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The Host Has The Most
Bong Joon-ho's latest screens in Cannes

23 May 2006  |  Written by   

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While the red carpet awaited Hugh, Halle and all their X-friends for X-Men: The Last Stand's Cannes premiere yesterday, Empire discovered a very different mutation – a rather unexpected little treat, in fact – just down the Croisette, away from the Palais. Screening as part of the Director's Fortnight, Korean helmer Bong Joon-ho's The Host is a wonderfully idiosyncratic creature feature, concerning the rampage of a giant, tadpole-thing in Seoul's Han River.

Yet it's about so much more than that – as Bong explained before the screening's start, the star of the show isn't the monster so much as the dysfunctional family (including an aloholic ex-student, a narcoleptic drop-out and a bronze-medallist Olympic archer) who rather chaotically set out to try and vanquish it. Working as a slapstick black comedy, a touching family drama and a horror – while making political jabs at American interventionism along the way – it's certainly the most interesting and entertaining film we've seen here so far.

Earlier today, Empire caught up with Bong, whose last movie – the excellent Memories Of Murder – similarly toyed with the serial killer genre. "I've always been a fan of creature films," he told us, "especially Godzilla. But what inspired me to make it was imagining what it would be like if the Loch Ness monster lived in the Han River."

Another impressive movie, although one of a very different flavour, was Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel, the director's follow-up to 21 Grams, which stars Cate Blanchett and a surprisingly grey and wrinkly Brad Pitt. It's another multi-stranded, time-hopping narrative for Inarritu, involving a Moroccan goat-herding family, a Mexican nanny and her two American charges, a holidaying couple with issues, and a deaf-mute Japanese teenage schoolgirl. The connection? One rifle.

Not every critic fell for it – there were complaints of too much contrivance, in particular – but it's an effective, involving study of parent/child relationships and, more generally, miscommunication, both on a global and personal level. Inarritu's toned down the tricksy editing this time, too; "I made this film more linear because I didn't want people to be too distracted by the structure," he explained at the press conference, during which the movie's title asserted its relevance – it was a translator's nightmare, with questions and answers thrown about in Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Japanese.

Oh, and this just in about Southland Tales (about which the critical stink just refuses to disperse): it would seem that Richard Kelly's already decided to slice around 45 minutes from it. Fingers crossed it makes a difference…

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