Retrospective | Bong Joon Ho

In Bong Joon Ho, FILMFEST MÜNCHEN is honoring not only one of the most renowned international filmmakers of the moment, but also the recently selected winner of the Golden Palm in Cannes. This retrospective will present the creative work of the 49-year-old South Korean director from a span of nearly 20 years.

Starting with his first film, the tragicomedy BARKING DOGS NEVER BITE (2000), Bong proved himself to be a master of subtle observation. Everyday stories are interrupted by absurd moments; fixed boundaries between genres are consistently ignored, as are any expectations the viewer might have. This also applies to MEMORIES OF MURDER (2003), which gave this exceptional director his international breakthrough. This bleak thriller about a real series of murders in the 1980s makes surprising use of black humor and is at the same time a nuanced portrait of South Korea during its era of military dictatorship.

Even THE HOST (2006) is far more than the usual monster movie. When a giant amphibious creature, mutated by hazardous waste, hunts people, the classical ingredients of adventure are combined with a biting satire of society and sideswipes at the US military. Bong hit a nerve with this genre hybrid; after its premiere in Cannes, it was a record-breaking success in South Korea. The director's next two works proved that he could also make films about more intimate stories. In the anthology TOKYO! (2008), a reclusive man finds new hope (of love), while the award-winning thriller drama MOTHER (2009) demonstrates as entertainingly as it does shockingly the extent of unconditional love.

Having thus established himself in the business once and for all, he added a bit of Hollywood luster to the familiar qualities in his next two films. In graphic novel-based SNOWPIERCER (2013), about a future world that's succumbed to a new ice age, as well as in the Netflix production OKJA (2017), big names in show business, from Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, and John Hurt to Jake Gyllenhaal and Paul Dano, lined up to work with him. Still no trace of obliging cinematic homogeneity. Both works take a critical approach to socially relevant themes such as factory farming, growing divisions in society, and the excesses of capitalism while still managing to indulge in the grotesque.

This is also true of Bong's latest work, PARASITE (2019), in which the director returns to his roots while at the same time creating something completely new. When Bong tells the story of two families that could not be more different, it is also the "best of" an extraordinary career and an utterly surprising new beginning. This mixture of black humor, great tragedy, and thriller was very positively received at its premiere in Cannes and is being screened for the first time in Germany at FILMFEST MÜNCHEN.

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