ImmigrantFilm’s review published on Letterboxd:
5.0/5.0 = Masterpiece
There's really no point in discussing how effortlessly crafted PARASITE is. It's the type of trapeze stunt that only the greatest of Korean directors can master. From it's perfectly choreographed proscenium farce, down to its countless symbolic images, there really hasn't been a dark comedy, let alone a satire, that has so effortlessly stuck the takeoff and landing. It's Sophocles and Moliere wrapped in one zesty package. As such, I'll bypass any talk on the formal qualities of PARASITE — they're perfect — and jump straight to the nitty gritty.
PARASITE is more a film about the lower-class and the corrosive power of wealth than it is an indictment of the rich, and frankly so much better off for it! I went into Bong Joon-ho's PARASITE with the anticipation that the Korean auteur had released his spin on Brian Yuzna's SOCIETY, and though the film certainly flirts with similar notions, PARASITE is decidedly more nuanced. So much so that I can see it rubbing some viewers the wrong way. Why isn't this calling a spade, a spade, you may ask? Yes, the upper-class family in PARASITE are still hard-ass employers, but they're acutely ignorant to their own socioeconomic wealth, a distinction that ultimately makes a world's difference in the grand scheme of things.
As such, PARASITE is not specifically about the rich's abuse of the poor, but rather the psychological detriment of being New Money. Sure, the rich live an outlandishly lavish lifestyle when compared to our protagonist's family. And yes, they certainly hint at being less-than-desirable employers. And though Bong indicts these icky wealth disparities, his key thesis is found halfway into the narrative, which begins to study the psychological effects that attainable wealth can have on the poor—a logical point of focus seeing how the Nouveau Riche are extremely prominent in Far East Asia. Surely to a western viewer, this sidestep could be frustrating, but by pointing the finger at poor people who come to quick money, Bong is ultimately singling out a large portion of the eastern world's billionaires (all the way from Korea to post-communist eastern Europe); individuals who went from cattle ranchers to football club owners within a single generation.
In a scene straight out of Bunuel's 1961 classic, VIRIDIANA, the film's low-income family is gathered in an sleek, ultra-modern home, enjoying hearty amounts of soju and whiskey in their employers absence; gawdy belligerence and unfiltered decadence indulged in for the first time with reckless abandon. After a series of shocking revelations, they are given the clear exit strategy of sharing their newly acquired wealth with two fellow poverty-stricken service workers. But once you've tasted the sweet nectar of having your own bed, a sprawling garden, and a two-car garage, "sharing is caring" goes the way of the dodo.
And that's really the key to understanding Bong Joon-ho's latest hit. Sure, its metaphors and allegories go so much further than what I just described, but the above paragraphs ought to function as a quasi-foundation for the broader allegory. PARASITE doesn't aggressively shout "eat the rich". Bong's rich family is more naive than malicious; individuals who have been conditioned to believe that they can afford their hard-ass employer-employee relationships. They are, after all, products of a system not unlike their working-class counterparts. As such, PARASITE is a discourse on solidarity. If we refuse to help each other, we all wind up in our boss' basement, slaves to fulfilling their dreams; even ones as ludicrous as having motion-activated lights.
P.S. Wish Bong would have cut that final shot. The second-to-last image would have been a far more haunting way to go out. But that's a minor gripe when discussing a film that is this potent.