Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture – what’s new and old in entertainment.
It’s nothing new that the international community is growing closer than ever before. K-Pop music groups like BTS are performing sold out shows throughout the states, the NFL plays games in England and Mexico and Americans watch European soccer.
But in the movie world, there is still something of a barrier to foreign language films. The most successful foreign language film in US box office history is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which made a little more than $128 million at the US box office. From there, the drop-off is significant. Only two other foreign language movies, Life is Beautiful and Hero have topped $50 million in the U.S., and none of those three movies came out this decade.
In general, Americans seem hesitant to embrace foreign-language cinema. Maybe it’s the differing sensibilities and maybe it’s the subtitles, but it does mean many Americans are missing out on some of the best films being made right now. Roma, Shoplifters and Burning were three of the best movies of 2018, and now 2019 has a potential foreign language smash hit on its hands.
Bong Joon Ho, a master director from South Korea, has made a movie called Parasite – a truly unique, thrilling movie that is funny and tense and notably is not a superhero movie. It is shocking and scary and disturbing and touching. It is one of the year’s most gripping movies, and certainly one of its most unforgettable. And thankfully, it is breaking through with American audiences. In its opening weekend, Parasite made $376,264 in three theaters, which marked the best per-venue average income since La La Land and the best for a foreign-language film ever. In its second weekend, it made more than $1 million in just 33 theaters. It’s 99% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and most importantly, it’s just fantastic filmmaking, wholly worthy of audiences’ time and attention.
It’s definitely a movie where the less you know, the better, so it’s probably best to avoid too much information ahead of time, but if you want to keep up with the best movies of the year, Parasite is a must-see.
I’m Evan Rook.