Jeon Do-yeon wins at Cannes

by Philip Gowman on 28 May, 2007

in Film, Film awards, Jeon Do-yeon, Kim Ki-duk, Lee Chang-dong

Cannes Best Actress logoCongratulations to Jeon Do-yeon on winning best actress at Cannes. She was an early front-runner in the competition, and just for once those early hopes of success were justified.

For the first third of its nearly two-and-a-half-hour running time, “Secret Sunshine” feels like a slightly somber fish-out-of-water comedy (reports AO Scott at the New York Times), until a sudden catastrophe cranks up the psychological intensity, sending the heroine (the remarkable Jeon Do-yeon) into a frenzied, desperate search for some kind of peace.

Her pain is almost too much for Mr. Lee’s deliberate style to contain — and there is something incomplete about the film, in spite of its length — but Ms. Jeon’s portrayal of a meek soul in torment is a tour de force.

Kim Ki-duk’s Breath was seriously upstaged by Lee Chang-dong’s film at Cannes in terms of media coverage. For many critics and journalists, maybe, Kim is a known quantity, turning out one or more films a year for a while now, all of which are distributed widely in the West; while Lee has been silent for a number of years since Oasis (2002), and his films in the past have tackled difficult issues, making them slightly less foreigner-friendly. Here’s hoping that Ms Jeon’s success will spark interest in Lee’s earlier work.

Below are some links to some of the festival coverage. I’ll add to the list as I come across any more.

Kim Ki-duk and Breath:

Breath - still

Lee Chang-dong, Jeon Do-yeon and Secret Sunshine:
Still from Secret Sunshine

  • Kirk Honeycutt at Hollywood Reporter – a balanced thumbs-up
  • Anthony Kaufman at Indiewire: Secret Sunshine Lights Up Competition – brief, positive comments
  • Luna6 at Lunapark6 – unbridled enthusiasm
  • Derek Elley at Variety reportedly gives it a balanced thumbs down but I haven’t read the article yet as it contains a spoiler
  • A mysterious journey of faith – Joan Dupont in the International Herald Tribune. HT to Korea Pop Wars for this link and the Reuters one below:

Most exciting for me, (comments Mark Russell) the story confirms my long-held suspicion that PEPPERMINT CANDY was inspired by a Harold Pinter play. I was sure Pinter wrote a play with a similar structure (going backwards in time), but I could never remember the name. Now I know — BETRAYAL.

Other links:

And here’s the star’s acceptance speech:

Jeon Do-yeon wins at Cannes (Photo: AFP)Jeon Do-yeon was overjoyed: “Good evening. I can’t believe I’m up here. I heard that there were masses of wonderful actresses during the Festival; I hope that I might be able to represent them today. I am truly honored, in any case, to have this Prize; I don’t know how to receive it… Of course, I want to thank the Cannes Festival and the members of the Jury. I thank director Lee Chang-dong, who gave me the opportunity to play this role, and especially the actor Song Kang-ho, thanks to whom I was able to exist. I thank all of you who appreciated this film Secret Sunshine. I will never forget it, for the rest of my life. Thank you very much!”

At the laureates’ press conference, Jeon Do-yeon added this about her award: “It’s the first time I’ve come to a foreign festival. I was very honored to be invited to a festival as big as Cannes. Naturally, I’m delighted to have received this Best Actress award. Before the ceremony, I was really tense; I did all I could to relax, saying to myself that nothing would happen. The people around me wouldn’t stop talking to me about it, and I realy felt like hiding. I’d like to thank you all.”

And here’s a YouTube of her acceptance speech. Nice frock.

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