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robertogreco : bongjoon-ho   7

It’s Bong Joon Ho’s Dystopia. We Just Live in It. - The New York Times
Monsters walk among us. Corruption is normal. Trust, outside a narrow circle of friends or kin, is unthinkable. Whether we know it or not, it’s Bong’s world we’re living in.
parasite  bongjoon-ho  film  inequality  corruption  economics  2019  trust  family  kin  life 
15 hours ago by robertogreco
‘Parasite’ and South Korea’s Income Gap: Call It Dirt Spoon Cinema - The New York Times
"Bong Joon Ho’s latest film joins a growing list of movies criticizing South Korean inequality — a problem so pervasive it has given birth to its own slang."

...

"While such inequality afflicts the United States and many other countries, South Korea’s income distribution is remarkably lopsided. In 2015, the top 10 percent of South Koreans held 66 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the poorer half of the population held only 2 percent, according to figures cited by Kyung Hyun Kim, a professor of East Asian studies at the University of California, Irvine, and an author of several books on Korean cinema. In addition, large numbers of South Korea’s elite inherited their wealth.

That inequity, combined with scandals involving corruption among the privileged, have bred so much bitterness and frustration among Koreans that new slang phrases have emerged in recent years, like “gold spoons” and “dirt spoons.”

“People who are born with a gold spoon are the ones who have made it,” the professor said. “The have-nots are dirt spoons. They will always be given a dirt spoon, and it will always be a struggle.”

The lack of social mobility for dirt spoons is at the heart of “Parasite,” directed by Bong Joon Ho. The Kims are each smart and talented in their own ways. Yet they are so poor — they crouch next to a toilet just to steal a neighbor’s Wi-Fi — that there is no clear path for them to succeed.

Though economically disadvantaged Americans face a similar plight, in South Korea, job prospects can be tied to family background, as when employers ask about applicants’ parents, a practice that could favor the privileged, Kim, the professor, said. Furthermore, investigations have uncovered nepotistic practices, like private schools’ preference for installing family members in teaching positions.

So why not fake it till you make it? In “Parasite,” the Kims’ son, Ki-woo, fluent in English, uses a referral from a privileged friend and counterfeit college credentials to trick the Parks into giving him a job as a language tutor for their teenage daughter. Ki-woo’s sister, Ki-jung, pretends to be an art therapist and gets hired to work with the Parks’ disturbed little boy. Dad and Mom soon join the subterfuge by posing as a professional driver and a housemaid for the Parks, who are as gullible as they are neurotic about cleanliness."
bongjoon-ho  parasite  film  inequality  koreas  southkorea  2019  class  nepotism  elitism  capitalism  education  society  socialmobility  precarity 
19 days ago by robertogreco
Korean Director Bong Joon-ho on His New Film ‘Parasite’
"Of course, we are dancing around his journey into the carnival that is an Academy Awards campaign, which seems to mildly amuse him from a distance. I ask what he thinks of the fact that no Korean film has ever been nominated for an Oscar despite the country’s outsize influence on cinema in the past two decades. “It’s a little strange, but it’s not a big deal,” he says, shrugging. “The Oscars are not an international film festival. They’re very local.”"
bongjoon-ho  film  korea  southkorea  2019  inequality  parasite  snowpiercer  films  filmmaking  society  academyawards  oscars  thehost  okja 
19 days ago by robertogreco
Review. Some Pig—Bong Joon-ho's "Okja" on Notebook | MUBI
"The South Korean auteur's eco-action-drama wrestles with the idea that attacking capitalism's symptoms will never destroy its source."



"The maltreatment of the Super Pigs is of utmost concern to Bong Joon-ho. Obsessively detail-oriented, his wide-scale panoramas of society expand to include those forgotten by the rest: the innocents who suffer as collateral damage. In his debut feature Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), it is not the murdered dogs that receive the brunt of the blow. Rather, it is the homeless man who is arrested for eating them, whose first crime was hunger. There are the abandoned victims of the monster in The Host (2006), whose bodies lay in the dark while the government devises a cover-up; and made more literal, the poorest children on the train in Snowpiercer (2013) who are eaten by the rich.

The Super Pigs join these as some of the lowest of the low on the food chain. They are born to die and tortured every step of the way. Unbeknownst to the public, the Pigs are beaten, trapped in cages, and forced to breed. To our horror, they even possess the consciousness to know that this pain is undeserved. The beasts are a two-fold metaphor. They are martyrs for animal rights; but in the context of the entire system that Bong wishes to confront, the Super Pigs are also representative casualties of capitalism at its worst. Though human-animal comparisons risk demeaning both, even Sinclair recognized that in its brutality, money blurs the line between man and beast, flesh and meat.

This point is missed by the kind but misguided Animal Liberation Front (ALF), a radical animal rights activist group led by Jay (Paul Dano). Pitting itself against the Mirando Corporation, the ALF resorts to hijacking, spying on, and exposing corporate enemies. Its biggest weakness is that it doesn’t do much else. Even these attacks are pitiful and contradictory: in one scene, the ALF wrestles with police while simultaneously ensuring everyone that they do not like hurting people. Plagued by shortsightedness, the group’s reactive politics are shallow blows to a much larger problem."



"Bong Joon-ho is well known for the distrust of authority that fuels his films; but Okja also speaks to a concurrent distrust of the people, specifically the mob mentality of the masses. Indirectly, the public’s refusal to demand tangible change is what allows the Mirando Corporation to thrive. The ALF, still convinced of the power of awareness, unfolds its plan to take over the Super Pig parade and release graphic footage of animal cruelty at the lab and factory. When they succeed, the rest of the crowd starts to chant as flyers fall from the sky. The chaos is only satisfying for a few seconds until the irony sinks in. This is the same public that just minutes before was gleefully covered in pink and chewing on Super Pig jerky. It is hard to imagine that their knee-jerk response will be as quickly transformed into action.

The frantically paced Okja is propelled by a fear that the anti-capitalist efforts of today are not enough to inspire structural change. The middle portion is bookended by the image of the factory, a symbol that haunts Okja's entirety. The film opens in an abandoned Mirando factory that Lucy Mirando vows to reclaim. These promises are sprinkled with diluted claims like ending “world hunger” and revolutionizing the “livestock industry” (the whitewashed term for slaughterhouse) with “love.” But as we finally witness in the film’s penultimate scene, the new Mirando factory is just as bloody, only more automated. Here, reclamation is nothing more than a re-branding strategy that disguises itself with the aphorisms of mainstream environmentalism."



"The film concludes with the revelation of Mija’s selfishness. Like Hyun-seo from The Host, who can fight to survive but could never defeat the river creature even if she tried, Mija is a great girl and just that. When given the chance to save Okja, she takes it. The two return to the mountains as if the factory no longer exists. Bong Joon-ho describes Okja as a “love story.”6 The love that he refers to can only be selfish in the grand scheme of things, since the selfless act of heroism is already a futile task.

Critic Kim Hye-ri explains that the characters of Bong’s films as those “whose bodies are all they have left.”7 However disappointing, Mija’s decision to rescue the body of the one she loves is an act of devotion. And so Okja relents the cheap opportunity for an eleven-year old girl to bring an end to capitalism. Instead, the Mirando Corporation lives on and the two friends escape far from the maddening crowd as if nothing happened. Meanwhile, we as an audience are left with the flat, stinging sensation of hitting a wall. But if any feeling could so aptly reflect love in the time of capitalism, then it is this: to willingly hit a wall until an eventual point of demolition."
bongjoon-ho  okj  capitalism  2017  ebwhite  labor  politics  society  cruelty  violence  imperialism  immigrants  immigration  us  korea  globalization  authority  distrust  revolution  environmentalism  activism  animalrights  multispecies  bodies  love  kimhye-ri  kelleydong  body 
july 2017 by robertogreco
There's a translation joke for Korean-Americans in the subtitles of Okja.
"There are many excellent jokes in Okja, Bong Joon-ho’s genre-mashing movie about the titular GMO super-pig and its kid caretaker Mija, which is now streaming on Netflix. There are poop jokes; there are Tilda Swinton’s braces; there are references that run the high-low gamut, including a re-creation of the Obama war-room photo and Andrew Lincoln’s poster-board confessional from Love Actually. But there’s another joke buried in the subtitles, a little gem reserved for that special group of people who can speak both Korean and English.

The moment happens when the radical animal-rights group ALF (the Animal Liberation Front), headed by Jay (Paul Dano), ostensibly rescues Okja from the Mirando corporation. But what they’re really trying to do is use Okja as a mole to expose Mirando’s animal-rights abuses. To do this, they would have to hack into Okja’s monitoring system and allow the super-pig to be taken back to the lab. Jay won’t go through with the plan without Mija’s (Ahn Seo-hyun) consent, but the only way to communicate with her is through fellow ALF member K, a Korean-American character played by Steven Yeun. When they ask Mija what she wants to do, she says that all she wants is to go back to the mountains with Okja, but K lies and says that she agrees to the plan, much to the delight of his comrades.

[screenshot]

With that, each ALF member jumps out of the truck into the Han River below, with K the last to go. According to the subtitles, his parting words to Mija are “Mija! Try learning English. It opens new doors!” In an earlier version I watched, the subtitle read, “How’s my Korean?” What he actually says is “Mija! Also, my name is Koo Soon-bum.”

[screenshot]

It’s a flagrant mistranslation—but one that would only be apparent to those who can speak both languages. Moreover, the mistranslation is a clever subversion of the supremacy of English. The subtitle is a command to learn English—something that every Korean student has heard throughout her life—but to actually understand what K is saying, you would have to know Korean. There’s an added layer of comedy to the name itself, which has the whiff of the old country about it: “Koo Soon-bum” is sort of like a white man saying his name is “Buford Attaway.” As Yeun told me, “When he says ‘Koo Soon-bum,’ it’s funny to you if you’re Korean, because that’s a dumb name. There’s no way to translate that. That’s like, the comedy drop-off, the chasm between countries.”

Bong wrote the character of K specifically with Yeun in mind, because he’s a character that only a Korean-American could play. Yeun’s performance itself is a nod to that gap; it reads differently if you know Korean. While it’s obvious that he’s a bit of a dolt, if you have the ear for the language, his failures are more apparent, because he speaks with the stiltedness of a second-generation speaker (Yeun’s actual pronunciation is a lot better). He’s not quite sure of himself, and is trying to fit into both spaces, but can’t. (This is also why the other subtitle joke that I saw, “How’s my Korean?” works in a subtler way.) Yeun said the character “speaks to the island we live on”: He was a character written for Korean-Americans.

Throughout Okja, Bong plays with the idea of translation, both its necessities and inherent limitations, and the inevitable comedy that arises out of that space. When Jay learns that K deliberately lied, he starts to beat him up, telling him to “never mistranslate!” Toward the end of the movie, K pops back up with a fresh tattoo that reads, “Translations are sacred.”

[screenshot]

Part of what makes Okja so remarkable is that Bong Joon-ho has found ways to make jokes that track across both cultural spheres. Unlike the wave of male Korean directors who crossed over into Hollywood around the same time, Park Chan-wook on Stoker or Kim Jee-woon with The Last Stand, Bong never let go of his roots. He cast Korean actors Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-sung and had them speaking Korean dialogue alongside Hollywood stars Chris Evans and Octavia Spencer in his dystopian train ride thriller Snowpiercer. He furthers the Korean-American dynamic in Okja, centering on a young Korean girl and pitting her against the forces of an American corporation headed by Tilda Swinton’s knobby-kneed CEO. Just as the dialogue shifts seamlessly between both languages, Bong easily trots around the world, from the Korean countryside dotted with persimmon trees to the underground shopping malls of Seoul to the streets of New York City.
“Director Bong is probably one of the few, if not the only, people I’ve seen so far, that’s been able to bridge the two together,” said Yeun. “I don’t mean being able to do an American movie—a lot of directors could probably do that—but bridging the two cultures together in a cohesive way. That’s a tall order, and somehow, he accomplishes that.”"
language  translation  korean  film  okja  bongjoon-ho  stevenyeun  subtlety  via:sophia  culture  thirdculturekids  liminalspaces  2017 
july 2017 by robertogreco
we live in the dark - Meta: Snowpiercer
[See also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bm9qKj1Q_OU
and http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/zunguzungu/a-snowpiercer-thinkpiece-not-to-be-taken-too-seriously-but-for-very-serious-reasons-or-the-worst-revenge-is-a-living-will/
and everything within.]

"It’s hard to know if Gilliam did conspire with Wilford to bring about Curtis’s revolution; if Gilliam intended the revolution to fail but changed his mind after the Water Section, if he always intended Curtis to take Wilford’s place; or if all that was Wilford’s lie—Gilliam warned Curtis, don’t let Wilford talk, cut out his tongue. Wilford’s knowledge of their conversation about having two arms strongly suggests that Gilliam conspired with Wilford.

But the ambiguity is the point: within capitalism you’re never certain that any “resistance” hasn’t already been co-opted and repurposed and undermined by the system you’re trying to escape.

When Curtis reaches the Front Section he falls to his knees before the Engine, overwhelmed and awed and horrified—the same quasi-religious fervour shown by Wilford and Mason. It’s reminiscent of Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, when the journey up river culminates in a view of the unseen tyrannical figurehead, an awesome and shameful creature. Curtis is the train; is the system; is Wilford’s natural & inevitable successor, the white-man heir to his throne. The man who can ensure the system’s survival and oversee the next generation of subjugated souls. Edgar inadvertently predicts this at the very beginning:
"What I mean is he’s gonna die someday. And when that happens you’re gonna have to take over. You’re going to have to run the train […] I think you’d be pretty good, if you ask me."

Curtis’s revolution serves the system it threatens—helps to fulfil the killing quotas to keep the population down. Keeps the fishtank in equilibrium.

By sacrificing his arm to stop the train and free Timmy, Curtis begins to make amends for his crimes seventeen years ago. But he’s only ever half-redeemed. He can’t ever escape, and his violence will always be reabsorbed back into the social order, drained of all its subversive power.

Most crucially, Curtis doesn’t believe in life outside the train; that survival is possible, that the result would be anything but death and annihilation. He can only imagine the train. The irony of the word “revolution” is that it describes a circle, like the endless turning of the Sacred Engine—round and round and round, forever. That would be the legacy of Curtis’s revolution—if it weren’t for Nam.

CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION

"Fundamentally, Snowpiercer is a film about parents and children, the legacies of generations. Parents should strive to leave their children the best possible world; but today’s children inherit the ideologies and inequalities and injustices of morally bankrupt predecessors. They inherit a world threatened by global warming and environmental collapse, thanks to the rapacious plunderings of capitalism.

Worse, children are taught to adore that monstrous world. Perhaps the most disturbing sequence in Snowpiercer takes place in the school car, a grotesque hypersaturated parody of a classroom environment.

You see the next generation of Front Section children taught to worship the Engine and its messianic Conductor, immunised to the violence and horror that system wreaks [in the first shot of the classroom all the children are faceless; dehumanised, as though not real children at all].

And the hand gestures they make in reverence to the Engine are the same gestures made by Tail Section children who become dehumanised organic-mechanical parts of the Engine. This is how propaganda works: it condenses an entire ideology into a few visual or verbal signs that can be replicated ad infinitum. And these privileged children are unwittingly complicit in the subjugation of Tail Section children. The system dehumanises everyone, front to tail.

The teacher responsible for “breeding” this ideology is pregnant, a symbol of perverted maternalism—a next generation already corrupted. She parallels Wilford, who sought to make Curtis the son and heir to the corrupt system. Curtis, too, is a failed father: he sacrifices his symbolic “son” Edgar in order to capture Mason; and the “new world” he intends to create for the next generation will look identical to the last. [Had Curtis died at Yekaterina, it seems clear that Edgar would’ve been groomed by Gilliam to lead the next revolution.]

On the other hand, Tanya is a brave and brilliant mother who fights and dies for the cause.

But she’s never reduced to a maternal figure: she’s a fierce revolutionary who fights and survives the Battle of Yekaterina Bridge [where dozens die], and who drives Curtis onward. Her beating by the soldiers is meant to invoke the beating by police of Rodney King which sparked the LA riots of 1992, another citizen uprising against oppressive violence [x]. In Tanya the personal and political are wound together: in her mind, political resistance and freeing her son are one and the same goal—she wants his liberation, in every sense.

And Namgoong is the real father of the revolution, Snowpiercer’s radical imagination. Before Curtis finds them, he and his daughter Yona exist in a liminal countercultural space within the train, taking hallucinogenic drugs rather than experience its horrific reality.

Namgoong is not interested in the Sacred Engine—his ideas are “above Curtis’s” [x]. Nam cares to see the world beyond the train; he knows that the conditions which “required” the train’s creation have begun to recede. Nam protects Yona at all costs; and once they pass the Water Section he begins to plan their escape. He demands more for his daughter than the same system in new [white] hands."

[More Snowpiercer:
http://www.vulture.com/2014/06/director-bong-joon-ho-talks-snowpiercers-ending.html
http://io9.com/how-bong-joon-ho-turned-snowpiercer-into-your-worst-dys-1596079364
http://www.esquire.com/blogs/culture/bong-joon-ho-snowpiercer-interview
https://vimeo.com/110329961

http://www.thestate.ae/ghosts-on-a-train/
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/07/smash-the-engine/
http://grantland.com/hollywood-prospectus/the-snowpiercaround-snowpiercer-chris-evans-bong-joon-ho/
http://www.unemployednegativity.com/2014/07/hijacking-train-revolution-and-its.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_oh4zGtRsc ]
snowpiercer  capitalism  revolution  reform  2014  bongjoon-ho  anarchism  education  indoctrination  marxism  capital  counterculture  via:sophia 
november 2014 by robertogreco

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