E J-Yong

E J-Yong

One of film’s great directors of actresses, E J-Yong started out his career in the Korean film industry by earning a degree in Turkish, then bumming around Europe for a while. It was while backpacking that he realized he wanted to be a filmmaker, and when he returned to Korea he enrolled in the Korean Academy of Film Arts. After graduating, he made a couple of shorts and tried a few abortive film projects, before exploding onto the scene with a his very first feature film, a sleek and stylish cocktail of hot sex and cold interior design called An Affair (1998), which was art-directed to within an inch of its life and featured a career-reviving central performance by actress Lee Mi-Sook who had retired from film in 1987 at the height of her fame.

His follow-up film was Asako in Ruby Shoes (2000) shot with a combined Korean/Japanese crew at a time when Japanese movies were still banned in Korea (this ban would not be lifted until 2004). The movie did okay, and earned respectful reviews, but nothing prepared audiences for what happened next: 2003’s Untold Scandal. A smart, sexy Korean version of Dangerous Liaisons set during the Chosun Dynasty it was a surprise box office smash that broke opening weekend records and become a classic of the Korean film renaissance.

Audiences and critics expected another sensuous, scandalous movie to come next, but E J-Yong set their heads spinning with Dasepo Naughty Girls (2006), a go-for-broke musical comedy about a high school where everyone, from students to teachers, is a sexual pervert. Featuring a climax in which a repressive alien was defeated by harmonic group masturbation, it soon became a cult favorite. In 2009, he surprised audiences again with Actresses, a meta-movie the likes of which the Korean industry had never seen, focusing on a bevy of Korea’s biggest female stars playing exaggerated versions of themselves while on a fashion shoot. His latest movie, Behind the Camera: Why Mr. E Went to Hollywood (2013) is an even more meta exploration of this same territory and it also represents the first time in his career that E J-Yong has made two movies that are even remotely similar to each other.