Cannes Film Festival
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South Korean director Park Chan-Wook at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France on May 28. Photo: AFP

South Korean actor and director shine at Cannes Film Festival

  • Park Chan-wook clinched the best director award for Decision To Leave while Song Kang-ho picked up the best actor gong for Broker
  • Ruben Ostlund’s social satire Triangle of Sadness won the Palme d’Or, handing Ostlund one of cinema’s most prestigious prizes for a second time

The South Korean cinema industry added to a global winning streak on Saturday by scooping two key prizes at the 75th Cannes Film Festival for a pair of beloved veterans.

Star filmmaker Park Chan-wook clinched the best director award for his erotic crime film Decision To Leave while Song Kang-ho, best known for his role in the Oscar-winning Parasite, picked up the best actor gong for Broker.

Ruben Ostlund’s social satire Triangle of Sadness won the Palme d’Or, handing Ostlund one of cinema’s most prestigious prizes for a second time.

Song Kang-ho, winner of the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival in France on May 28. Photo: AP

Best actress went to Zar Amir Ebrahimi for her performance as a journalist in Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider, a true-crime thriller about a serial killer targeting sex workers in the Iranian religious city of Mashhad. Violent and graphic, Holy Spider was not permitted to shoot in Iran and instead was made in Jordan.

Accepting the award, Ebrahimi said the film depicts “everything that’s impossible to show in Iran.”

Park’s Cannes entry came nearly two decades after his Oldboy, which won the festival’s second-highest prize in 2004.

That mind-bending shocker helped catapult South Korean cinema on to the global stage – years before Parasite, which won the 2019 Palme d’Or and best picture at the 2020 Academy Awards.

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Park, 58, told the Cannes audience he was bullish about the future of cinema.

“With the pandemic, borders were closed. We were very afraid of each and theatres were empty, but little by little, audiences will rediscover cinema,” Park said.

Decision to Leave features Chinese star Tang Wei and Korean actor Park Hae-il and tells the story of a detective who, investigating a man’s fatal fall from a mountain, comes under the spell of the victim’s wife, whom he suspects of having caused her husband’s death.

The detective story, which drew comparisons with the far more sexually explicit thriller Basic Instinct, increasingly meshes with the mutual attraction engulfing the main characters.

Actress Tang Wei at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France on May 24. Photo: EPA-EFE

“I’m not a romantic, but I’m very interested in the expression of emotions,” Park told said when the film premiered at the festival.

The film’s mesmerising soundtrack includes the Adagietto in Gustav Mahler’s 5th Symphony, immortalised in the 1971 film Death In Venice by Luchino Visconti.

Park said the film drew inspiration from the methodical police work contained in the Swedish Martin Beck crime thriller books. “That’s what I wanted to represent in a movie,” he said.

Decision To Leave was warmly received by Cannes audiences. The BBC called it a “cracking romantic thriller” and Britain’s Screen magazine said it was a “deeply satisfying” tale.


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Song, 55, won acting honours for his role in Broker, about a woman dropping off an unwanted child in a “baby box” for adoption.

He plays a kind-hearted middle man trying to sell the infant to a loving family in the Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s first Korean-language feature.
Kore-eda won the Palme d’Or in 2018 for his touching family tale Shoplifters.

“I am very happy for my whole family,” Song said as he accepted the trophy at the gala ceremony on the French Riviera.

Something of a national treasure, Song has starred in several of the divided country’s greatest films.

From left, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda and South Korean actors Lee Joo-Young, Lee Ji-Eun, Song Kang-Ho and Gang Dong-Won at the closing ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May. Photo: AFP
Song has made four films with Parasite director Bong Joon-ho including the 2006 monster flick The Host and Bong’s first English-language film Snowpiercer, both of which were box office and critical smashes.

Starting his career on stage, Song made his first film appearance in 1996 in now-acclaimed director Hong Sang-soo’s debut film, The Day a Pig Fell into a Well.

Since then, he has appeared in more than 30 films and worked with top South Korean filmmakers including Park Chan-wook, Kang Je-gyu and Lee Chang-dong.

British film magazine Screen called Broker “a sensitive and compassionate look at the market for unwanted children” while US film website IndieWire said it was a “bittersweet and complex family drama”.

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This year’s award for best first film, the Camera d’Or, went to Riley Keough and Gina Gammell for War Pony, a drama about the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, US made in collaboration with Oglala Lakota and Sicangu Lakota citizens.

Saturday’s closing ceremony brings to a close a Cannes that has attempted to fully resuscitate the annual France extravaganza which was cancelled in 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic and saw modest crowds last year.

This year’s festival also unspooled against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, which sparked red-carpet protests and a dialogue about the purpose of cinema in wartime.

Last year, the French body horror thriller Titane took the top prize at Cannes, making director Julia Decournau only the second female filmmaker ever to win the Palme. In 2019, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite triumphed at Cannes before doing the same at the Academy Awards.

This year, the biggest Hollywood films at Cannes – Elvis, Top Gun: Maverick, Three Thousand Years of Longing – played outside Cannes’ competition line-up of 21 films. But their presence helped restore some of Cannes’ glamour after the pandemic meant a scaled-down festival for the past two years.