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Bong Joon-ho's Movies, and Reasons to Watch Them

Updated on March 5, 2020
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Darius is a university student studying BS Information and Communications Tech. and a former high school feature and literary writer.

Bong Joon-ho's sensational black comedy "Parasite," nominated in six categories, including best picture, at the upcoming Oscars, has been invited to 57 film festivals and award events across the world, and collected 55 trophies.
Bong Joon-ho's sensational black comedy "Parasite," nominated in six categories, including best picture, at the upcoming Oscars, has been invited to 57 film festivals and award events across the world, and collected 55 trophies. | Source

Opening of the Scenes

Movies have been around for years ever since the discovery of "moving pictures." It evolves from time-to-time, adapting to its patrons' needs, and experiments on how it would remain intact into their consciousness once the credits roll-out or after taking that very first step outside of the movie theater.

I stumbled upon a familiar and "noisy" film that has been released just this year while scrolling through my social networking sites' feed and looking in various webpages.

"Parasite" is a South Korean film directed by Bong Joon-ho. I quickly looked at its movie scores in RottenTomatoes, IMDb, and Metacritic to see just how good this movie is. And to my quick observation, along with various numbers of high-rated reviews and blogs online, the movie itself is marked as one of 2019's best films to ever be created. I quickly dug more into its details and synopsis online, even spoiling myself with the plot by watching very short "pirated" or "director's cut" scenes on YouTube, and thought that this movie will pique your interest and will leave you on the edge of the seat.

Since then, I quickly looked at the director's name and searched for more of his movies. It turned out that most of his works are either numerously nominated for an award or have won various awards from giant film-awarding societies and awards from his home, South Korea.

Some of Bong Joon-Ho's Notable Films

Movies
Year
RottenTomatoes
IMDb
Memories of Murder
2003
90%
8.1/10
The Host
2006
93%
7/10
Mother
2009
96%
7.8/10
Snowpiercer
2013
95%
7.1/10
Okja
2017
86%
7.3/10
Parasite
2019
99%
8.6/10
Some of Bong Joon-ho's well-known movies you can watch or have watched.
One of Memories of Murder's movie covers.
One of Memories of Murder's movie covers. | Source

Memories of Murder

A big-city detective helps two inept small-town cops investigate a serial killer. Based on the true story of Korea's first serial murders in history, which took place between 1986 and 1991 in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province. If you love suspenseful murder-drama-genre type of a movie, then this film is recommended to be added to your list.

The Host

An unidentified, mutated monster appears from the Han River in Seoul, kills hundreds and also carries off Hyun-seo, the main character's daughter. When her family learns that she is being held captive and when no one tries to help them, the savthe to family resolves to save her themselves.

A movie that started like a happy cartoon where everything and everyone is jolly, doing their own thing, or just the ordinary. Until it sinks down like riding a rollercoaster, going up and down the tracks, and finally delivering a finishing blow.

Mother

A widow resides with her mentally challenged son in a small South Korean town, where she scrapes out a living selling medicinal herbs. Mother and son are plunged into a nightmare when the body of a murdered young girl is discovered. Circumstantial evidence indicates the son's involvement, and he becomes the prime suspect during the sloppy police investigation. Betrayed by the legal system, the mother takes the law into her own hands to clear her son's name.

Snowpiercer's movie cover.
Snowpiercer's movie cover. | Source

Snowpiercer

Because of a failed attempt to recover the planet's changing-to-apocalypse state, the remaining survivors of Earth's second Ice Age live out their days on a luxury train that ploughs through snow and ice. The train's poorest residents, who live in the squalid caboose, plan to improve their lot by finally revolting and taking over the engine room.

A movie where you will be left questioning hope, seeing it in a positive or negative way.

Okja

For 10 idyllic years, young Mija has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja - a massive animal and an even bigger friend - at her home in the mountains of South Korea. But that changes when family-owned, multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation takes Okja for themselves and transports her to New York, where an image-obsessed and self-promoting CEO has big plans for Mija's dearest friend. With no particular plan but single-minded in intent, Mija sets out on a rescue mission.

This movie turned most meat-eaters into vegetarians after finishing because of the grave impact its ending gave.

Parasite

What happens when angelic opportunity knocks on a very desperate door? Greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan.

One of the most talked about South Korean film of 2019, with highest ratings from big film critics, as well as the highest earning foreign film ($10 Million) in the US), this masterpiece of movie is a complete balance of multiple mixed genres where one could never guess who's the "good guys" and who's the "bad guys."

The movie will leave you feeling all sorts of emotions, until you decide to choose the right one to feel for yourself.

Why Watch His Films?

I could still remember the first time I've watched his "The Host" and "Snowpiercer" on our home's television. If you were me, your eyes wouldn't budge a blink or look away from any unforeseen detail that may occur. So you sit there or lie on a couch with almost nothing moving besides, of course, your breathing. You would not even dare to take a second to go to the bathroom, or else you will miss something important that might happen within the story. Don't let their film trailers fool you, as well for they are like wrapped gifts with lots of layers to be uncovered.

As I have observed and read through multiple facets, reviews, and blogs about his works online, and as well as a first-hand viewer of at least three of his work, most of them revolve around a well-scrutinized view of the world: from the blunt showing of major gaps and distances existing between the rich and the poor to a subtle yet terrifying exposition of individual self-destructive traits that could wreak-havoc within anyone. His movies also depict:

  • satire of consumerism and capitalism,
  • negligence and ignorance of the protection of the environment would lead to such catastrophic events affecting innocent people,
  • "criticisms" on how national and global governments poorly handle unfortunate events,
  • how extremist beliefs could change lives,
  • how different classes within a society is specifically defined by how they live and how they plan to "move above the ladder" and plan to "stay on that level of the ladder,"
  • and the faces reality, THE reality, in front of the movie audiences, where imagination (or good endings) sometimes only exists within the mind of the beholder.

Unlike many other movies, most sequences of events from his movies would assume its place on small spaces within your mind and will continue to play in a loop for a long time.

Along with the directing, the effective and artistical use of cinematography in his films are phenomenal.
Along with the directing, the effective and artistical use of cinematography in his films are phenomenal. | Source

Whenever I meet a new director like Bong Joon-ho via films or the internet, I always happen to speculate if that director's name suddenly flashes onto a new movie trailer then I will already know that the movie, itself, would be artistical, almost gut-wrenching, twisted, in a way, but awesomely well-crafted and executed.

What I find fascinating about him is that he writes all of his works. You'll also know that "this is his work" when a film seemingly starts off subtle, light, and smooth, like film sequences that's straight out of Studio Ghibli movies, and then ends with something that would leave you feeling empty, conflicted, or needing more. He has this "sure-kill" strike whenever the film gets to that point. And by this, he means that he would often show his viewers the reality of it all, especially in our world instead of hiding behind rainbow-colored curtains of imaginations. And then you'll know that the film you just watched is truly his work.

At the 76th Golden Globe awards, Parasite director Bong Joon Ho collected the award for best foreign-language film. His translator addressed the audience on his behalf, telling them: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” The sarcasm was palpable, even through a translator.

Bong Joon-ho Expresses Interest in Directing an Episode of Netflix’s “Mindhunter
Bong Joon-ho Expresses Interest in Directing an Episode of Netflix’s “Mindhunter | Source

Who is Bong Joon-ho?

Bong Joon-ho is a South Korean film director and screenwriter. He garnered international acclaim for his second feature film Memories of Murder, before achieving commercial success with his subsequent films The Host and Snowpiercer, both of which are among the highest-grossing films of all time in South Korea.

Drawing the Curtains

Bong Joon-ho was born in Daegu in 1969 and decided to become a filmmaker while in middle school. Despite his passion for film, he did not enroll for a theater major in university due to his parents' disagreement. He majored in sociology at Yonsei University in the late 1980s and was a member of the film club there.

After graduating, he spent the next five years contributing in various capacities to works by other directors. Shortly afterward, Bong began shooting his first feature Barking Dogs Never Bite under producer Cha Seung-Jae, a film about a low-ranking university lecturer who abducts a neighbor's dog shot in the same apartment complex where Bong had lived after getting married. Response from critics was positive but slightly muted. Nonetheless, the film was invited to the competition section of Spain's prestigious San Sebastian International Film Festival, and it would go on to win awards at Slamdance and Hong Kong.

Director Bong Joon-ho in an interview.
Director Bong Joon-ho in an interview. | Source

International Film Productions

The Host marked a step up in scale in Bong's career, and indeed for the Korean film industry as a whole. The big-budget work centered on a fictional monster that rises up out of the Han River to wreak havoc on the people of Seoul and on one family in particular. Featuring many of the actors who had appeared in his previous films, the film was the focus of strong audience interest even before it started shooting, but many doubts were raised about whether a Korean production could rise to the challenge of creating a full-fledged, believable digital monster.

In 2011, Bong served as a jury member for the 27th Sundance Film Festival. He was also the head of the jury for the Caméra d'Or section of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and the 2013 Edinburgh International Film Festival.

2013 saw the release of Bong's first English-language film Snowpiercer, based on the graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jean-Marc Rochette and Jacques Lob.

Heading Towards Success

In 2017, Bong Joon-ho premiered Okja at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. The film was met with displeasure, mixed with applause, during its premiere at the film festival, once when the Netflix logo appeared on screen and again during a technical glitch (which got the movie projected in an incorrect aspect ratio for its first seven minutes). The festival later issued an apology to the filmmakers. However, despite the studio's negative response, the film itself received a four-minute standing ovation.

In 2019, Bong directed the full Korean-language film Parasite, a comedy thriller about a poor family that insinuates itself into a wealthy household. The film premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Palme d’Or, becoming the first Korean film to receive the award and the first film to do so with a unanimous vote since 2013's Blue Is the Warmest Colour. It was subsequently selected as the South Korean entry for Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards.

I always write the script by myself.

— Bong Joon-ho

© 2019 Darius Razzle Paciente

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