Parasite ★★★★

"It's so metaphorical!"

Bong Joon-ho was one of the first filmmakers I fell in love with, during my big transition from movie lover to hardcore analysis driven cinephile. It must have been 2009 or 2010 when my best friend showed me Oldboy with no warning. From that day on, I was obsessed and extremely satisfied with Korean cinema: I'd go as far as saying it's my favourite international group of films. Bong was the second director I quickly latched on to after Park Chan-wook, which also brought Song Kang-ho into my world. It's safe to say that Bong's Fincher-esque yet pre-Zodiac 2003 sophomore feature film - and still his best to date - Memories of Murder put his name on the map. But it wasn't really till 2013 with his first western marketed Chris Evans led Snowpiercer, that introduced Bong to the mainstream world. It also more than likely shed some more deserved light on South Korea as an outlet for quality cinema. 

Damn, Oldboy and A Tale of Two Sisters also came out in 2003 - a banger year for Korean cinema - but Park Chan-wook and Kim Jee-woon didn't really become recognised by the masses until similar western awards buzz surrounded The Handmaiden in 2016 and I Saw the Devil's Sundance premiere in 2011. True, Park Chan-wook had victorious visits to Cannes, winning a Grand Prix (2nd best after Palme d'Or) in 2004, unjustly losing out to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. It's safe to say that by the late 2000s to early 2010s, Korea, while not a household provider for quality content, was beginning to be acknowledged as a hotbed for some excellent revenge thrillers and unique violent stories. Since then, he's gone on to to assist pre-glow up Florence Pugh to have a miraculous 2018, and will soon be directing a highly anticipated S. Craig Zahler penned western horror. And now that I think about it more, Bongs trajectory was quite similar, between his debut in 2000, and his almost marketing revival in 2013, he produced three banger Korean films, the aforementioned crime thriller Memories of Murder, the ecological creature feature The Host, and the psychological thriller Mother. I'm not trying to flex or open a door to elitist discourse, but a majority of the world had no clue who he was before the more accessible Snowpiercer and Okja (I did). And despite the fact that most of those old white boomers voting for the Academy haven't seen the film, his latest awards darling, and second best film, Parasite benefited directly from that aftermath. The western world saw what he was about with Captain America plastered on the cover, and they saw him pop back up all over Netflix with a maniacal Jake Gyllenhaal and fresh off the train Walking Dead Steven Yeun. So it was a no brainer to back this man up and market his next project immediately, which is where A24 done goofed, and Neon came on to the pitch in the best form. 

Those of you who read my Jojo Rabbit review, know that a pivotal point of Parasite and Jojo were spoiled for me. And despite my best attempts to not let it affect my viewing of Parasite specifically, I just feel that having seen just a few seconds of the party scene by innocent scrolling, really bittered my experience with the film. Having seen a particular event play out, paired with my predictive proclivity to piece things together quite fast on my own viewings, really sort of killed the entire third act for me. And frankly, the third act is quite tacked on regardless, as the tonal shift while warranted and gradually built up to, just didn't really hit the highs I think Bong expected. I obviously don't hold any ill regard towards Parasite and it's masterful direction and pacing, intelligent and hilarious script, and magnificent production design. Seriously, this film is what Home Improvement shows wish they looked like, especially with Hong Kyung-pyo’s (The Wailing, Burning, Mother, Snowpiercer) crisp cinematography! I shockingly still had a grand time, even being spoiled. It's not some grand thriller mystery on its own two feet, so I was bound to already see the shift and twists coming based on the eerie poster and how the characters unfold and unravel as the tensions rise. But please, I sincerely urge any of you who like me are late to this 2019 banger, do not watch or read anything. I went in with just the good intentions of trusting Bong's name alone, and seeing the insinuating poster: I didn't even watch the trailer (but then the aforementioned clip hit me on the head by surprise).

Parasite is Bong at his most accessible, which is why this is the film that will make him a household name. It's a shame that so many had slept on this South Korean genius, but I'm very glad to see him getting his pound of flesh. I can already tell the west is going to eat this up and try so hard to imitate and copy it, especially with how hot and obsessed everyone is to strike social commentary gold. Yet despite its serious and timely centric focus on class, capitalism, and the struggle between the haves and the have-nots (the second most popular theme of 2019, after heartwarming feel good vibes), Parasite is a comedy of errors. I was laughing through the entire runtime, save for the last 10-15min, where the lulling rhythmic excellence of the film's themes and build-up really don't stick their landings. And unlike other people, I won't spoil anything that may ruin your experience, but let's just say it still wasn't anywhere nearly as laughably atrocious as Us. Bong knows how to deliver a comprehensive film, even if I'm not the biggest fan of the ending.

Every character with the exception of the Park son and daughter really has some quality development, and the slowly degrading...parasitic...relationship is a wonder to see. And although Song Kang-ho is one of my favourite actors, the standout for me by far was the classy Cho Yeo-jeong's laughably oblivious Mrs. Park. As a whole, I was really on board with the film, but I feel like I'll be placing myself in the minority by stating that I wish Bong cut out the whole epilogue style closing minutes. I would have really appreciated the expected and far more preferred Korean ambiguity. As a matter of fact, I would have actually preferred that he had gone completely off the rails with a real bloody third act twist, in excellent Korean fashion. Alas, the hype for this film is completely warranted, and regardless of having it spoiled, it is one of the best films of 2019, and certainly one of the best products in this year's Oscars. I can see myself viewing this again, with more appreciation for the detail and tasteful pacing. And damn! That was one proper mint house and set they built just for the film.

-

BONG: RANKED

2020 BEST PICTURES: RANKED

KOREAN CINEMA: STARTER PACK

Lee, liked these reviews

All