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A look into veteran actress Youn Yuh Jung’s boldest role as an elderly prostitute in “The Bacchus Lady”

Before becoming the first Korean actor to win an Oscar, Youn Yuh Jung once created a stir in the film industry when she took on the role of a senior prostitute at the age of 69.

Korea’s “national grandmaYoun Yuh Jung has an acting career that lasts over 5 decades with countless impressive works, including ones that exploit challenging and sensitive topics. One of the most shocking roles in the veteran actress’s career is her character in the film “The Bacchus Lady”, an elderly sex worker. 

A look into veteran actress’s Youn Yuh Jung boldest role as an elderly prostitute in “The Bacchus Lady”

Prostitution is already a sensitive subject in cinema, so the story of elderly prostitutes makes the audience even more curious and concerned. Youn Yuh Jung chose to star in this movie to celebrate her 50th anniversary in the industry. In her most daring role yet, Youn Yuh Jung plays a feisty female lead and delivers heartfelt emotions in a movie that provides deep insight into the struggles of Korea’s ageing prostitutes in particular and senior population in general. 

A look into veteran actress’s Youn Yuh Jung boldest role as an elderly prostitute in “The Bacchus Lady”

The Bacchus Lady” depicts the story of a 65-year-old woman named So Young, an elderly prostitute who offers cheap sexual services to senior men. Working as a sex worker from a young age, because of the pressure to make ends meet, she can not quit her job. She even “picks up” a motherless child at the hospital, and has to take care of him. 

The plot may seem new, but in fact, “The Bacchus Lady” is inspired by the reality of Korean society. Amidst the development of a prosperous urban area, prostitute grandmothers “seek customers” in the parks where the elderly often wander around. They are called “Bacchus ladies” – women who sell energy drinks to men. Their customers are elderly men who are widowed, divorced, lonely or simply looking for a new sensation.

A look into veteran actress’s Youn Yuh Jung boldest role as an elderly prostitute in “The Bacchus Lady”

Elderly women, who should be enjoying their lives at this age, yet still have to “sell themselves” to make a living. The journey of the character So Young as a senior prostitute breaks the hearts of viewers when she realizes how old age, loneliness, and the harsh flow of time are, especially when some of her clients even want her to help them die. Similar to real life, the film portrays a society when young people are too busy and can’t afford time and money to care for or simply stay close to their parents.

A look into veteran actress’s Youn Yuh Jung boldest role as an elderly prostitute in “The Bacchus Lady”

By diving into a bold subject in cinema, “The Bacchus Lady” was selected to be screened at many international film festivals such as the 66th Berlin Film Festival, the 40th Hong Kong Film Festival,… and won many important awards. As for Youn Yuh Jung, the movie helped her win “Best Actress” at the Fantasia Film Festival. Although she has received many prestigious awards throughout her career, this trophy is more meaningful when 45 years ago, she also received the same award for her female lead role in the film “Fire Woman”.

A look into veteran actress’s Youn Yuh Jung boldest role as an elderly prostitute in “The Bacchus Lady”

The audience’s recognition for her role in “The Bacchus Lady” means a lot to the veteran actress because in order to perfect it, she even became depressed during filming.  Although there are no steamy or physically challenging scenes, the psychological development of her character in the film is extremely complicated. Therefore, it was not an easy decision for the actress to accept the role. And indeed, if it were not Youn Yuh Jung, no one could have portrayed an elderly prostitute in “The Bacchus Lady” as successfully as she did. What she managed to convey through her performance is the worries, anguish, and loneliness that middle-aged and elderly people have to endure.

A look into veteran actress’s Youn Yuh Jung boldest role as an elderly prostitute in “The Bacchus Lady”

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