The concept of time has changed entirely during the coronavirus pandemic, but yes, it really has been just three (3) months since Parasite’s game-changing haul at the Oscars. The South Korean film, directed by Bong Joon-Ho picked up four awards, including its historic win for Best Picture. It remains the only good thing to have happened in 2020.
But while Parasite’s Oscars breakthrough came as a welcome surprise, Bong’s back catalogue has long performed well with audiences in the US and the rest of the Western world; he’s been directing films for two decades. Two of his earlier Korean language films, monster movie The Host and thriller Mother, both did numbers commercially and racked up great reviews. He also directed and co-wrote two English language movies that saw him work alongside a number of major Western actors: the Netflix-backed pig-hippo caper Okja, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and Snowpiercer.
Snowpiercer a dystopian thriller, lavished with critical acclaim and bolstered by an all-star cast that includes Chris Evans, Parasite’s Song Kang Ho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell and Octavia Spencer. But the film was, at one point, destined to become a footnote in Bong’s back catalogue. Shortly after it wrapped filming, The Weinstein Company acquired the rights to distribute the film in a number of countries including North America and the UK, which is where the production’s troubles began…
Full feature for i-D
Until going up the jungle in The Lost City of Z (2016) and now into deep space with Ad Astra, the films of American director James Gray – from Little Odessa (1994) to Two Lovers (2008) – all told stories of New York, with many focusing on immigrant families. His 2013 ode to classical melodrama, The Immigrant, was the culmination of that interest.
Set in 1921, it sees Polish immigrant Ewa (Marion Cotillard) tricked into a life of Manhattan burlesque and prostitution as she tries to fund the release of her ill sister, who has been confined to Ellis Island. She also finds herself caught in a toxic love triangle between Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), the charmer pimp who got her there, and his chivalrous magician cousin, Emil (Jeremy Renner).
Featuring contenders for Cotillard and Renner’s career-best performances, reliably magnetic work from Phoenix, and cinematography from Darius Khondji that simultaneously evokes 19th-century painting, silent cinema and the 70s highpoints of Godfather cinematographer Gordon Willis, The Immigrant is a beautiful and devastating slow-burn drama. Its closing act, particularly the lingering final shot, must count among the finest American filmmaking of this decade.
So, why was the film never released in the UK?
Full feature for the BFI
Founded in 1946, Switzerland’s Locarno Festival is one of the world’s longest-running film festivals, known for its arthouse-favouring programming, extensive retrospectives and nightly open-air screenings in the Piazza Grande, which can seat 8000 spectators. The latter is by no means the only venue, but it’s the one most associated with the festival. Having attended for the first time last year, we often recall the memory of seeing Ethan Hawke’s directorial effort Blaze amid a rare torrential downpour in the otherwise scorching town.
Taking place by Lake Maggiore at the southern foot of the Swiss Alps, Locarno can be quite pricey to attend because almost none of the food on offer is cheap, but the very welcoming atmosphere makes up for a lot. The intermingling of public, industry and press attendees every night, particularly at select pubs open until 3am, is unlike any other festival we’ve experienced. Where else might you see Béla Tarr exit an otherwise amicable-seeming conversation with Pedro Costa with a “fuck off” before getting in a car? Hopefully that’s how he says goodbye to everyone…
Full feature for The Skinny
“Someone said it’s very difficult to define, this movie. For me, that is the biggest praise.” South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho is speaking of his latest project, but such a query of genre and tonal classification could easily be applied to most of his prior features as a director – from debut Barking Dogs Never Bite to Memories of Murder, The Host, Mother and Snowpiercer. With pretty much all of them, you think you know what you’re going to get based on a glance at the plot synopsis, only for a considerably different beast to emerge during viewing; sometimes multiple different beasts…
Full interview for The Skinny