THE BACCHUS LADY
Directed by E J-Yong
Official Selection, 2016 Berlin International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2016 Hong Kong International Film Festival
“Don’t call me granny. My vagina is still young!”
Revered actress Youn Yuh-jung plays an elderly prostitute who wanders the parks of Seoul looking for lonely seniors to make ends meet in the racy, funny, and poignant THE BACCHUS LADY. A true phenomenon which made headlines after a police crackdown, the plight of elderly poverty blooms into a warm-hearted look at the camaraderie of various communities – a network of migrant workers, Korean black GI’s, a benevolent trans roommate, and a swath of depressed seniors – that try to survive underneath the economic skyline and glossy K-pop radar.
During an STD exam, So-young accidentally takes under her wing a young ‘Kopino’ child rejected by his Korean father. While waiting for his Filipino mother to be released, So-young must navigate cop raids at love motels, money troubles, and the drastic requests for help from her oldest clients.
Covered head to toe to protect from the sun, the ever-proud Bacchus ladies may be the most modestly dressed ladies-of-the-morning. However, BACCHUS LADY presents the idea of elderly prostitutes as oddly comforting as it is shocking, more like wallflowers waiting for a dance than victims. Part Florence Nightingale, part deadpan noir hero, So-young treats sex as an act as goal-oriented as a vigorous K-bath scrub – with long-standing friendships that are not erotic but still intimate, a transaction between peers, and a space for memories, virility, dignity.
That said, it’s still shocking to see the regal Youn Yuh-jung in ramen-perm hair and mom jeans, performing fellatio on a client. This is the performance of her career, for which she crafts a steely lioness who still flickers with empathy, doubt, youth, and humanity all without an ounce of nostalgia or romance. –Christina Ree
Writer: E J-Yong
Starring: Youn Yuh-jung, Chon Moo-song, Yoon Kye-sang