Kim Ji-su said in a low voice, “I couldn’t get my hands on anything all day.”

“The Charming Girl” was strange and troubling even for Kim, who is a solid actress.

“It felt like I was under constant surveillance by the camera. It followed me all the time. It was a sense of being confined, something I’ve never experienced during the shoots for TV dramas. There were lonely moments, something I just had to overcome.”

During the entirety of the film, which is 100 percent filmed through the “hand-held” method in which the camera is carried around by hand, the camera stays close to Kim Ji-su, who is on screen for the most of the scenes. The camera examines and surveys every single move Kim makes, and sometimes leaves her be. Kim’s face, hand, and feet fills up the screen in close-ups, a big burden for an actress.

“My hands are not pretty. There are many scenes less confident as an actress. Some are just horrible. What woman would not want to look pretty in front of a camera. I, Kim Ji-su, want to look pretty, but ‘Jung-hye’ is not supposed to look pretty.”

Kim could not have chosen a more awful flick. Jung-hye never shows any expression. The most significant action is wiping dust off of the plants, glancing over her shoulders at the TV while washing dishes, feeling whether the ankle-length stocking has dried while brushing her teeth, feeding the cat, shaping the lid of cupped noodle into a cone to eat ramyeon with it, and taking a short moment to reminisce on the past memories. The scenario allowed much room for Kim, with the most specific acting direction written on the script being “Show Jung-hye hesitant.”

“In front of a television camera, I could be a ‘Jung-hye, doing nothing’ if I just stay still and not do anything. But in front of a movie camera, I have to act everything imaginable to become ‘Jung-hye, doing nothing.’”

Scenes like “walking expressionless” and “flinching hands in sleep” had to be re-taken five to six times.

“Even while filming, I would like Jung-hye one day and hate her the next day. Jung-hye’s so suffocating that I did not want to act her. I cry when I’m sad, but Jung-hye doesn’t when she’s too sad.”

When asked, “Why a movie after 14 years of acting?,” she answered, “I was getting older by the second, and I hated becoming complacent.” She was very straightforward. Her frankness seems to make a subtle conflict or a great harmony with her cold image of being close to perfect in self-management and mistake-free.

Kim did not hesitate to say things such as, “This film may not suit Korean audience’s taste. It could be boring and mundane,” “I hope the Korean media will not come praising the movie just because it was well received by the foreign media,” and “Movie is business. A ready-made hit scenario won’t come to a film-newbie like me.”

When asked of her anxiety, Kim Ji-su said, “Being an actress growing old nicely while acting.” The interview made me realize that she had the most beautiful lashes, as were seen in the film.

Seung-Jae Lee sjda@donga.com