Film at Lincoln Center will reopen its theaters on April 16, following a yearlong closure prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the first programs is a retrospective dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung, who plays an unconventional grandmother in Lee Isaac Chung’s film Minari. The program honors her recent Best Supporting Actress nomination at the 2021 Academy Awards, the first for a Korean actress. Her role in the film also earned her nominations for a British Academy Film Award, a Critics’ Choice Movie Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Youn is already an award-winning actress in Korea. In more than 50 years as an actress she has garnered over 50 awards—for roles as varied as a deep sea diver and a concubine.
Lincoln Center’s spring programming slate will offer both virtual and in-person screenings, with the in-person screenings following New York State COVID safety guidelines. Youn’s retrospective will be screened virtually from April 9 to 18, including five films and a live, in-depth virtual conversation with Youn.
The featured films are The Housemaid, In Another Country, The Bacchus Lady, Lucky Chan-sil and Minari.
The Housemaid, 2010
Directed by Im Sang-soo, The Housemaid is a psychological thriller about the power a rich man—played by Lee Jung-jae—wields over his wife, his mother-in-law, an older housekeeper and a young nanny. It’s a system that works well for him until he seduces the nanny and upsets the order of his home. Youn plays the efficient housekeeper who hates her employer.
In Another Country, 2012
In Another Country is directed by Hong Sang-soo. The film features three stories, which involve three different women named Anne, all played by French actress Isabelle Huppert. The stories are all set in a seaside town and in one of the stories, a young film student, played by Jung Yu-mi, and her mother, played by Youn, are hiding there from their debtors.
The Bacchus Lady, 2016
Directed and written by E J-yong, the film depicts the life of an elderly prostitute called Youn So-young, played by Youn. Bacchus ladies are named after a taurine energy drink they sell to older men, often as a pretext for sex. Youn gives a powerful performance as the elderly sex worker, a performance that won her multiple awards.
Lucky Chan-sil 2019
Lee Chan-sil, played by Kang Mal-geum, is a film producer who runs out of options when the director she has always worked with dies. She gets hired to help an actress and falls for her new employer’s French teacher. She also moves to a new place where her sweet landlady, played by Youn, helps boost her confidence. The connections she makes help turn her life around. The film was directed by Kim Cho-hee,
Lee Isaac Chung’s heartfelt story recently garnered six Oscar nominations, including the Best Supporting Actress nomination for Youn. Minari tells the story of a Korean-American immigrant family who move to Arkansas to start a farm. It’s not easy and life is complicated when Youn, playing the grandmother from Korea, shows up to watch the children. She’s not the cookie-baking grandmother the children expected, but in her own way she does help them adjust and survive.
As well as appearing in dozens of films, Youn can be seen in the international Wachowski production Sense8, as well as multiple Korean TV dramas, including Dear My Friends, The Queen’s Classroom and King 2 Hearts. She also appears in the reality show Youn’s Stay. The retrospective offers a look into the talent that has earned her so many followers.