Bong Joon-ho says read your movies.
Bong Joon-ho, the director of Parasite, gave a call to action while receiving a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. Sharon Choi put it succinctly: “Once you overcome the one inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” In that spirit, from Parasite to you, here are some (mostly) modern movies from outside the United States.
A few from around the world that deal with moods and themes that can be found in Bong Joon-ho’s films like Parasite and Okja.
FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT
ナイスの森 THE FIRST CONTACT
Dir. Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Ishimine, Shunichiro Miki
This is one of my favorite movies ever and also one of the weirdest feature films ever made. A blend of vaudeville, quiet drama, and offbeat humor; a series of increasingly absurd vignettes that are maybe our domestic life of the future. The execution is largely friends and family and colleagues telling each other stories and then science fiction musical numbers and other grotesque scenarios. An absolute departure from the Hollywood system. Can you take it??
THE HEADLESS WOMAN
La mujer sin cabeza
Dir. Lucrecia Martel
A difficult film. The shifting perception of guilt as a lady’s life comes unglued. An unreported accident fades into disbelief. If you enjoy doubt and unease and anxiety, this is great movie for you. If you crave a thriller, a psychologically unwound, opaque film. Reminds me of Carnival of Souls in that it is a horror movie almost exclusively in the mind of the central character. A sensory experience not to be trusted or missed.
Dir. Kornél Mundruczó
Class struggle but make it campy horror. Daughter and adopted dog are separated by poverty. Dog is put through the machine, assembles an army, takes revenge. On one hand, with an audience willing to decode acting through reaction, reading the eyes, huge wordless emotion… this movie is huge. On the other, it’s a nearly cartoonish cult horror movie filmmaking delight. Over two hundred untrained street strays (really!) run amok in the metropolis.
CONTEMPORARY ASIAN THRILLERS
Two modern horror movies that blend culture, folklore, and location filming with pillars of the suspense genre. Possession movies that could not have more different vibes.
South Korea (2016)
Dir. Na Hong-jin
A local madness murder and a stranger passing through, some parents, some shamans, some demons. The acting is fucking incredible. Fiercely intense performances. There’s love, family, and community in sweet and funny bursts, a nice build up of affection and tension, and then the clouds truly come. I am a deep Blatty nerd and this movie was way for me, watching it for the first time gave me bad dreams, I love it.
CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR
Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Sleeping sickness and color therapy in basically real time. So this is some beyond David Lynch quiet malice. A nurse falls in love with a sleeping solider, who might have a spirit inside him? The sound of plastic fans pushing air, of animal feet on concrete. Nature displaced by industry fights back with myth. The tipping point into magic comes as slow and relentlessly as the tide, the phases of the moon.
BONUS: STAR WARS
Let’s go retro and watch some old samurai movies!
THE HIDDEN FORTRESS
Dir. Akira Kurosawa
It’s time you finally watched this. The inspiration goes beyond A New Hope lifting scenes. Power, subterfuge, poverty and suffering, strength of spirit and character. Kurosawa’s mastery of cinematography, his stable of actors, his ability to balance humor and severity for maximum impact is as good as the Bard. Everything about it is the definition of classic. The droids y’all, the princess.
LADY SNOWBLOOD: LOVE SONG OF VENGEANCE
Dir. Toshiya Fujita
From the creator of Lone Wolf and Cub. Love Song of Vengeance is a sequel that gets a bad rap for not being the pure camp of the original. I like its grit. Morally bankrupt officials blackmail the wrong criminal. The wandering assassin, whose body count stack up beyond the pale of morals, is still driven to do right. Striking visuals and colors, hard boiled storytelling, low key up-punching class trash, swanky looks, impossibly fake blood.
Isn’t that enough? Go watch. Alternately, I am always hungry for movie recommendations. I (obviously) need to watch more Southern Asian films, but anything substantive is appreciated.