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Bong Joon Ho Couldn’t See ‘Apocalypse Now’ Until South Korea Lifted Ban, Credits Film as Inspiration

"Parasite" director Bong was on hand at the Lumière Festival to honor "Apocalypse Now" director Francis Ford Coppola with a lifetime achievement prize.

bong joon ho

Bong Joon Ho

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Francis Ford Coppola’s ambitious and notoriously troubled anti-Vietnam masterpiece “Apocalypse Now,” released in 1979, no doubt remains a defining moment for both cinephiles and audiences. At the ongoing Lumière Festival in Lyon, France, South Korean director Bong Joon Ho — who currently has a masterpiece of his own on his hands with the now-in-theaters “Parasite” — gushed over the film while onstage to honor Coppola with the festival’s lifetime achievement award.

At the French film festival, which presents restorations and retrospectives of classic films, Bong was joined by a crew of top talent including actress Nathalie Baye and Coppola’s son Roman. Also participating in the tribute to Coppola were famed Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Frémaux and filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier. Bong said that he was unable to see “Apocalypse Now” until 1988, nearly a decade after the film’s release, because it was banned in his native country. (Two years ago, South Korea banned Bong’s film “Okja” in many theaters, but not for political reasons.)

“You actually represent my highest goal,” Bong said to Coppola, adding that “Apocalypse Now” inspired him to want to become a filmmaker, according to Variety. As a feature director, Bong first broke out with 2000’s “Barking Dogs Don’t Bite.”

Coppola, whose recently restored “The Cotton Club” is now in select U.S. theaters, said as he accepted the lifetime achievement prize, “You work on something, you put it out there and you don’t know where it’s going to go or who’s going to see it. And I always felt that the greatest gratification of all is if some young person sees something that I worked on and decides that they want to write a novel or make a film.”

Reflecting on his epic career, Coppola also said, “Learning is one of the few human pleasures that you don’t get fat doing, you don’t get diabetes, and your wife doesn’t get angry at you. How many things can we do where you do all you want, and there’s no bad effects?”

And his advice to fledgling filmmakers? “The things you get fired for when you’re young are the same things you get the lifetime achievement award for later on!”

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