J L’s review published on Letterboxd:
To be honest, I wasn’t entirely convinced by Parasite’s greatness after my first viewing. I was too emotionally overwhelmed by this rollercoaster that takes us back and forth between heaven, earth, and hell several times. So I went into this second viewing with the mindset of analyzing it intellectually, but I once again succumbed to this Six Flags of a movie, even though I knew all the plot details. If filmmaking is about making an audience feel emotion, not just through story but primarily through audiovisual elements, then this is filmmaking of the highest order. Parasite puts you through the entire spectrum of human emotion, from delight and fear to sympathy and schadenfreude, never at the moments you would expect. When it breathes, you breathe with it; when it tightens, your heart races.
That obviously requires a masterful level of precision, and Director Bong delivers. Upon second viewing, it feels obvious yet delightful to notice all the red herrings, foreshadowings, and symbols so meticulously set in stone. Not only do you feel why the camera moves, you feel exactly why it’s moving at this very speed and angle. The micro timing of specific shots and macro pacing of the entire film are so, so correct, and even the tiniest, perhaps variable details such as the facial expressions of the wonderful ensemble are engineered to absolute perfection. Yet it never feels manipulative or cold. It’s entertaining enough for you to not notice but simply feel the power of such precise filmmaking, and even if you do notice, you’ll be in awe.
Precision runs not only in the formal elements but also in the thematic side of things. Parasite has roughly one million thematic strands, and it’ll take a dissertation to cover all of them. Yet, just like the audiovisuals, it somehow miraculously evades feeling jam-packed and convoluted. It’s a mournful yet incisive indictment of late-stage capitalism, achieving the transcendent balance between specificity to 2019 South Korea and universality. It’s a castration of patriarchs, an examination of the effect of technology on morality, but above all else, a test of morality itself. Parasite challenges the viewer’s moral compass and empathy in actually meaningful and relevant ways like no other recent film I can remember. It takes you through the worlds of saints and sinners, constantly reshapes those worlds, then questions why you value those people as saints or sinners, both monetarily and morally. You’ll leave the theatre feeling attacked, and with an attack on both our senses and our worldview, a movie can’t possibly achieve anything higher.
(p.s. Watching this in Chicago is some godlike coincidence. Those Chicago jokes landed so well.)