'Parasite' by South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho wins Palme d’Or in Cannes

Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho picked up a richly deserved Palme d’Or on Saturday for his “Parasite”, a brilliant family-based tragicomedy about the gap between rich and poor, wrapping up the most dazzling and political Cannes Film Festival in years, news wires reported.

A Seoul-set satire, “Parasite” follows an impoverished family’s cunning scheme to con a wealthy household into giving them jobs. Bong, whose Netflix-produced “Okja” caused a row in Cannes two years ago, is known for blending genres and defying categorization, and his latest film is perhaps his most hybrid yet, mixing social-realism, comedy and thriller, with more than a splash of horror.

While “Parasite” was also a critics’ favourite, Cannes juries have a history of confounding predictions, and the nine-member panel headed by Mexico’s Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu proved no different. Politically-charged works by newcomers were rewarded, with French directors Mati Diop (who also holds Senegalese nationality) and Ladj Ly picking up the runner-up Grand Prix and third-place Jury Prize respectively. Diop made history by becoming the first African woman to pick up a prize in Cannes’ main competition – and with her very first feature-length film too. Her bold and poetic “Atlantique” offered a fresh perspective on the refugee crisis as seen from African shores.

In “Les Misérables”, Ly delivered an angry flick on police brutality in France’s run-down suburbs, providing the social-realist shock the festival always wishes to include in its line-up. The Frenchman shared his third-place award with Brazilian duo Kleber Mendonca Filho and Juliano Dornelles, whose eerie sci-fi western “Bacurau” marked a brilliant foray into genre – and a scathing critique of Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

France’s Céline Sciamma, another newcomer to the Cannes competition, won the Best Screenplay award for her “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”, an elegant and intriguing tale of love and art in 18th century costume, carried by an all-female cast. Adding to their impressive tally of awards, two-time Palme d’Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne took Best Director for “The Young Ahmed”, about a Belgian teenager lured into violence by radical Islamists.

The hot favourite for Best Actor, Antonio Banderas was duly rewarded for his deeply moving turn as Pedro Almodovar’s persona in “Pain and Glory”. Banderas dedicated the award to the revered Spanish director, who was – yet again – snubbed for the Palme d’Or. There was more surprise when Britain’s Emily Beecham claimed the female acting prize for her part in Jessica Hausner’s “Little Joe”, a dystopian tale of genetically-modified life, widely regarded as one of the festival’s main disappointments.

Aside from Almodovar, whose “Pain and Glory” recaptured the emotional heft of his finest work, other filmmakers neglected by the jury included Quentin Tarantino, Ken Loach and China’s Diao Yinan. Tarantino gave us his best film in years – and a red carpet for the ages – with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. Loach showed he is becoming sharper at each new film with “Sorry We Missed You”, his indictment of the zero-hours gig economy. And Yinan proved he is among the world’s most visually creative directors with his fugitive thriller “The Wild Goose Lake”, which shines a seedy neon light on provincial China’s criminal underworld.

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