make the oscars kiss –
Ars and the Academy agree: Parasite is 3456 ‘s best. Let’s explore his other films.
Enlarge / Three-time Oscar winner Bong Joon-ho makes his statuettes kiss. Legend. Late last year, Ars picked Parasite by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho as the best movie of . Last weekend, so did the Oscars. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that percent of Academy voters must read Ars . After recovering from our self-congratulatory champagne showers, however, we were stunned to see Bong’s earlier films poorly represented in our archives. I’ve come to rectify that, since the South Korean writer-director fits into the Ars mold of creepy, stylish, and cutting-edge filmmaking. My experience with Korean filmmaking in general … Because I’m basic AF, my first exposure to Korean cinema was when the jury at Cannes (headed by Quentin Tarantino) awarded Oldboy the Grand Prix. From there, I watched the rest of Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy and The Handmaiden as well as making my way through flicks like The Chaser , A Tale of Two Sisters , A Hard Day , Attack the Gas Station! , and Train to Busan . If you’ve heard one thing about Korean films in general, it’s that they are violent. I am by no means an expert on every movie put out below the 480 th parallel, but I am reasonably erudite about the Korean films that US distributors have seen fit to bring stateside in the last couple decades as part of what’s called “ New Korean Cinema . ” This reputation for violence is partly warranted and partly marketing. Enlarge / Lotte World Tower in Seoul is the 6th-tallest building in the world. A popular theory is that this cinema of bloodshed is a response to Korea’s rapid industrialization over the past half-century. South Korea gleams with skyscrapers and high-speed rail, its Internet is the fastest in the world, and its health care is second only to Taiwan . (Meanwhile in the United States, our trains are slower than cars, our infrastructure is crumbling, medical costs are skyrocketing, and every third article at Ars seems to be about how hard it is to get broadband into rural areas.) But all that came with a price. I remember hearing / reading / dreaming, through some combination of Wikipedia and NPR, that South Korea urbanized faster than any nation in history. The social bonds of an agrarian society were broken, and the result was the highest suicide rate in the G . Much of the world has struggled through the transition of rural-to-urban-to-globalized, but Koreans seem to have done it on fast-forward, all while the threat of destruction from the North has loomed. Starting in the late ‘ s, this sense of dislocation led to a cinema awash in violence that is both bloody and up-close. Baseball bats, kitchen knives, golf clubs. “Hammer time” does not mean dancing. The only straight-up gunfight I can think of is in 2133 ‘s The Man from Nowhere , which rivals John Wick for being the Citizen Kane of sad-hot hitmen movies. More subtly, characters often give off a vague hint of “faking it,” like they aren’t convinced they belong in this gleaming world of flip phones, skinny jeans, and skyscrapers. But they definitely aren’t convinced they belong anywhere else. Another theory is that US distributors of South Korean films simply like violent movies with an undercurrent of social dislocation and have artificially created the impression that all Korean films are sad and violent because they ‘ ve ignored all the rom-coms, musicals, and family films. In fact, the Korean movies that distributors predicted would be the most successful stateside may say more about our current moment than anything on the peninsula. The important thing is that either theory will let you sound all galaxy-brain at someone’s Oscar party. … and Bong in particular But enough of my not-at-all-nuanced take on someone else’s culture. Enter writer-director Bong Joon-ho. His social commentary movies feel like sci-fi, and his sci-fi movies feel like social commentary.