Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho won the Palme d'Or, with his black comedy "Parasite" at Cannes Film Festival in France, Saturday night.
With that feat, Bong became the first Korean director to win the top prize at the world's most prestigious film festival, with a unanimous decision by its jury members.
It was the second time for the 49-year-old director competing for the Palme d'Or award; his previous was with the 2017 film "Okja."
"I'm sorry I didn't prepare this speech in French, but I didn't expect to win the Palme d'Or. I am truly honored. I've always been inspired by French cinema. I'd like to thank two directors ― Henri-Georges Clouzot and Claude Chabrol," Bong said right after receiving the award during the closing ceremony of the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France.
"I was a little 12 year-old boy, and a huge cinema fan, when I decided I would be a director. I am amazed to have won this prize, which means a great deal to me."
"Parasite" is the seventh feature for the director known for acclaimed films like "Snowpiercer," "The Host" and "Okja." The film tells the story of two families with extremely different social backgrounds, one poor and one wealthy. The son of the impoverished family fabricates his education background and works as a tutor for rich family's children. The whole family of scammers one by one latch onto the rich family as parasites.
In the following meeting with Korean reporters, Bong continued to tell how surreal the experience has been for him.
"I thought this sort of thing would only happen during World Cup matches. I feel dumbstruck and everything is so surreal. The whole situation feels as if I'm in a fantasy film," he said. "Each time the name of the award winner was announced, I felt like I was jumping over hurdles. My heart ran wild with excitement, yet I was losing a sense of reality. As all the other names on the list were being called, with only us being left, I had this strange feeling, thinking what the heck is happening."
When "Parasite" premiered Tuesday, the director received an eight-minute standing ovation and rave reviews from critics. Variety said "A laugh turns into a snarl which gets stuck in the throat like a sob ― or an arrow through the neck ― in Bong Joon-ho's latest wild, wild ride," while Hollywood Reporter said, "Parasite is generally gripping and finely crafted, standing up well as Bong's most mature state-of-the-nation statement since Memories of Murder in 2003."
"It's such a unique experience. It's so unexpected. It took all of us sharing our experiences. We shared the mystery of the unexpected way this film took us through different genres and mixed them and spoke in a funny, humorous, tender way with no judgment of something so irreverent and urgent," Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who headed this year's Cannes jury, said of the film's appeal. "It's so global but in such a local film. We were all fascinated by it since we saw it. It kept growing and growing."
Darcy Paquet, an American film critic who has been introducing Korean films to international movie fans, said, "Bong Joon-ho is such an imaginative director, and Parasite is so well-made and engaging that I think it will travel far internationally. It will be like the OldBoy of this era, but even bigger."
Starting in 2000 when acclaimed Korean director Im Kwon-taek entered the Cannes competition with "Chunhyang," a total of 17 Korean films, including "Parasite," have been selected to compete for the Palme d'Or. "Parasite" became the sixth Korean film to receive one of the main competition awards at the Cannes Film Festival.
Im Kwon-taek took the best director award for "Chihwaseon" in 2002. Director Park Chan-wook earned awards twice: the Grand Prix, the second-most-coveted prize after the Palme d'Or, with "Old Boy" (2004), and the Jury Prize with "Thirst" (2009). Lee Chang-dong won for best screenplay with "Poetry" in 2010, while Jeon Do-yeon won the best actress for Lee's 2007 film "Secret Sunshine."
Bong and Song: the double act behind Cannes victory
To give you some idea how good an actor South Korea's Song Kang-ho is, one of the first things director Bong Joon-ho did Saturday after he won the top prize at the Cannes was to drop to his knee and offer the Palme d'Or to his friend.
An actor who has become something of a national treasure, Song has starred in several of the divided country's greatest movies. He also shines at the heart of "Parasite" as the head of a family of penniless scammers in the darkly comic drama that brought Bong his historic Cannes victory.
Song, 52, has made four films with Bong including the 2006 monster flick "The Host" and Bong's first English-language film "Snowpiercer", both of which were box office and critical smashes.
"I rely on Song a lot," the director told a recent press conference in Seoul. "Working with him has allowed me to be more brave as a filmmaker, and take on more difficult challenges."
After starting his career on stage, Song made his first film appearance in 1996 in now-acclaimed director Hong Sang-soo's debut movie, "The Day a Pig Fell into a Wall."
Since then, he has appeared in more than 30 films and worked with top South Korean filmmakers including Park Chan-wook, Kang Je-gyu and Lee Chang-dong. Song has had roles in some of the most significant works in South Korean cinema's modern history.
Director Kang Je-gyu's 1999 spy action film "Shiri" was the nation's first big-budget, Hollywood-style blockbuster, and outperformed "Titanic" at the South Korean box office that year.
A follow up to this post
sources: ARIRANG NEWS, The Korea Times 1 2