Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (기생충) is the first Korean film to take the Palme d’Or – the top prize – at the Cannes Film Festival. The awards were announced last night, 25 May. Announcing the 2019 CST Artist-Technician Prize, the Jury also noted Lee Ha-jun’s outstanding work as Artistic Director on the movie. According to Arirang News its screening earlier in the week received an 8-minute standing ovation – though it has to be said that Variety times it at 5 minutes.
The President of the Jury, Alejandro González Iñárritu, confirmed that the choice for Palme d’Or was a unanimous decision: see his introductory remarks, 57 minutes in to the video of the awards ceremony at the bottom of the awards page on the Cannes website). You can also see Director Bong’s acceptance speech, in which he is joined on stage by star actor Song Kang-ho and his producer, immediately after that introduction.
Previous awards for Korean movie talent at Cannes include best screenplay for Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry in 2010 (when Hong Sangsoo’s Hahaha won the Un Certain Regard prize); Jeon Do-yeon – best actress for Lee Chang-dong’s Secret Sunshine in 2007; and Park Chan-wook Oldboy which won the Grand Prix in 2004.
Bong’s victory was a popular choice. The Guardian commented: “Parasite is a thoroughly worthy winner, an absolute edge-of-your-seat thriller that also manages to provide a canny critique of class divides,” while former Guardian writer Xan Brooks observed that Parasite was “pound-for-pound the finest film in a strong competition lineup. The darkest, the funniest, the angriest, the best.” The Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin rated the movie “sensationally good” Parasite.
In a press conference immediately after the ceremony, Director Bong noted the significance of the award in the year that marks the 100th anniversary of movie-making in Korea – an anniversary recently celebrated at the BFI. Bong also acknowledged his debt to the great director who was born 100 years ago: Kim Ki-young.
Curzon Cinemas have picked up UK distribution rights for Parasite, with a release date to be confirmed soon. Bong’s Memories of Murder topped the poll of polls of best Korean film of the noughties. Could Parasite be heading for best film of the current decade? Whatever, it’s set to be the most hotly anticipated UK release of a Korean movie ever, and at LKL we’re particularly looking forward to it not just for the movie itself (hoping that it’s a return to form after Okja) but for its soundtrack by Jung Jae-il, who was responsible for some of the music of Trojan Women (LKL’s Performance of the Year 2018) and for Bari, Abandoned (LKL’s Album of the Year 2014).