Features and Columns · Movies

What Bong Joon-ho Can Teach Us About Transnational Cinema

Time to dig into some film theory.
By  · Published on May 7th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about how the films of Bong Joon-ho tap into the tricky art of transnational cinema.

It only took 92 years, but in one of the few objectively good things to happen in 2020, Parasite became the first non-English language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. But, as anyone who has kept abreast of Bong Joon-ho’s career will tell you, this cross-cultural victory was no surprise: Bong Joon-ho’s filmography is the definition of transnational cinema.

An emerging concept in cinema studies, transnational cinema encompasses a wide swath of theories that have to do with globalization’s effect on the cultural and economic aspects of a given film. And one of the theoretical playgrounds under transnational cinema’s auspices is the idea of movies that intermingle the aesthetics, genre conventions, and cinematic styles of one culture, with the socio-political concerns and themes of another.

The video essay below argues that that Bong Joon-ho, an admitted media junkie, is a textbook example of this notion: seamlessly bending Korean culture and politics into films pointedly influenced by classical Hollywood style. The essay positions Memories of Murder and Mother as distinct examples; films that parallel the conventions of hardboiled detective stories and Hitchcockian thrillers, and enrich them with deeper cultural themes that deliberately focus on South Korean society and politics.

Watch “Bong Joon-Ho: The Art of Transnational Cinema“:

Who made this?

Based out of the UK, Masters of Movies has been releasing video essays on YouTube over the last year. You can follow them on Twitter here. They also post reviews and blog posts on their website, including a list of ten underrated films to watch during quarantine (2018’s An Elephant Sitting Still is an inspired pick).

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.