Parasite ★★★★


Bong, most of the films of whom (particularly the two most recent ones, SNOWPIERCER and OKJA) are about class warfare, obviously thinks that money is the root of all evil.

He’s back working in Korea and back with yet another parable about class divisions and manners, the seductive nature of greed, and about how far it is morally acceptable for a poor person to go in order to redress the balance a bit. Parasite is a tricky, provocative and acidically funny black comedy, and one of undeniable, manifest technical prowess. It is immaculately directed from the get go with evocative and subtle (yet often striking) shot compositions, sequences and photography. It quickly gets under your skin and stays there for the duration (and likely remains there for long after).

When we first meet Ki-woo and his family, they’re scrambling around their basement flat trying to find some free wifi they can use to check their WhatsApp messages for a potential job offer. But they soon come across a way to earn some good money when a friend of Ki-woo’s puts him forward for a tutoring job with the wealthy Park family. But that’s only the start of things, that progressively get more and more complicated and deranged. Ki-woo and his family, his father Ki-taek (the great Song Kang-ho, surprisingly somewhat underused and/or subdued), his mother Yeon-kyo and their his sister Ki-jung turn out to be quite adept scammers, quickly hatching a plan to get their hands on a larger chunk of the money of the (impossibly gullible) Parks.

And an infinitely fascinating, mischievous, tense, prescient and often brutal social satire (which is sometimes a little too on the nose) results, delving into the absurd rituals and anxieties of the wealthy, as well as the way money has the inexorable power to change everyone for the worse. And yet there are no really unlikeable characters in it, with everybody being allowed to have flaws that find their origins in everybody’s personal circumstances, which is a considerable surprise bearing in mind how cut-throat most seem to be in their pursuit of money. Despite this, it feels quite Dickensian and has notable similarities in its’ thesis with the recent US and the (quite detrimentally) overtly melodramatic SHOPLIFTERS.

Going from calmness to hysteria to the grotesque (and back again) on a moment’s notice, PARASITE, amazingly in the circumstances, has all the elements of a biting farce. It doesn’t pull any punches, and is subtly quite scathing, especially on the upper/moneyed classes, who look down at the poor, feeling revulsed by their supposed, distinctive smell. Some times they don’t even see them as human; when Ki-woo is employed, his new boss says “let’s call you Kevin”, erasing his identity and creating a new one that fits with her family’s image.

One of the most notable things about Parasite, is that both the cramped basement flat that Ki-woo’s family live in, and (especially) the Parks’ home (modern archetype of luxury and style that was built by its previous owner who was an architect), feel like separate characters, and Bong lovingly indulges the slick lines and gleaming surfaces of the latter, before he literally moves down below, to show us its’ very different, much bleaker underbelly.

It’s a tad overlong, and as mentioned above, a bit unsubtle in its’ themes, and generally only engages on a cerebral (as opposed to an emotional level), despite being quite warm and compassionate. Though its’ final scene is a gut punch of considerable emotional force.

2019 releases ranked here
Bong ranked here

Hary liked these reviews