the shape of water (guillermo del toro, 2017)

director bong

Selected passages from posts about the six films I have seen directed by Bong Joon-ho:

Memories of Murder (2003): "I’ve liked every one of Bong’s movies that I have seen, and each of them have refused to be held down to clear genre expectations.... Bong is capable of anything.... Bong is reliably consistent, even though there is no telling what he’ll come up with next."

The Host (2006): "The monster is cheesy but intriguing. The political undercurrents are there without taking over the movies. And the core characters, from a dysfunctional family that responds in various ways to the monster’s appearance, are finely-drawn and interesting in their own right. The Host works as a family drama, even without the monster. Plus, the comedy isn’t stupid, and like the politics, it never overtakes the movie."

Mother (2009): "To some extent, it doesn’t matter that Bong moves from genre to genre, since he likes to turn them on their heads, anyway. But they always work. Watching Mother this time, I felt a connection to some of Hitchcock’s sicker movies."

Snowpiercer (2013): "The class structure presented in the film is clearly delineated, and while you could watch Snowpiercer simply as an entertaining action movie, it is almost impossible to miss the underlying themes about class."

Okja (2017): "An anti-corporation tale where the title character is a genetically-modified "super pig" and the main human character is a young Korean girl (played by Ahn Seo-hyun). It's a bit like a live-action Miyazaki movie, except with cussing and some brutal slaughterhouse scenes.... Bong is one the best living directors, and he's only 47. To quote myself, he's got time, and he has yet to make a stinker."

Parasite (2019): "I'm not sure I can even reduce Parasite to a specific genre, which may be a sign that I liked it even more than the others.... Parasite starts off as one kind of movie, almost a comedy, gradually and almost unnoticed takes a turn into another kind of movie, reflects on the notion of parasites, and somehow at the end you realize it was never just one kind of movie, but always all kinds of movies. It is constantly surprising."


Charlie Bertsch

I waited to read this until I FINALLY managed to see Parasite. It's good as you -- and so many others -- said it was.

The odd thing, seeing it in the theater, was the sense that my fellow theater-goers and I were trying hard, at some level, to apply the narrative to an American context, while still letting it be Korean.

It seems like the kind of film that can only achieve this level of mainstream success at a time when class consciousness is unusually high.

BTW, my favorite film last year -- and one of my favorite films of the 2000s -- was the Korean film Burning, based on a Haruki Murakami short story loosely connected to William Faulkner's own short story "Barn Burning". Have you seen it?

It defies genre expectations in the way you describe Parasite doing so, taking several abrupt turns narratively and emotionally. I think it's fabulous.

Steven Rubio

Been wanting to see Burning, which is on Netflix. I think I'll take your suggestion as the push I need to crank it up.

Interesting idea about class and mainstream success. I'm so flabbergasted by the movie's popularity that I mostly just smile and accept it, but you're right, there is a reason it's so successful in the U.S. beyond "it's good".

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)