Celestine Pang’s review published on Letterboxd:
There is little doubt that Korean film director, Bong Joon-Ho, has already cemented his name among the great modern film directors of Asia. Many of his films do not fit into a particular genre and often they are labelled as unclassifiable. An unclassifiable bunch of wonders that are filled with genuinely constructed stories and brazenly expressed themes. Only a few directors manage to scream out their themes as loud as their plot. He is one of them.
From aggressively haunting films such as “Memories of Murder” to pure social entertainment such as “Okja”, Bong’s works have intoxicatingly stuck with audiences. Even those who didn’t understand the langauge and were forced to read the subtitles. He is a director with unbashful rage and his not so subtle expression of his feelings to his work, only serves to elevate them. “Parasite” (기생충) is Bong Joon-Ho in his absolute element. A filmmaker with such a caliber of skill in his craft and with absolute control of said skill, will undoubtedly produce great results. “Parasite” is prove of that and winning the coveted Palme d’Or in the 2019 Cannes film festival is merely just further evidence.
“Parasite” is pure lunacy, in all the right ways. Reminiscent of the absurdity of Lanthimos’ “Dogtooth”, yet amplified. The film is a weird blend of grotesque and humor that doesn’t appears to be B-movie in any way. Bong is back with this signature blend of his. Audiences and fans of his films have already come to realize his outrage towards modern society from his recent films such as “Snowpiercer” and aforementioned “Okja” but no way is he angrier than he is making “Parasite”. Without giving any plot details away, this is a film that parallels greatly with the state of the modern Korean society or even any other modern day society. He shows us how fragile the barriers of social class are while using that as another metaphor of how fragile the human spirit can be.
Many of the themes present here are similar to that of, coincidently, last year’s Palme d’Or winner, Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters”. Even some of the plot points bear resemblance to that. However, “Parasite” is in every way a superior film and again, without giving anything away, think of it as “Shoplifters” but cranked up the craziness. I personally felt that Kore-eda’s film faced with tonal and structural issues that split the film into two distinct segments. “Parasite” blends its two halves more seamlessly and progressively.
There is a mischievous, diabolical nature in the first hour and all that shifts gear into a rage filled, suspenseful commentary on social inequality by the end. In fact, the first half could be seen as veering towards the quirky, heist comedy genre while the second half is pure dark thriller territory. Yet, Bong manages to blend the two together. His ability to create more resonant characters despite how unusual they behave gives it a slight edge over “Shoplifters”. At least, in here, you feel the desperation and not get lost in Kore-eda’s fantasy. With that said, this two films are going to be compared a lot from time to come, mark my words.
It is tough to not feel latched on by this film when the credit rolls. As immensely repulsive as some of the things that happened in the film are and how the characters behave, you can’t help but realize the sickly, mayhem attracted stench of humanity slowly bleeding through the screen. The film ends and you return to the state of where you were. Yet, you want to jump back inside the screen and get away from the true nature of this present society. That’s the power of Bong Joon-Ho’s films. The crueler they are, the more satisfying and realistic they become. We are all creatures made for one goal, survival and rarely have I seen survivalism being capture in such operatic and profound nature in any medium before.
Despite being my first watch, I feel that, at this present moment, "Parasite" may be the greatest Korean film I have ever witnessed. This also once again, supports my theory that Koreans may have perfected the art of filmmaking. Do yourself a favor and as ironic as this may sound, do not read anything about this masterpiece, just go and watch it.