Revisiting ‘Memories of Murder’, which put the Golden Globe-winning ‘Parasite’ director, Bong Joon-ho, on the map

Posted on January 9, 2020


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It’s practically a crime to have to choose one of the following films as the Best Foreign Film of the year: Parasite, Les Misérables, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and Pain and Glory. I’m talking about the Golden Globes, of course, where the fifth nominee was The Farewell, a slight, feel-good drama that stood little chance among these heavyweights. And yet, we knew the winner would be Parasite, and Parasite it was. Because Bong Joon-ho’s worldwide smash isn’t just – like the other films – a damn good movie. It’s also a damn good genre movie that manages to transcend the genre, and that’s always a tricky thing to pull off.

Bong himself hasn’t always been successful. Take Snowpiercer (2013). The broad genre is sci-fi, and the film tries to transcend it with a commentary on climate change and humanity. Take Okja (2017). The broad genre is… again, sci-fi, though unlike Snowpiercer, which unfolded like an action adventure, this is more fable-like, more E.T.-like. And the “transcending” part is the commentary on animal rights and evil corporations. As much as I like both these films, I see what David Sims said in The Atlantic: “It sometimes feels like Bong is trying to hit a nail on the head with a sledgehammer – he’s successful at getting his message across, but it gets tougher and tougher to absorb.”

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