Film review by Jason Day of Parasite, the satirical drama that examines relations between the upper and working classes in modern day South Korea. Directed by Bong Joon Ho.
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The Kim family share many social. They are out of work, feckless, critical, negative and inveterate freeloaders, scuttling around their basement apartment to find the smallest patch of free Wi-Fi they can pinch from their neighbours.
When young Kim (Woo-sik Choi) accidentally lands a job as a tutor to a rich teenage girl, he spies opportunities to worm his opportunistic relatives into the fabric of her household.
One by one, the Kim family replace their staff are replaced and parasitically enjoy the high life. But will their fraudulence remain undetected?
Review, by @Reelreviewer
This film has just about everything in it for just about everyone. It is the whole world in one film.
One thing most film critics and cinema lovers have admitted over the past two weeks is how no one expected Parasite to win big at the Academy Awards.
For how could a relatively inconsequential, but at the same time incredible, social satire from South Korea ever have more than have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the Oscar for Best Picture.
Not on your Nelly.
The fact that it did (and for Best Director, Original Screenplay and International Feature Film) caught most of us on the hop and proved – as if further proof were needed – what screenwriter William Goldman once said about what makes a successful movie: “nobody knows anything.”
But what we do know is that great movies should but don’t always win big on Oscar night and this is a fabulous film*.
Dissections of society and the class system lend themselves well to movie satire. Luis Bunuel made a career out of it on the continent and Joseph Losey, first in America and then in Europe, made the stunning The Servant (1963) and many more thereafter.
As with their movies, Parasite works well by making light digs and observations at firs and layers on the detail to build to a devastating climax.
The families are polar opposites. It is no accident the Kim’s live in the squalor of a dark, fetid basement flat with tiny, greasy rooms packed with the pizza boxes they are paid to make, the concrete outside frequently splashed by the neighbourhood lush.
In contrast the Park’s palatial house is saturated with light, has open spaces, cleanliness and orderliness, the lawns watered by pop-up sprinklers.
The Kim’s replacing of the Park’s servants is treated with a broad comic style. The daughter, after blagging herself an in-house role as an art therapist after googling what it entailed, leaves her underwear in the car getting the chauffeur instantly sacked.
Once Daddy is in post, she then sprinkles peach flakes on the housekeeper and helps the nice but dim lady of the manor believe she has TB.
It’s true this film is a microcosm of society…and cinema. It has just about everything for just about everyone. It is the whole world in one film.
High drama, lowbrow comedy, moments that will have you laughing out loud, scenes of bloody violence and others that are so meaningful and moving they will have you welling up.
Bong Joon Ho covers a lot of ground in just over two hours and you really get your money’s worth.
It’s difficult to pick one of the fantastic performances above the others; Parasite is one of those films that deserves awards for best ensemble cast. If I were to pick one, it would be the delectably garrulous Hye-jin Jang as Mama Kim.
For anyone who hasn’t touched on Korean cinema yet, forget the fact they use subtitles and get to it. You only need to glance at them because the movies are generally so well made, visually superb and edited with such elan that you’ll quickly get the gist.
And I’m not alone in praising Parasite. I saw the movie with my good friend Emma Carpendale who said: ” It was amazing! Tense, funny, moving and such superb acting. So pleased it won all the awards, very well deserved.”
*FYI, an extra note. The Oscar show this year was a fun affair – despite the occasional political platitudes – with much entertainment, but the most endearing moments involved the Parasite crew, particularly Bong Joon Ho.
He mentioned more than once that he was going to enjoy a drink, which became a running joke as the ceremony continued as he was denied a sip by continually winning statuettes. Priceless!
For more, see the official Neon film website.
Cast & credits
Director: Bong Joon Ho. 2 hr 12 min/132 min. Barunson E&A/CJ E&M Film Financing & Investment Entertainment & Comics/CJ Entertainment/TMS Comics/TMS Entertainment. (15)
Producers: Bong Joon Ho, Kwak Sin Ae, Moon Yang Kwon, Jang Young Hwan.
Writers: Bong Joon Ho, Jin Won Han.
Camera: Kyung-pyo Hong.
Music: Jaeil Jung.
Sets: Ha-jun Lee.
Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, Woo-sik Choi, So-dam Park, Jeong-eun Lee, Hye-jin Jang, Ji-so Jung, Myeong-hoon Park, Seo-joon Park.