Parasite (2019) Nov 3, 2019 17:39:03 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Nov 3, 2019 17:39:03 GMT -5
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho
The core family in Bong Joon-ho's Parasite.
Parasite has received the kind of release and widespread global acclaim, especially in America, that films could only hope to have, and for damn good reason. In making a film that's almost effectively unclassifiable in terms of genre, not beholden to the parameters of such, co-writer/director Bong Joon-ho (working with Han Jin-won) has never felt more liberated as a filmmaker than he has with his seventh film. A cunning, cerebral little tragicomedy, if anything, it's a slowburn dash of brilliance that subverts the convention of the haves and have-nots unlike anything I've yet to see.
It also happens to be one of those films that's hard to sell without hyperbole, but I'll try my best. Just like I'll try my best to sell the plot without diving in too deeply. We follow a tight family of four who reside in a semi-basement loft. Their home is cramped, filthy, and rodent-ridden, and the family is on the brink of poverty, spending their days folding a pizzeria's boxes for petty cash and holding their phones in the right place in order to achieve the best spot to steal a coffee-shop's Wi-Fi. The patriarch is Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho in a great, subdued performance), but the saving grace, so it seems, is their son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-sik), whose friend offers to recommend him as a tutor for a high school girl he's been working with while he leaves to study abroad.
Ki-woo, who changes his name to Kevin, brings his documents and resume, forged by his sister Ki-jeong (Park So-dam in a performance with the right amount of snark and attitude), to the girl's lavish home, owned by the successful Mr. and Mrs. Park (Lee Sun-kyun and Cho Yeo-jeong, respectively). After getting the tutoring job, Kevin finds an "in" for his family at the Park's residence when he realizes Mrs. Park is looking for an art tutor for her young song. Ki-jeong, or "Jessica," as she becomes known, enters the picture. Eventually, so do mom (Jang Hye-jin) and dad through subtle trickery. The Park's grow to like their four new hard-working employees, until more sinister events unfold.
What Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won are doing as screenwriters shouldn't work, in theory. Here we have a story that intermixes satire, black comedy, drama, crime, thriller, and even mystery tendencies, sometimes all in the same scene, with several narrative twists that threaten to undermine the gracefulness of the pacing. Somehow, someway, these two keep the seams of this picture tight, allowing the interpersonal family dynamics to rise to the surface and the intrigue never to boil over and become something farcical or too obviously unrealistic. I chalk this up to the focal point of the film being class warfare, a theme Bong has handled supremely well in his previous features, the acclaimed Snowpiercer and the still-unsung Okja, released to Netflix in 2017.
The idea of class warfare permeates this film like, dare I say, an airborne disease or parasite. Consider the living conditions of the Kim family, and the fact that their ramshackle abode is in itself symbolic. Their windows are perched in a way that allows them to ever so slightly peer out and see the adjacent streets. They're not dirt-poor, even though they're close to it, and the light from the window or the view of the outside world offers them a glimmer of hope. Now consider the Park's and their spacious home, with manicured lawns, hardwood floors, priceless decor, and nooks and crannies that can house far more than just the four people who live there. This blatant contrast of the rich and the poor is evident in the way Bong and cinematographer Hong Kyung-pyo capture both locations, never in such a blunt manner, but always noticeable.
Adding to that is the idea that the rich, in all their power and success, rely on the members of the poor to do things that they don't feel compelled to do, or more accurately, can afford not to do. The Park's rely on drivers, housekeepers, and tutors to keep their slice of domesticity afloat, and the Kim's are convinced they are not so much victims of an unfair system, but rather, temporarily embarrassed and can indeed "play" wealthy if they so desire. Seeing this infiltration of the haves by the doings of the have-nots, so to speak, makes for as compelling of a conflict in any film I've yet to see, predominately due to Bong and Hong's strength in keeping the story's pacing in check. At 132 minutes, it uses its time wisely.
When it comes to Parasite, it's fair to say that in American cinema, we don't get movies quite like this too often. Nevermind a film with a careful craftsman behind it, compelled to dismantle the idea of genre and instead opt for form and narrative, but a film with such exquisite symbolism and hefty subtext. If it wasn't clear already, it's abundantly clear now: Bong Joon-ho is in the upper echelon of directors, that elite tier in which we put folks like Martin Scorsese and Christopher Nolan. This is a film that has enjoyed a lucrative run internationally, cruised its way to the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, found its way into several hundred American theaters, and is in line to win big at the Oscars. You absolutely love to see it.
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Jung Ji-so, and Jung Hyun-joon. Directed by: Bong Joon-ho.