The ideal way to experience South Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho's awards-garlanded, international box-office smash 'Parasite' is with as little prior knowledge as possible.
So if you're watching this before having seen the film and you've managed to avoid the whirlwind of publicity it has attracted since winning the Palme d'Or last May and of course, sweeping the Oscars this year, it may be simpler to just stop and watch the social satire.
Halfway through 'Parasite', the Kims, a family of grifters who live in a dank semi-basement in Seoul have by hook and mostly crook wangled their way into jobs in the ultra-chic mansion of the Parks. Twisty as the plot has already been, viewers know more surprises must be in store, but can scarcely imagine what they will be.
The screwball shifts in tone somehow cohere into a biting parable of haves and have-nots.
On February 9th, this South Korean farce became the first foreign-language film to be crowned Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
It also took Best Screenplay, Best International Feature Film and Best Director, for Bong Joon-ho. 'Parasite' and its impact, explained. Our News In-depth tonight with Jae Yong SOH, a film director and Professor at Seoul Institute of the Arts.
Jae Yong SOH, welcome to the program.
Following its historic quadraple Oscar win, Parasite is winning at the U.S. box office. Sailing right past the 50 million dollar mark at the U.S. box office, the best picture is getting an Imax release in 214 U.S. and Canadian auditoriums today for a one week release.
Globally, it's raked in a whopping 2-hundred and-5 million in ticket sales. That is very impressive, is it not?
Now, Parasite is a film about the haves and have-nots. Perhaps, it's a story that can be related by all across the world. Here's how the director himself described his film. Let's listen in.
Feb. 2, 2020
73rd British Academy Film Awards
"I think in any country, you have the rich and you have the poor, and between those classes you have very steep staircases. So today, going up and down the stairs of the Royal Albert Hall is making me sweat. And Parasite is also a movie about staircases. To summarize the story, it's essentially about a poor man who wanted to go up the stairs, but ends with him going down the stairs. And I think it's a sad portrait of our current times."
Americans are known to avoid films with subtitles - hence Director Bong's now famous line at the Golden Globes - once you overcome the one-inch barrier of subtitles, you'll be introduced to many more amazing films. Apparently, Americans weren't shy to go to the cinemas to sit through an entire two hours of 'Parasite' and READ subtitles. What about 'Parasite' resonated with global audience?
Thanks to Bong Joon-ho and 'Parasite,' Korean cinema has been gaining much popularity from the rest of the world and yes, Hollywood - with some even calling it Hallyuwood - the combination of Hallyu, Korean wave and Wood.
Bong Joon-ho has made note of this and expressed hope that soon enough it will no longer be a big deal for a Korean film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
"So it's a first time for Korean cinema. It's also the first time for Asian cinema. Right now, it seems like a huge exception but I think soon we will come to a day when this all feels natural and this is no longer a big issue."
'Parasite' might be the latest South Korean film to achieve a historic win, but Korean films have been winning accolades.
The zombie apocalypse film 'Train to Busan' debuted at the Cannes in 2016 while The Handmaiden won a BAFTA in 2018. Do you think Korean contents are making its way into the international markets?
What is it about Korean films are global cinephiles attracted to?
Bong Joon-ho won in more than one way on Oscars night.
Parasite also became the most searched film of this year's award season courtesy of what's called the "Oscars bump."
Google recipe for the ram-don noodle dish featured in the film or search for a local restaurant or Asian supermarket for its ingredients have seen a surge.
South Korea's film industry is huge. A record 220 million spectators visited movie theaters last year and a combined revenue in the nation's film industry totaled 1.6 billion dollars. How does that compare to other countries - on a global scale?
It definitely appears South Korean cinema is enjoying its prime time as it celebrates 100 years, but it's important to keep up the progress and rather than plunge downhill like the Hong Kong film industry in the 90s. What is your prescription for Korean cinema?
Jae Yong SOH, film director and Professor at Seoul Institute of the Arts, many thanks for your entertaining and informative insights tonight. We appreciate it.