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Born to a family of established court painters, a woman is forced to carry on her family name and take over her brother's life after he commits suicide.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Shin Yoon-bok (as Min-seon Kim)
... Kim Hong-do
... Kang-moo
... Seol-hwa
Myung-goo Han ... Jeong-jo
Ji-il Park ... Sin Han-pyeong
Byeong-gil Kwon ... Kim Geo-sang
Kyu-Hwan Choi ... Artist Choi
Ho-min Yeo ... Artist Shim
Chan-woo Hwang ... Artist Heo
Seung-Hoon Kim ... Artist Hong
San Kang ... Child Yoon-bok
Ra-hye Lee ... Yoon-jeong
Yong-Cheol Moon ... Jang Won-ro
Gook-Hwan Jun ... Dang Sang-kwan
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Storyline

Yun-bok begins life as a young girl, Yun-jeong, with an extraordinary flair for painting. Unfortunately, the social constraints of the day prevent her from engaging in her heart's profession, but her brother is being prepped for life as a court painter. In desperation, Yun-jeong paints for him and allows her own work to masquerade as his. Then, when the brother commits suicide, Yun-jeong assumes his identity, disguises herself in male drag as Yun-bok, and lives as a male. This grows complicated once Yun-jeong falls deeply in love with a man, Kang-mu. Meanwhile, Yun-jeong's longtime instructor, Kim Hong-do, falls in love with her, and a courtesan named Seol-hwa falls helplessly into unrequited love with Kim -- prompting her to undertake an extreme and fatal act of jealous passion. Written by lament

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Drama | Romance

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Release Date:

13 November 2008 (South Korea)  »

Also Known As:

Egy szépség portréja  »

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1.85 : 1
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User Reviews

 
The art of gender-neutral painting
19 March 2009 | by See all my reviews

A lavish royal court spectacle, a compelling drama of love, strife, and betrayal, the new Korean film "Portrait of a Beauty" has it all: history, art, romance, adventure. The San Francisco premiere is today (3/20) in the 4-Star Theater on Clement.

As most recent works from the burgeoning Korean film industry, "Portrait" is expertly directed (by Yun-su Jeon, also responsible for the screenplay), and beautifully photographed.

Taking place in the 18th century, the story begins in the family of famous court painters, where the young son is trained to take his place among the privileged royal artists - but he lacks talent.

His sister, at age 7, is already so accomplished that she paints for him secretly. When the subterfuge is discovered within the family, the boy commits suicide, and the girl is forced to take his name (Yoon-bok), and live as a man. Rather than telling the plot of the movie, the story described so far is just the very beginning, the basis for a lengthy, rich adventure to unfold.

The hero/heroine is played by the unassuming but outstanding actress Min-sun Kim. Her character, pretending to be a man, rises to fame and fortune (as we are treated to picturesque scenes of court and town life), and then creates a new school of painting, focusing on female beauty.

If you think the "establishment" of "Die Meistersinger" are upset about a bold, unconventional newcomer singer, you should see what the constellation of court painters does and, more, tries to do to Yoon-bok. Apparently, Korean artists in the 1700's were quite physical in their discussions of the finer points of brush strokes.

And yet, the artistic-aesthetic clash is just a small portion of the story. Yoon-bok falls in love with a charming outlaw (Nam-gil Kim, in a fabulously athletic performance), so there is the problem of the supposedly male painter letting her intended lover into her secret - but without being exposed to the rest of the world.

That exposure of gender complicates things a great deal when Yoon-bok's elderly teacher realizes that his student is a beautiful young woman when not disguised, and then - don't give up yet! - a royal courtesan falls in love with Yoon-bok, the man.

If this sounds like a potboiler, yes, it is that, but if you expect a predictable Hollywood soap knockoff - NO, it is not that at all. Writing, direction, acting combine to keep "Portrait of a Beauty" on the right side of the track, not giving in to easy and cheap solutions.

Apparently, aspects of the film are based on history, but my admiration for Korean films doesn't give me sufficient knowledge on the subject. True story or not, this film is real enough in creating a first-class movie experience.


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