this is interesting product placement. Those bottles of Bacchus So-young offers
to lonely old men in the park are sort of like Red Bull. The implication is
clear. If they go off with her, they should get their energy up, so to speak.
It is a tough racket for a senior citizen, but So-young’s bills won’t pay
themselves in E J-yong’s Bacchus Lady (trailer here), which screens
during the 2016 New York Asian Film Festival.
elder prostitution is kind of a thing in Korea, but nobody besides E J-yong
talks about it. So-young (the English double meaning of her name is
intentional) only takes on clients of similarly advanced years. It is not much
of a living, but at least her transsexual landlord and the cashier at the
hourly no-tell motel are patient. They will have to be during the week she recuperates
from the old sailors’ disease. Somehow she also manages to pick up a kid at the
lost Min-ho is the love child of a Filipina mother and a rich deadbeat Korean
doctor. When her confrontation turns non-lethally violent, So-young takes in
the confused boy, hiding him from the cops. Of course, her life seems somewhat
strange to the innocent lad, but they soon warm to each other. Meanwhile,
So-young’s career takes an Arsenic &
Old Lace detour when several old clients request her help arranging final
like a load of laughs, right? Yet, somehow Youn Yuh-jung, one of the leading lights
of Korean cinema keeps things relatively light and totally dignified. She
covers the full gamut, but her So-young is always tough. Frankly, if this were
an American film, everyone would be scrambling to give Youn awards, because it
is both a tragic and empowering performance, in a film that ticks so many
social issue boxes.
of those secondary themes are more potent than other. Arguably, the euthanasia
subplot feels a little shopworn, following in the depressing footsteps of Grace Quigley, Honey, and The Farewell Party. However, the camaraderie
So-young shares with her former clients is rather intriguing.
Lady is nice film that is
considerably elevated by Grand Dame Youn’s gritty, gutsy, and graceful
performance. There are not a lot of surprises waiting to be sprung on the
audience, but there are moments that will stick with you. Respectfully recommended,
The Bacchus Lady screens this Friday
(7/1) at the Walter Reade, as part of this year’s NYAFF.
Labels: Korean Cinema, NYAFF '16, Youn Yuh-jung