Korean thriller 'Parasite' wins Palme d'Or, as Brit Emily Beecham takes home Best Actress prize

Director Bong Joon-ho, Palme d'Or award winner for his film "Parasite"
Director Bong Joon-ho, Palme d'Or award winner for his film "Parasite" Credit: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

A Korean thriller called ‘Parasite’ has won the prestigious Palme d’Or, ahead of Quentin Tarantino’s star-studded Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, making Bong Joon-ho the first ever Korean filmmaker to win the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

Described as “a film that burrows under your skin and sinks in its teeth,” by The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin, the blood-splattered satire was so popular on the French Riviera that a grassroots fan club sprung up calling itself the ‘Bonghive’.

Bong Joon-ho made an appearance at the festival in 2017 with ‘Okja’ - a Netflix production, in the year that the streaming giant was banned from the competition.

In the press conference afterwards, he said: “It’s the 100th anniversary of cinema in Korea this year. I think that Cannes has given Korean cinema a great gift.”

But it was disappointment for Quentin Tarantino and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which was not recognised by the jury.

Starring Leonardo Di Caprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie, the ode to pre-Manson Hollywood builds to an incredible climax, which Tarantino has begged audiences not to reveal.

British Actress Emily Beecham, who won a prize for her role in the film "Little Joe" Credit: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

There was success for British talent, with Emily Beecham picking up the award for best actress for her role in chilly sci-fi fable, 'Little Joe'.

Beecham plays the heroine, Alice, a slightly aloof single mother who is developing a genetically engineered plant designed to make people happy. The film also stars Ben Whishaw.

Afterwards, she told The Telegraph that the boon in British female actresses receiving prizes was down to people like Jodie Comer and Olivia Coleman being "particularly talented actresses working with fantastic scripts."

She is only the fourth British actress to win this prize, after Helen Mirren, Brenda Blethyn and Kathy Burke - who was the last Brit to win the award, in 1997.

Beecham said that she had been phoned by a producer on Saturday morning who told her to take a plane to the south of France for the ceremony. She had no idea she would be flying back a winner.

The prize for best actor was awarded to Antonio Banderas, who jokingly crawled onto the stage to collect his prize. He played a filmmaker named Salvador Mallo, whose greatest works are behind him, in a nostalgic film by Pedro Almodovar called ‘Pain and Glory’.

The Grand Prix was won by Mati Diop, the first black female director to have a film in competition at Cannes. ‘Atlantique’, a shape-shifting Senegalese drama was described by The Telegraph as  pure cinematic poetry.

This year’s jury, made up of four men and four women was headed by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu and featured American actress Elle Fanning, and ‘The Favourite’ Director, Yorgos Lanthimos.

Ken Loach’s painfully immediate look at a struggling family in the gig economy, called 'Sorry We Missed You' was also in the running for the top prize, but missed out.

Of the 21 films selected to be in the competition only one was roundly panned by critics - Abdellatif Kechiche’s "Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo", which the Telegraph described as “a pointlessly pornographic, bottom-obsessed bore-athon”.

Away from the main ceremony, Quentin Tarantino collected the 'Palm Dog' prize for best performance by a canine in a film, for Brandy the American pitbull in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Credit: Natalie HANDEL / AFP

The jury prize was awarded to two films: Les Misérables and Bacurau. The former, by first-time director Ladj Ly is a French social-realist drama, while Bacurau is a bloodsoaked Brazilian sci-fi Western.

The award for best director was given to Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who premiered ‘Le Jeune Ahmed’.

French director Celine Sciamma won the best screenplay award for 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire', in a move which upset the home crowd, who wanted to see it take the top prize.

The Camera d’Or, for the best first feature at the festival was awarded to Guatemalan director César Diaz, for ‘Nuestras Madres’ - a film about the fallout of the Guatemalan civil war.

Earlier in the week, Quentin Tarantino did receive one prize - the ‘Palm Dog’ on behalf of Brandy, the American pitbull which stars in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. In a surreal sequence, Tarantino turned up at a beach bar to collect a dog collar and then gave a rousing speech in which he thanked the jury “from the bottom of my black heart.” Though not an official prize, it was one of the highlights of the festival.