South Korean director Bong Joon-ho has long been the auteur of choice for film fanatics looking for a little trenchantly wicked social satire with their cracker-jack genre thrills, but the 50-year-old filmmaker has never before hit the late-night talk show circuit in America. Partly, one assumes, because he’s too damned busy preparing to freak us out, and partly because he has to bring a translator along, something that U.S. late-night hosts don’t (or can’t) traditionally incorporate into their usual patter. But the engaging, youthful-looking Bong made The Tonight Show, of all places, his first stop on the studio-booked late-night train on Monday, the same day his newest film, Parasite, scored a trio of Golden Globe nominations.
Alongside his translator (since Bong can understand English—even from Jimmy Fallon—but not express himself quite fluently enough as yet), the director started off by flummoxing the garrulous Fallon by saying, in response to the request that he talk about his film, “I’d like to say as little as possible here, because the film is best when you go into it cold.” Fallon (who, to be fair, does seem to be a big fan of Parasite), prodded his guest, stating, “Well, this is a talk show, so you have to say something.” Fair enough, although Bong’s synopsis (“It’s a story about family. The son goes into a rich house as a tutor, and the story unfolds form there.”) didn’t give Fallon much to work with, either. But at least Fallon didn’t ask the acclaimed director to play Pictionary or something, as is his way.
Instead, the director offered up the sort of practiced show-biz anecdote ready-made for this sort of thing, telling Fallon that his famously terse acceptance speech upon winning the Palm d’Or at Cannes (the first Korean film and director to ever do so), was due to the organizers’ absurdly late screening schedule. Noting that the Parasite screening was at midnight, and that he and his assembled cast and crew hadn’t had a chance to eat, Bong said that his succinct, “Thank you, let’s all go home,” was due to the eight-minute standing ovation Parasite received having stretched everyone’s hunger to the breaking point. And while Fallon didn’t get the sort of insights into Parasite that, just for two random examples, the A.V. Club’s own Cameron Sheetz or Katie Rife did recently, but, hey, it’s not bad—for TV.