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Saturday, February 8, 2014
Posting the other day from the Berlin International Film Festival, Jeffrey Wells stated that "Journos with geek-leaning tastes are trying to get into the Berlinale screenings of Joon-ho Bong‘s Snowpiercer. I know it’s not going to do it for me so I couldn’t care less. I concluded after seeing Mother that Joon-ho Bong is basically a Brian De Palma pretender. He might not be as 'bad' as Park Chan-wook (Stoker) but he’ll do until the next Chan-wook film comes along."

This led Film Freak Central's Bill Chambers to tweet, "Wells calling Bong Joon-ho a Brian De Palma pretender might be the most ill-informed thing he's ever written in the last two days." (See the whole tweet with responses below.) As we noted in 2009, Wells caught a screening of Mother at that year's Cannes Film Festival, and, writing again at his Hollywood Elsewhere blog, called it "a richly stylized Brian De Palma-esque thriller about a mom who mightily endeavors to prove that her mentally handicapped son, accused of killing a young girl, is innocent. There's no doubting that Bong Joon Ho is a De Palma devotee in the same way that De Palma was a Hitchcock acolyte in the '70s and '80s. Mother was by far the most interesting sit because of his immaculate and exacting composition of each and every element. The result is consistently flourishy and at times operatic -- deliberately unnatural, conspicuously acted, very much a director's film. Ho is coming, however, from a fairly well-worn genre place, although I'll give him points for delivering a surprising third-act twist."

And it turns out that perhaps Wells is on to something with the De Palma comparison. At last fall's Busan International Film Festival, according to Twitch, Joon-ho mentioned that as a kid, he was inspired by American films that he later learned were made by the likes of De Palma and John Carpenter. The trick is that Joon-ho did not yet understand English, and so he developed his imagination by reconstructing the stories of the films in his head.

Joon-ho mentioned this during a double-interview with Quentin Tarantino, moderated by Scott Foundas. Tarantino headed out to the festival just to meet Joon-ho after he'd heard from a mutual friend that they were hanging out with Joon-ho at the fest. Twitch's Kwenton Bellette, who posted the selective transcription of the discussion, wrote that, reportedly, "insiders" were suggesting that Joon-ho had been "extremely unhappy" with edits to Snowpiercer, apparently mandated by the notoriously edit-happy Weinstein Company. Bellette speculated that, as "Weinstein stock", Tarantino had been sent there to calm Joon-ho down, but it seems more likely that Tarantino was simply there because he enjoyed Joon-ho's films.

Joon-Ho's citing of De Palma and Carpenter came after Tarantino answered Foundas' question about which filmmakers from Asia had been an inspiration. Here is What Joon-ho said: "I must say my hero in Korean film must be the director of the original Housemaid, Kim Ki-young. Other than this, when I was a kid we have a Korean American broadcast station. At midnight I would sneak out and watch these very sexual and very violent movies. Later I learned these were films by directors like John Carpenter and Brian De Palma, but at the time I could not understand any English so I reconstructed the stories of them in my head, which greatly helped my imagination."

Posted by Geoff at 4:25 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 8, 2014 4:29 PM CST
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