South Korea's biting satirist Bong Joon-ho takes Palme d'Or at Cannes


The South Korean satirist has been awarded the prestigious Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festibal.

South Korea's Bong Joon-ho has confirmed his status as one of world's greatest directors with his Cannes film festival win for Parasite, a fabulously funny morality tale about the widening gap between rich and poor.

Seizing the Palme d'Or is the first big international prize for the maker of the hugely acclaimed The Host and Snowpiercer.

Director Bong Joon-ho and actress Catherine Deneuve
Director Bong Joon-ho and actress Catherine Deneuve at Cannes.

Stellar performances from Bong stalwarts including Lee Jeong-eun and Song Kang-ho, as the patriarch of a clan of scammers who latch onto a rich family, blew away audiences at Cannes.

The Guardian hailed Bong's thrilling black comedy as a twisted "modern-day Downton Abbey ... which gets its tendrils in you".

A Korean in Hollywood

With a series of critical and commercial hits behind him, Bong is one of South Korea's best-known faces, winning multiple awards at home and making inroads into Hollywood - a rarity for an Asian auteur.

But up till now, major international prizes had eluded him. 

Parasite Cannes
The stars of Parasite, Lee Jung-Eun, Park So-dam, Cho Yeo-jeong and Chang Hyae-Jin.

Bong is now the first Korean ever to win the top prize at the world's biggest film festival after he missed out two years ago with his Netflix-produced sci-fi action adventure Okja, starring Tilda Swinton.

Once likened by Quentin Tarantino to "Steven Spielberg in his prime", the director was among the first wave of South Korean filmmakers to blossom after the country's full democratisation in the late 1980s, which opened the door for a cultural renaissance.

His contemporaries in this golden Korean generation include Park Chan-wook, the celebrated director of the 2004 Cannes winner Old Boy and the erotic thriller The Handmaiden.  

Bong reportedly took part in street protests as a sociology student at Seoul's elite Yonsei University during the country's pro-democracy movement in the 1980s, and once told an interviewer he had been arrested for using petrol bombs.

That rage roars through Parasite, which Variety's Jessica Kiang said was "a tick fat with the bitter blood of class rage."

Blacklisted artist

Bong was a vocal backer of freedom of expression and opponent of once-commonplace political pressure on artists in his homeland.

His activism saw him placed among more than 10,000 artists who were blacklisted for being critical of ousted former president Park Geun-hye.

But it was his masterful, humorous portrayals of South Korean society, delivered in rich with cinematic allegories, that marked out his talent.

Bong told reporters after picking up his Cannes prize that he likes to write his scripts in a "cafe listening to people talking" so he can stay in touch with how people think.

"Many people call me a great satirist, but I don't think I had a choice as a South Korean filmmaker," Bong told AFP last year.  

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