Korean star Yun Jung-hee back on screen at Cannes

Wed May 19, 2010 9:56am EDT
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By James Mackenzie

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Veteran South Korean actress Yun Jung-hee makes a powerful return to the screen after several years' absence in Lee Chang-dong's "Poetry," in competition at the Cannes film festival.

Back in Cannes after his last appearance in 2007, when Jeon Do-yeon took the best actress award in his "Secret Sunshine," Lee said he had immediately thought of Yun Jung-hee, a monument of Korean cinema who had not made a film in more than 15 years.

"When I was creating this character, I thought of Yun Jung-hee straight away but I couldn't really explain why," Lee, a former minister of culture in South Korea, said after the well-received press screening.

"I said to myself the character should resemble this lady. I didn't know her very well but it was by imagining her in the part that I wrote the screenplay."

Like "Secret Sunshine," "Poetry" centres around the tragic aftermath of a child's death and both films are carried by outstanding performances from their female leads.

Yun plays a woman bringing up her obnoxiously self-centered grandson in a drab provincial city where she works part time, cleaning and looking after a rich old man who has been incapacitated by a stroke.

Worried by an alarming loss of memory and signs of physical weakness, she turns to a poetry class at a local cultural center but she struggles to find inspiration and at the same time is confronted by a dreadful secret involving her grandson.

Jeon Do-yeon, who is back at Cannes in the dark and sexually charged "The Handmaid," was dubbed the "Queen of Cannes" in South Korea after her triumph in 2007 and Yun's performance could put her in contention for a similar honor this year.   Continued...