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Bong Joon-ho charms Hollywood with sense of humor, respect for fellow cineast at Oscars

Movies 15:53 February 10, 2020

By Kim Boram

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- It took about 40 years for a timid 12-year-old South Korean boy who dreamed of becoming a film director to grow up and capture four Oscar statuettes, including the most prestigious best picture.

His black comedy "Parasite" was the biggest winner of this year's Academy Awards held at Dolby Theatres in Los Angeles on Sunday (U.S. time) over other big-name film masters and movies, including "1917" by Sam Mendes and "The Irishman" by Martin Scorsese.

In this photo released by Europe's photo news agency EPA, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho accepts the best director award for "Parasite" during the 92nd annual Oscars at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

His every stride has been rewriting cinematic history since becoming the first and only South Korean to win the Palme d'Or, the highest prize of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, in May last year.

It is the first time that a non-English language film won the highest Oscar award in 92 years of its history.

Moreover, "Parasite" is the first Asian-made movie to hoist multiple Oscar trophies other than best foreign language film, now renamed as international feature film.

He is also the first filmmaker to grab the top honor at Cannes and at the Oscars simultaneously since 1955, when American romantic comedy "Marty" claimed the two accolades.

"I was just a timid film buff who decided to become a film director at the age of 12," Bong, 50, said in his acceptance speech at Cannes in May last year. "I never even imagined that I would touch this trophy."

The young dreamer made his seventh feature film, "Parasite," a story about the class division through a poor family infiltrating a rich one.

His sense of humor and intuitive storytelling and genre-bending rendering clearly shown in "Parasite" caught the hearts of cineast, film critics and moviegoers across the world.

This image shows Bong Joon-ho's Oscar victory. (Yonhap)

His movies shed light on chronic social issues like materialism, social hierarchy through metaphors and analogy, but Bong never forgets to create a warm, good-humored tone.

"There are few directors in the world who receive prizes at film festivals and cater to commercial tastes," film critic Jeon Chan-il said. "He's definitely become one of the top filmmakers in the world."

As "Parasite" won rave reviews from U.S. audiences and film critics, Bong's seventh feature film has thrown him into the mainstream spotlight in the United States and made him an instant celebrity.

During the U.S. awards season, Bong became the most sought-after figure in film events and awards ceremonies stateside. He was greeted with rousing cheers and applause, while big-name Hollywood stars and directors gave thumbs-up to the South Korean auteur.

His effortless charm has created a devoted group of fans associated with Bong on social media, dubbed the Bong hive.

People loved his humorous and witty speeches every time he won an award in the past few months.

He thanked the owners of quiet coffee shops where he spent his time writing scripts, saying, "Every time when I revisit the coffee shops around the time that my films are released, usually they end up being closed for good."

After receiving the best international film award, the second Oscar of the day, he said he was ready to drink until tomorrow morning, with a laugh.

"I really thank director Bong. Thank you for being you. I like everything about him, his smile, his crazy hair, the way he talks, the way he walks and especially the way he directs," Lee Mi-kyung, the CEO of CJ Group, a South Korean entertainment giant, said on stage at the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony.

CJ ENM, the production house behind "Parasite," is an affiliate of CJ Group.

"What I really like about him is his sense of humor and the fact that he can really make fun of himself and never take himself seriously," she said.

At the same time, he let the cast and crew of the film take the credit for the completion and the success of the work.

"I once again would like to thank my amazing actors who actualized the dialogue and scenes that I wrote," Bong said after winning best original screenplay and best foreign language film at the British Academy awards. "I really believe that their body language and expressions are truly the universal language."

At a photo-call after the Cannes' award ceremony, Bong paid a tribute to Song by kneeling and presenting the Palme d'Or trophy to Song as if making a traditional marriage proposal.

He did not miss to pay tribute to master directors that have influenced and created his cinematic imagination.

"When I was young and studying cinema, there was a saying that I carved deep into my heart, which is, the most personal is the most creative," he said. "That quote was from our great Martin Scorsese."

He said he wanted to split the Oscar statuette and share it with all the best director nominees.

This photo provided by the AFP shows South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (R) and actor Song Kang-ho posing with the trophy during a photo-call after winning the Palme d'Or for "Parasite" at the closing ceremony of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival on May 25, 2019. (Yonhap)

brk@yna.co.kr
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