For this week’s blog task, you are asked to write a short, 500-word film review of a film you have seen, made by an ‘auteur’ director with a distinctive personal style.
Ahead of writing your review we recommend that you research this task in the following ways:
1) Research your chosen director and their cultural context
2) Look at examples of film reviews to get a feeling for critics’ styles. Consider what they choose to focus on in their reviews, though try to avoid reviews of the film you plan to write about, as other reviewers could influence your judgement. Metacritic is a useful site where can read a range of film reviews by respected critics: https://www.metacritic.com/
3) Revisit your week 1 ‘glossary’ blog post for useful terminology
4) Revisit the notes you’ve made this week about the criteria you personally use to evaluate films
Auteurism is a critical approach to the study of film which identifies the director as responsible for whatever the viewer finds of thematic, stylistic or structural interest in a single film or across a body of work by one director.
Auteur is a French term meaning author. The idea of auteurism in relation to film originated in the pages of the film journal Cahiers du Cinéma in the 1950s to refer to directors who infuse their films with their distinctive personal vision through the salient manipulation of film technique.
Auteurs, seen as genuine artists, were contrasted with metteurs-en-scène who were held to be technically competent directors who merely executed the processes of filmmaking without consistently stamping their ‘personality’ on the material from one film to the next.
Bong Joon-ho is a South Korean filmmaker. His films feature social themes, genre-mixing, dark humour, and sudden tone shifts. In 2017, Metacritic ranked Bong 13th on its list of the 25 best film directors of the 21st century. His main inspirations are from Guillermo del Toro, Oshima Nagisa and Martin Scorsese.
His process when working with actors is to give them a high amount of freedom when performing, even allowing them to improvise. Bong has commented that he doesn’t like the term ‘Directing Actors’ as he feels that “acting is the actor’s job and it’s something I don’t feel like I can direct”.
Actor Ed Harris described Bong’s shooting process as “cutting while filming”. “If I was doing a scene and it was a couple of pages long, he would never shoot the whole thing one way. He’d shoot a few lines, like the first beat of the scene, and then he would turn the camera around and get my part for that part of the scene. Then he would change the angle a little bit”. He additionally noted that “the editor was sitting right there on the stage, right below the set with a big tent, actually getting the footage as they were filming. Fellow actor Daniel Henshall notes: “Bong only shoots what he’s going to use in the edit. Doesn’t do any coverage. I’ve never worked like that before. You’re trimming the fat before you’ve shot it, which is very brave, because when you get into the edit, if something’s missing you haven’t got it. He’s been planning it for four years that meticulously”.
Okja – Bong Joon-Ho
2017 – social commentary on industry, class, rich & poor – common Bong Joon-Ho themes.
From watching a handful of Bong Joon-Ho films, I can notice specific styles and themes in which the director follows when creating films. Joon-Ho for example, often follows themes surrounding the discussion of class divide, rich and poor and often the film as a whole turns out to be some kind of social commentary. Asked to write a film review of a film I have seen made by an auteur, I believe that Bong Joon-Ho fits the description of an auteur due to the flare and unique style of his films.
Bong Joon-Ho is a South Korean director and filmmaker and as previously mentioned, has a unique filmmaking style. His films like to make a note on social themes, mixing genre’s and sudden tonal shifts. First gaining recognition for his second feature film in 2003, Memories of Murder. He later gained more popularity for films such as 2006’s, The Host, and 2013’s, Snowpiercer. Most famously, he recently won the title of Best Picture, Best Director and Best International Film at the 2020 Oscars for his 2019 film, Parasite. Along with these, his 2017 film, Okja, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival, is the film I will be discussing today.
A film that impacted me in such a way, I cried for 4 hours after viewing – I wasn’t aware before viewing what an, apologies for the cliche saying, emotional rollercoaster this film would take me on. Already being vegan, I thought I was doing my part for the planet and the abolishment agricultural industry… but Okja truly made me feel like I could do more and wanted to beg people to stop giving money to the industry. As an animal lover, this film truly shone a light on how powerful a bond can be between animals and humans – and despite the “super pig” being a fictional animal; my heart still yearned the same. The film itself takes tonal risks and doesn’t conform to a forward plot – the contrast between the characters which exemplifies the class and racial differences between western countries and the South Korean country-side/farm land is strong – a constant theme throughout many of Joon-Ho’s repertoire. Many of his films also contain a commentary on the consequences that befall humanity and Nature when corporate interests rule such as The Host and Snowpiercer.
A property of this film that stands out the most are the tonal shifts in the film and how the genre seems to continuously change – leaving the viewer guessing and waiting in anticipation. Not knowing if you’re going to be laughing or crying in the next 10 seconds, he didn’t shy away from the cruelty animals face and how it affects others. Nonetheless, I feel as if that some of the characters in the western world such as characters played by Tilda Swindon and Jake Gyllenhaal are under developed and often feels jarring in the storyline. However, I believe that that is done purposefully… Joon-Ho is wanting you to emotionally connect more with the animals and the characters of lower class, not the industry fuelled mechanical money-makers.