AS THE oldest worldwide entertainment awards ceremony, the Academy Awards (or the Oscars) first presented in 1929, has finally recognized as Best Picture a foreign-language film, the Bong Joon Ho-directed “Parasite”. The South Korean motion picture took the 2019 Cannes’ Palm d’Or, but was not expected to earn the plum award in the ceremony organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The media campaign for Sam Mendes’ “1917” as best picture effectively made the experiential war movie the front runner. But majority of the 7,000-plus Academy voters might have been persuaded not just by the universal message of “Parasite,” but also the direction and story-telling of Bong who also made another history–duplicating the feat of Walt Disney, the founding father of today’s most profitable entertainment company, of four awards in one night.
Of those nominated for Oscars’ best picture, I’ve only seen “1917”, “The Irishman”, “Marriage Story” and “Joker”, all well-crafted and worthy of the elite list. I must see “Parasite” not just because of the milestones it has achieved, but also for its being likened to the works of the late Lino Brocka, who Bong described as “a strong master.”
A few days prior to the awards ceremony, Bob Lim, photo guru in Cebu and a serious cinephile, after viewing the film, wrote on his Facebook page, “...Parasite is great cinema, the characters come out fully realized... and eventually tragic. And viewers are mesmerized not just by its architectural settings which assumed itself as one of the characters; but by the masterful storytelling. The great screenplay simply rivals that of classic films, notably The Rules of the Game by master French director Jean Renoir.”
The only feature of Bong that I’ve seen is “Okja” and it left a lasting impression on me. It requires ingenuity, imagination and mastery of the art to make a movie about the unusual bond between a child and a genetically-enhanced pig. The flick is mesmerizing and plows the emotions of a viewer to different levels. “Formulaic” does not seem to be in the vocabulary of Bong.
“Hallyu,” or the Korean wave, has become a tsunami that has flooded many countries. After investing much in the arts, South Korea is reaping rewards. K-dramas reign supreme in television and Netflix. K-pop has conquered the world (think BTS). Korean cinema has reached the highest ground with the victory of “Parasite”.
If there is a new proposition it is that “Language is no longer a barrier for genuine artistry.”