The Oscars are known to be riddled with mundane moments, and Eminem’s baffling cameo at the awards this year – where he performed Lose Yourself, his Oscar-winning song from 2003 – did not help (we share your sentiment, Billie Eilish).
But Hollywood is capable of surprises once in a while. There was an outpouring of love at the Dolby Theatre everytime South Korean director Bong Joon-ho went on stage, scooping prize after prize for his well-deserving, dark comedy thriller Parasite. Find someone who looks at you the way Bong looks at his Best Director statuette.
Whether the Academy Awards was genuinely making a concerted effort to diversify its list of nominees or recognising Asian talent (albeit very belatedly), Bong’s history-making win is one step towards embracing globally-minded narratives in which viewers can see themselves. Parasite, the first non-English speaking film to win Best Picture, crashed the one-inch-tall subtitles barrier, ushering in an era that echoes Bong’s “one language, one cinema” ethos.
A quiet study about human dignity, social class and life itself, Parasite was unpredictably fun, daring and wonderfully crazy. But it is not the only film that defined the director who defied categorisation. Here are five more works from the director’s repertoire to satisfy your Parasite withdrawals.
Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000)
A satirical take on A Dog of Flanders, a famous pet story about rescuing a dog that was almost beaten to death, Barking Dogs Never Bite encompasses Bong’s brand of comedy that oscillates between deadpan and slapstick. Bugged by the constant yapping of a dog somewhere in his apartment complex, a college professor kills a dog, only to discover another pup is still barking somewhere in the building. As one dog after another continues to disappear, the angry teacher comes up with absurd schemes to hide his grisly pastime.
Memories of Murder (2003)
The ripped-from-the-headlines crime drama follows two detectives with very different temperaments who attempt to make sense of killings across the decade. Inspired by the Hwaseong serial murder that instilled fear across the nation from 1986 to 1991, Memories of Murder was thought to have imparted a societal impact in South Korea, contributing to the development of criminology and forensic science.
The Host (2006)
Evoking memories of Godzilla and Kong, Bong’s CGI sea creature, which emerges from the Han river, is peculiarly unscary but still delivers the fear this semi-thriller needs. One of the highest grossing South Korean films of all time, the story follows a layabout who must redeem himself when the monster – with a sweet tooth for young children – kidnaps his daughter from the riverbank. Per Bong tradition, his slapstick humour makes it the perfect antidote to Hollywood’s serious monster blockbusters.
Even if you haven’t watched the film, you’d have probably read about Bong’s dispute with Harvey Weinstein over editing his film into something more commercial. Snowpiercer marked Bong’s first experience in making an English language film, and the result is just as indulgent as one would expect. Set after the onset of an ice age, prompted by humanity’s efforts to solve global warming, the film revolves around the remaining survivors aboard the Snowpiercer, a train which chugs through a desolate earth on a perpetual-motion engine. Once again, Bong makes no bones about drawing our attention to inequality and isolation of social classes.
Opened to rave reviews on Netflix, Okja is an eccentric story about a girl who grows up doting on her beloved pet pig, only to realise that it has been genetically modified to be bred as a source of meat. Satire with conscience has always been Bong’s trump card, and the South Korean aced it while also exposing the fangs of consumerism behind the friendly façade of corporate capitalism. Another reason to catch it? Tilda Swinton in braces.
Reruns of 'Parasite' are showing at selected GSC, TGV and mmCineplexes. Check showtimes here.