NEW YORK -- Even as it's just hitting U.S. theaters, Bong Joon Ho's "Parasite" is already a major award-winner and a box-office smash.
"Parasite" will open in theaters Friday having already amassed $70.9 million in Bong's native South Korea, where the film notched one of the country's best opening weekends ever.
In May, "Parasite" won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, a first for a Korean film. Jury president Alejandro Iñárritu said it was a unanimous decision.
At a time of endless divineness, everyone can seemingly agree: "Parasite" is great.
"When I wake up and see the Palme d'Or trophy, it's very curious and strange," the 49-year-old director said in an interview by phone from Seoul.
But for most, there was nothing odd about Bong's win. "Parasite," a class satire about two families -- one of poor hustlers living in a subterranean dwelling subsisting on their wits and stolen Wi-Fi, the other wealthy and residing in a stylish modern mansion -- has been roundly hailed as a masterwork and a culmination of Bong's already illustrious career as a filmmaker of mischievous genre subversions, stylistic daring and warm-hearted sincerity.
Those qualities may sound almost contradictory but that's exactly the kind of head-spinning amalgamation you get in a Bong Joon Ho movie.
They -- and in particular "Parasite" -- balance humor and horror, satire and sincerity with a magical ease. You never see anything coming. You might even giggle at his cunning. You'll laugh as he devours you.
"I try to be a like a parasite. I try to burrow and dig into the audience's minds," Bong says. "I love the feeling of infiltrating into the audience without them knowing. Instead of showing-off that I'm breaking the rules of genre, I want to creep into them quietly without making any blood so that they don't realize that I'm inside them."
That mastery of audiences, combined with a childlike sense of wonder and an ecstatic imagination (Bong's previous film, "Okja," featured glorious "super pigs") has made Bong one of the few filmmakers who live up to the label of "Spielbergian." His ardent supporters include Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal and Quentin Tarantino, who attended the Cannes premiere of "Parasite."
His devoted fans have adopted the proud moniker of the "Bong Hive."
And for the Bong Hive, times are good. "Parasite" is poised to be that rare thing: a foreign language movie capable of drawing big crowds in theaters and contending at the Academy Awards.
South Korea has already made it its foreign language film submission, and the film is predicted to be in the mix in categories including best picture and best director.
"We have huge ambitions for the film," says Tom Quinn, founder and chief executive of Neon, which is distributing "Parasite" in the U.S. "We think it's a multiple-category contender in this year's Oscars race."
Such a release might give Bong the kind of moment with American moviegoers that he hasn't exactly been missing, but has thus far often been marred by distraction.